Trailer vs Epic: Whats the difference? [tips/advice/insight etc,]

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by Dean, Jul 28, 2015.

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  1. Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Note:If epic or trailer music does'nt float your boat,..gets your goat up or makes you throw up in your mouth there are other threads floating around where you can tear these genres a new one!(Why theres even a thread here that has become the very definition of 'epic' itself!):) In other words this thread is more about giving practical advice,guidance insight and tips.

    A few people have asked about the differences between epic and trailer,which does seem like a grey area sometimes so I thought Id post my reply here aswell and hopefully others working in the field can provide insight,advice,nuggets etc.(or you can leave me hanging,I'll tuck my tail and take my leave! ;) )

    IMO there are alot of similarities between the epic and trailer styles for sure,my take on the differences are as follows;

    Epic music: has broader tones / themes including adventure,etheral,fantasy,uplifting,dissonance/exciting/thrilling.
    Trailer music: has more specific tones/themes such as emotional/tension/urgency/power/darkness/drive/struggle.
    (and 'gravitas',..I hear that alot from clients.)
    Epic music: can have more complex score like orchestration,more 'lyrical' passages,ebbing and flowing,flourishes etc.
    Trailer music: has a more more distilled/focused/linear structure & tone,one powerful cohesive idea that builds and builds.layers and layers,..like a freight train picking up momentum untill the last stop!
    Epic music: instrumentation can include tpts/ww's/metals/violins/LOTR style etheral and deep male choirs etc,
    Trailer music: generally try to avoid the above instruments (especially trumpets and anvils/metals),..trailers have a more rounded,deeper,robust sound,..a much darker tone overall.

    These are just things Ive noticed along the way as I work on trailers Im simplifying here and there,..theres lots of crossover too re very dark tones,drive,urgency etc, in epic but I can't remember the last time I was asked for something adventurous,uplifting,fantasy.

    ps:Im mainly talking about the bedrock of both styles here (the orchestra,theme,tone) I'm not really getting into hybrid,sound design,raging guitars,drum kits,chanting(shouting choirs),Industrial,dystopian,dub-step and so on. D
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  2. mwarsell

    mwarsell Senior Member

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    Already liked this post somewhere, amazing, very relevant stuff. Thank you, Dean! Not sure how do you manage to be so active here with all your projects, but I (and others too I'm pretty sure) are very thankful.
     
  3. rJames

    rJames Senior Member

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    From my perspective, epic is just one genre within trailer music.
    I think of trailer music as a structure.
    (Not arguing with Dean, just a different perspective)
    Trailer music (from this perspective) is any music that is written specifically to be used in motion picture advertising.
    There's a lot of pop and indie music used in trailers, but since it's not written with advertising as its main use, I don't include it.
    Trailer music is written with short stories, transitions and suspended pauses in its form.
    The big budget films will have more ads, so the chance of landing a license is greater with the Marvel franchises than with indie dramatic comedies. That's why people talk about trailer music as epic. More licenses there...more composers there. Plus, even action movies use epic cause everything is bigger than life in the movies.
    Trailer music for comedies is not epic (unless they are playing the contrast). For thriller; not epic. Suspense, horror; not epic.
    But all these movies use a similar structure consisting of a short form, alternate transitions and endings, stops and dramatic pauses.
    To refer to the other "why do they want to be," thread... the epic trailer form wants to be blatant, give it to us straight, don't get all artsy on us. Trailer music wants to strike a memory in the general audience's subconscious. I'm totally generalizing here.
    Ron
     
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  4. Daryl

    Daryl Senior Member

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    I sort of agree with Ron, except that I see them as two different sets, with an intersection.
     
  5. OP
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    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Guys, interesting points!..if its possible could you elaborate with any practical advice,techniques too (if not thats cool too.) Kind of looking at this thread as a loose tutorial/guide of sorts for folks breaking into this style of composition. D :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  6. Jaap

    Jaap Best audience ever...booh!

    I also sort of agree with Ron as well.

    Epic is for me: WHOOOHOOOO

    While Trailer is: wwww - hhhhoo(whoohoo?) - WHOOHOOO!!!! - (whoohoo is coming to your cinema soon)

    To be a bit more serious. Epic is more a "state of mind" while Trailer is more form and as said before as well, a lot of trailer works have the epic sound, while not persé all trailers need to be epic nor that every epic piece is suited for trailers.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  7. D.Salzenberg

    D.Salzenberg Senior Member

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    Hi Dean, I'm new on here after lurking for a while, and working on trailer tracks to submit to some libraries.
    I've been studying trailer music a lot for the last twelve months (including your excellent Soundcloud page!)
    It seems there are a lot of crossovers between Epic and Trailer music. Some trailer composers e.g. TSFH or Twelve Titans are definitely doing the Epic thing, but then there's also a lot of trailer music that isn't really Epic, e.g. Ninja Tracks and Heavy Melody.
    Personally I kind of prefer the darker sound, rather than the heroic uplifting more traditional orchestral vibe, so that's what I'm working on myself.
    David.
     
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  8. mwarsell

    mwarsell Senior Member

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    "Don't get all artsy on us" lol! Epic :)

    Probably shouldn't post here with red wine circulating thru me, nothing substantial to say... :) well...

    Btw can't get enough of Zimmer's Man of Steel -trailer. Incredible stuff.
     
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  9. rJames

    rJames Senior Member

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    Honestly, I don't compete in the epic trailer space. My licenses come from either fantasy/adventure or lacerating, murderous Fx.
    But you can hear the form in every trailer.
    But you don't hear full cues in trailers ... The story changes so fast, you hear :15 of each cue with layers and layers of Fx. It's sort of tough to figure out which hits go with the cue and which are the additional layers. (Generalizations)
    You hear one kind of "stop," in a comedy... Arpeggio up to a stop then the dialog comes up for the funny line payoff.
    The action stop might be after an intro that leaves you in an empty dark reverb. Somehow full, wide and atmospheric but empty.
    At the end of an action trailer maybe the strings and synths rise, pounding to a stop... Pause...final title settles in the dust of a second ending.
    Think about what kind of transitions like that fit in your cue.
    Editors will undoubtedly cut your cue to pieces but it needs to be written so that if...IF...they ever get a chance to hear it, they will see how they can use your cue to make this trailer better than any they've ever edited before.
    Ron
    PS just my opinion from watching trailers and writing for myself and other producers.
     
  10. OP
    OP
    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Hey Ron,
    You're right,there is alot of splicing and dicing of several tracks in alot of trailers (I know you're generalising) but not as much as you might think,.alot of high end trailers only use 2 tracks for the whole trailer and in other cases just one track is used with some editing/cuts/sfx of course.

    You're spot on about how you present your track too,.and if you can put set-pieces or signature sounds or interesting intros /outros into your track the music editor will pick up on that and you can land a trailer gig based on a section of your cue. D
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  11. OP
    OP
    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Just wanted to post this wee Q&A here too,(from another thread):

    I've heard that for trailer tracks it's generally a good idea to have climaxes at around 1:30, 2:00, and/or 2:30. I originally had this track set up to hit on 1:30 and 2:00, but now it's all sort of jumbled up. I don't know if that would affect placement? I could easily edit it to fit if requested.

    Forget all that crap. :) [edit: Im being tongue in cheek here,its not crap.)
    There are many different styles of trailer,..Slowburners that build , explosive tracks with dramatic pauses , emotional theme based , aggressive ear bleeding hybrid etc,..Dont force your cues to hit exact marks,editors love surprises too so if a track naturally runs at 4 - 6 mins noyone cares as long as you have a killer theme / set-peice / section / intro that grabs them. Think of your cue as an overall presentation or showcase,..if youre lucky they will run with a certain section of you're cue,if youre really,really,really lucky and your cue is that strong and cohesive they'll run with the whole thing!
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
  12. D.Salzenberg

    D.Salzenberg Senior Member

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    Dean, I remember reading something by Lex I think it was, sorry if it was someone else, who said to structure your trailer intro into 30secs or 1 min. Do you not think that is a good idea? I'm trying to complete a set of six tracks with the aim of submitting to Position Music, Pusher Music, Fringe Element etc. Should I forget about hit points based on 30 sec intervals?
    Many thanks, David
     
  13. Jaap

    Jaap Best audience ever...booh!

    Correct, that was Lex in this topic: http://vi-control.net/community/ind...ilers-loves-it-and-make-a-living-at-it.46203/

    Scroll down a few posts to see that post. Very valuable information!
     
  14. OP
    OP
    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Hey David,
    these are just my opinions based on my experience composing for trailers,..there are many,many ways to go about composing/structuring trailer cues,I think it depends on your personality/mindset and how you like to work.
    Personally I rely on my instincts Ive never timed a section of music,I usually start with the idea/theme/tone then that usually dictates everything that comes next re intro/outro?.. Is this a slow burner?..builds and builds without stopdowns? Does it need lots of sound design?..does it need choir?

    Ive written tracks that are under 2mins long and tracks that are nearly 6 mins long,..only because thats what the track needed,..say you have a track thats 6 mins (which is not the typical duration)it could have several stand out sections that might appeal to an editor and land you a trailer,that has happened to me a few times,I composed a massive 5 min cue and the guy picks the first 40 secs because of the 'still' atmosphere there that maybe all the other cues did'nt have.
    You just never know what might resonate with the client so dont be a slave to the timings and structure too much is my point. D
     
  15. rJames

    rJames Senior Member

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    Remember that :30 and :60 tv spots are trailers too. I assume Lex's point was that accurate timings can only help... Never hurt, your chances.
    Generally speaking, a 4 minute cue is overkill. If the cue does not immediately grab the music sup, your other parts may never be heard. Understanding how music starts and stops within a trailer is key. Study that.
    Ron
    (Again, massive generalizations)
     
  16. OP
    OP
    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Hey Ron,
    its great to hear about these different approaches to trailer/epic composition,..some guys are quite surgical about it and others are loosey goosey(guilty) :)
    I agree,the cue has to grab them from the get go but I think that has to be a given no matter how long your cue is.
    My point is more about the approach you take to get there,I find theres a natural feel to the durations and structure of trailer cues,Im sure if I went back and timed certain sections of cues I did that they would be around the 30 sec / 60 sec mark aswell.
    I dont think 4mins is overkill,Ive had placements from tracks that length,..sometimes the section I thought about cutting out (so I can have a shorter running time) ends up being placed in a trailer.
    Either way interesting stuff. D
     
  17. Jaap

    Jaap Best audience ever...booh!

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  18. OP
    OP
    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Thats a good read! It demonstrates that ,beside some the very rigid aspects/structures of trailer composition its pretty wide open too. D
     
  19. kunst91

    kunst91 Senior Member

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    Hey Dean, awesome post, really informative for us looking to break into the trailer music scene. I'm in the middle of writing my first tracks for a real company (not just my demo reel!) so this is extremely helpful. Would you mind elaborating on your point about orchestration? For instance I feel like I've heard violins on pretty much every trailer track this year. Do you mean that they aren't used traditionally? Or that they're just generally not used?
     
  20. OP
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    Dean

    Dean Senior Member

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    Hey,
    re violins: no you need violins for sure! :) I mean that for that typical 'trailer sound' if you have a solo string instrument or a soaring violin string section,usually you'd go with solo vc over solo vn and also double that soaring vn section with vcs/vas.This gives a more rounded/deeper and powerful sound overall.

    Its really a tone or sound youre looking for,..a solo violin conjours up sadness in a fragile,beautiful way where as a cello (because of the register and tone) feels darker,brooding..violins give 'air',bite,presence,beauty,fragility,they rise above everything and cut though the orchestra but you need to have that powerful mid/bottom range carrying the tone of the track.

    Note: Im generalising here,violins can be very aggressive,dark and atmospheric when played in lower registers/harmonics etc,..depends on how you use them. D
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2015
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