Make Your Own Cinematic Trailer Sounds

There are tons of amazing sound libraries available to cater for most every cinematic sound you could imagine. Here's some tips on how to make your own unique sounds for trailers in particular.  

If you watch a lot of movie trailer sounds, you’ll begin to notice certain types of sound effects that stand out from the other sounds due to the fact that they help transition from scene to scene, create excitement, and so on. You’ll also notice that the assortment of sound effect will also greatly change with different genres of movies. For example: a chick flick will have some bold sounds, like an impact, to accentuate shocking revelation, but there will also be a lot of bright, comedic sounds to go along, keeping the girlish, good time alive. Another example of a chick flick sound effect would be a record player scratch when one of the girls gets a pie thrown in her face, or there’s a revelation of her boyfriend in the shower with another girl. In with a horror movie, it tends to be much less about music, and much more about sound effects. You’ll hear eerie ambiences, and lots of sounds that give one the feeling of movement. Lots of swooshes, sometimes wind chimes, wind, lightning, reverb… It’s all about creating an atmosphere. 

In this particular article, I’d like to talk with you about some easy sounds you can set to the side for future projects, or even home movie trailers. 

Impacts

Often times, you’ll hear a thud when a new scene is introduced in a trailer that is to be regarded with ‘shock and awe’. For example: You’ll notice a thud, then silence right after a dramatic cut to an unbelievable long shot of a giant space ship over the whole LA skyline. Then you’ve got the impacts that hit right when a title ‘explodes’ onto the screen. In fact, it’s just the title that appears. It’s really the sound that explodes. 

Impact sounds are seriously easy to come up with on your own. In fact, you can even look to sampled drum kits for most of these impacts. 

Try This!

Stack a low bass heavy kick drum with a bright percussive sound (like a tom, snare drum, hand clap) and add a long reverb with the mix set pretty heavy. This adds an epic tone to your movie trailer and demands the listeners attention!

Swoops

Of course, you’ve got transitions for video. One example would be a dissolve. This is where one image fades out, and another takes its place. 

You’ll be pleased to know that you can also use audio to fill in as a transition as well, even when simply cutting from one scene to another. One type of transition audio type would be a swoop. There are many types of swoops, but it’s very common to use a swoop to build up tension within a movie trailer, right before a major scene is shown…Usually with an impact. 

Here’s an example: You have three scenes of the killer clown doing very terrible things. The swoop starts with the first scene, continues through the second scene, and third scene. Finally, it abruptly ends on a scene of the clown laughing hysterically. 

Try This!

Reverse the audio file of a crash cymbal so that it plays backward. You can pull a crash cymbal out of any old drum kit, like in GarageBand, for example. Then, you can place the reverse crash cymbal in the last few seconds of one scene, right before you cut to the next. Just like in a movie trailer. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

If you need to make a swoop longer, you can always use time compression, or expansion features in Garageband, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and so on to increase the length of the swoop. Or, you can record (or render) a crash with a really long reverb, then reverse. This often sounds much more natural than time compression. 

Conclusion

There are tons of ways to make these types of sound effects, and many different types of sounds can be substituted in place. Try experimenting. Also, try making some ambiences! Wind sounds, birds chirping, crickets, can always be used for humorous and dramatic effects. It’s all about the timing!

Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like Lu... Read More

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