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Codes and Conventions etc..

Chris Benisek

Codes and Conventions Of Short Films And Film Trailers

To get a sense of what is expected in both short films and trailers I analysed one of
each analysed them in depth. As well as these we have analysed a variety of further
trailers and short films during class time that has also aided me in a direction of
stereotypical codes and conventions. To get a sense for my own production I needed
to focus on one of the two, however at this stage im still contemplating what to do.
And as well as this I feel it would benefit my final project, as I will know what codes
and conventions to include and which to avoid. To make my final project the highest
possible quality.
Most trailers that now circulate vary in comparison to short films, I’ll now out line
some of the points that tend to stick out in both senses. Firstly trailers tend to start
with the production companies logo, which immediately signifies that what your
about to see is going to be based on a high budget. As most of these companies will
be part of the big five e.g. Warner Bro’s and Paramount. As well as this there is
always a certification alert whether it be from the British Board of Film Classification
or one of the coloured banners in terms of American trailers, as it signifies the target
audience of the film. To publicise the film further trailers will boast names of cast and
crewmembers, who will be either be renowned and in turn draw in fans of previous
works that they have stared in or produced, directed etc or new talent being
introduced. Such as in the Hangover trailer using the line ‘from the director of Old
School’, signifying that this will most probably be of a similar style and standard, so
admirers of this will become interested. Various other methods are used across film
trailers; the most popular being the inclusion of nominations, awards and highly
recommended reviews (such as Oscars, Baftas etc). These methods aid in drawing in
an audience especially if these reviews are from a reliable source as the production
will most probably be of a high standard. The least obvious of the techniques, used
are inter textual references. These are subtle inclusions of similar themes to a film, or
text that the production has been influenced by. An example of this would be in the
latest of the Terminator series, with the inclusion of a motorbike chase this being an
inter textual reference to Terminator 2, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the
recent Star Trek production. This is just one example from a huge catalogue.
Another semiotic tool which is used in trailers is narrative enigma and in my opinion
is a key tool for promoting and selling the production that the trailer is portraying.
Reason for this being as the viewers of the trailer will want to have their questions
answered, and the only way they will be able to fulfil this need is to go and see the
full production.
This allows me to lead onto my next point, which is the release date. It tends to occur
at the end of the trailer once all the effects and marketing techniques have been used,
without this date the audience won’t be aware of when they will be able to view this
production, which defeats the point in releasing a movie and creating all of this
advertising to go along side. Editing is one of the largest points that circulates around
trailers, as without this it would irradiate the need for a teaser trailer. Quick paced
editing is used with various camera angles to keep the viewers of the clip enticed, as
one continuous shot through out wouldn’t give a sense of fluidity that is associated
with trailers. The clips that are pieced into the trailer are also one of the key aspects in
making a trailer that creates and impact, clips need to be chosen that give away vast
quantities of the narrative however not give away that much of the plot.
Even though there are various genres of films most follow a certain style to
signify the genre of the film. The use if themed production logos tends to be the first
Codes and Conventions etc.. Chris Benisek

thing that the audience will be able to see, such as the Warner Bro’s logo in 300
which is styles in to look tarnished in the style of a battered golden shield, which from
watching the film links in with various points in the narrative. As well as this fonts
and styles of the writing are used for example in Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of
Fleet Street where the title is written in a serif font, which resembles a blade. This
style tends to be used in genres such as horrors, particularly slashers. Fonts can also
be used to portray the setting, as the time frame the trailer has to work in is only a few
minutes. In the Hangover they have the titles appear in a font that resembles neon
lights which with the accents of the characters helps to anchor the setting (in this case
Las Vegas). However audio is just as important as visual in terms of codes and
conventions that are found in trailers. Non-diegetic music tends to kick in before the
clip to help anchor the genre of the film, e.g. in a comedy the music will be bubbly,
light hearted and with the use of modern day instruments such as electric guitars.
Where as in a horror there will be long drawn out strings used to create tension and
increase the heart beat. So a soundtrack is used to set the pace of the trailer depending
on what is in the frame and the genre of the clip. Voiceovers are also used in trailers
to dictate what is going on throughout, if the audience is unaware of what is going on.
Stereotypically a deep male voice is used to create a higher sense of excitement to the
trailer, and if we were to apply the conutation test with the voice over being female it
wouldn’t have the same affect if the trailer were advertising a high octane action
movie. But would suit a romantic comedy perfectly.
Overall with all of these techniques, trailers are to be distributed on a large scale and
are aimed to appeal to a mainstream market. With there large financial backing, you
find that there are various other forms of media to go along side the trailer for
example a poster or a branch of products to go along side. Also they can advertise
with various media forms using new and old media such as the use of the internet via
social networking sites, You Tube and more traditional forms such as on the side of

Where as Short Films tend to be, on a whole in contrast with trailers. With the
examples that I have viewed many points can be seen to reoccur throughout. To start
with they are much more low key, in the few examples I watched no character names
were boasted throughout the clip and instead are left until the end of the clip or not
included at all. This is because the cast isn’t well known enough to include and
wouldn’t help to improve viewings if they were included. Which shows that overall
short films tend to be based on a low budget, which can be outlined by various points
including my previous statement. The lack of/or low quality CGI represents that the
film wont be based around a large budget and the use of a continuous setting for
example in the black hole, where its constantly set in an office gives the impression
money hasn’t be shelled out on expensive locations. Also to reiterate my point around
the cast there tends to only be one main protagonist in a short film where as in a trailer
it will include several in the time allotted and in certain cases of short films this will
be the only character throughout.
One feature that is crucial to a trailer, the certification isn’t allotted to a short film as it
wont be distributed so if I were to produce a short film I wouldn’t really have to
worry about working with in constraints. I feel the main reason for the not including
this that short films never go into production and are distributed in a different way to
film trailers, as they are associated with Indie film companies, which don’t tend to be
mentioned during the clip either and if they are no diegetic style is applied. Using
Codes and Conventions etc.. Chris Benisek

cheaper more direct methods to target their audiences such as specialist sites where
independent film makes can upload there creations and broadcast them for free to a
large audience via the web. Using such sites as You Tube , Future Shots and social
networking sites. Also these short films can be screened at film festivals, which helps
them, become known.
However in terms of music, they tend to be vary similar in the way that it is
used, in terms of gaining a reaction. Such as in the black hole, where various inserts
of over emphasized non-diegetic sounds are included to build up tension into the
sequence. This is also the case with camera shots ,angles and framing, as the sequence
will need to remain interesting throughout its entire length. With useful methods such
as elliptical editing which was used again in the black hole to show cuts in time.
Semiotics also occur, in the sense of inter textual references, and most importantly
narrative enigma as most of these small-scale productions end on a cliffhanger,
perhaps to give scope for a feature film.
Yet originality is what seems to out crop in every single short film that I have viewed.
The way short films are presented are much more original and creative than full-
length film trailers, using less traditional methods to produce a film such as flash
animation. Which was used to create a film distributed by future shots called ‘I love
Quality of the production is quite a striking convention that is portrayed as in short
films it tends to be grittier instead of glossy and uses creativity and flair to gain and
audience instead of an A-list cast. The narratives are also very original and in a way
quite strange and out there, which I see due to the fact that short films are created by
people who aren’t in the business for personal gain. Instead they produce films for
enjoyment and not for profit.