October 22, 2010

What Effect Could iMovie's New 'Movie Trailers' Feature Have on Real Movie Trailers?

Like everyone else on the internet, I covered Apple's release of new MacBook Airs the other day. And while they showed a number of other products at the same event, one development that specifically concerns filmmakers is the new version of iMovie. iMovie '11 is not going to replace Final Cut, but it does include an interesting new feature called Movie Trailers. Most of us are not going to be interested in the template-driven tool for our own uses, but I wonder what this could mean for the real movie trailer scene, which already seems template-driven.

Briefly, Movie Trailers is a tool designed to create clichéd movie trailers in record time, with different pre-made graphics and scores ready to drag-and-drop. In the excellent Filmmaker Magazine newsletter, editor Scott Macaulay explores the issue of the new iMovie templates, wondering:

What happens when, a year from now, an audience full of people who have auto-trailered their last trip to the beach sit in a theater and watch a generically cut promo for the latest swords-and-sandals epic? Or couples who gave themselves silly Valentine’s Day trailer cards with the “Romance” template see a similarly cut spot for the latest Katherine Heigl flick? There will be snickers and, later at home, mash-ups. Movie marketers will notice and realize they are being laughed at. The clichés that Apple is cleverly making money with will be put out to pasture and maybe trailers will start getting creative again.

I certainly hope so. Here's the interface in action:

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKMhxwnXlu4

As someone who is currently putting together a trailer for my forthcoming Kickstarter campaign, this is kind of scary. In Hollywood, they hire trailer houses to go through hundreds of revisions of a trailer in order to (theoretically) find just the right audience (though they've scaled this back a bit with the economic downturn). No one's saying iMovie's movie trailer presets are going to show up in the theater, but I've been dissecting the timings of Hollywood trailers and scripting my own, with a beginning, middle, and end. Now Apple is simplifying the process and making it template-driven. This is what it must've felt like for people who used to do painstaking chemical photo retouching, as M. Emmet Walsh's character did in the Coen brothers' Blood Simple (adding bullet holes to otherwise peacefully-sleeping figures). And then Photoshop came out, and any jackass with a mouse (present company included) could get the same effect in a fraction of the time. Ain't technology grand?

A couple example trailers, showing just how formulaic is the whole enterprise:

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp_VBn4Oz_s

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP7uxqA2-vw

In other news, Apple also showed a sneak peak at OS X 8, a.k.a Lion, set for a Summer 2011 release. Part of Lion is the new app store, which works similarly to the iOS app store. This allows developers to sell apps without having to set up their own storefront on the web, a service for which Apple to take a 30% cut. Unlike the OS upgrade, however, this feature will be released "within 90 days." If you're a developer, they'll be accepting app submissions in November.


Your Comment


Hopefully this puts pressure on big feature films to break out of the tired mold the trailers are stuck in now.

October 22, 2010 at 11:07AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I don't really have much to add. But It's funny to think about people whose first experience editing is with iMovie trailermaker as they watch Hollywood trailers with new eyes. Have to admit, that first trailer about the pyramids made me smile a couple times. Not because it was cheesy, but because it hit the formula in the right spot.

Is the trailer you're working on for Kickstater to fund a short, a feature, or a whole different animal?

October 22, 2010 at 3:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Oops, no edit button. Meant to say that you're right... it is "funny to think about people whose first experience editing is with iMovie trailermaker as they watch Hollywood trailers with new eyes".

October 22, 2010 at 3:36PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I have to admit, those two trailers look exactly like some of those reality, buy a house, travel, and love connection shows on the discovery network right now... wonder if they got an advance copy of iMovie 11...?

October 22, 2010 at 4:03PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


It would be just great if this would push Hollywood to become creative, I cannot take the 2 min sum-it-up trailer anymore. As for Imovie, I think things are not going to be that smooth and easy when people are going to realize that they don't have a cameraman to film all of them. If 3 friends are going on holidays together, the logic wants that only 2 of them can be on camera, or very sadly for them, they spent their time acting for the camera. Just a thought.

October 23, 2010 at 10:32AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Wat an attractive product. Nice.

One gripe though ... in each of the sample videos, who is doing the shooting? Three-shots abound in the adventure piece, two-shots prevalent in the love story video.

If these are marketing videos the consumer might come against this problem and feel a bit gypped.

October 28, 2010 at 1:10PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I can't fake the funk, after reading your post I went out and bought iLife '11 (both for the new GarageBand and iMovie - I really wanted to see how these trailers worked) and I was flabbergasted at how easy and (dare I say...) fun it actually was to drag and drop using these trailer templates! I've been working on a couple of different trailers in FCP and AE for some upcoming projects and it was a welcome break to just find the clips I liked and try this out. I don't think it can, or should, ever replace the creative brain, but I do agree it will force us all to take our games to another level.

Here's the trailer I did for a crowd funding campaign (also learned a lot about from NoFilmSchool.com - THANKS KOO!) that we just started:

November 3, 2010 at 5:56PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Glad to know it's enjoyable! I'll probably get my hands on it when I get one of those new MacBook Airs.

November 4, 2010 at 9:01AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

Great article, it really was helpful!

January 16, 2011 at 9:05AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM