How To Make a Trailer: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Aja Frost
10 Min Read
A woman films herself on a phone with a ring light for a how to make a trailer guide.

As a content creator, satisfying your audience and delivering the information, entertainment, and emotional connection is likely one of the most important goals for everything you produce. 

Trailers, on the other hand, are meant to do the opposite. 

A trailer’s sole purpose is to hook the viewer’s attention and pique their interest and give you a taste of what’s to come — ensuring that your audience keeps coming back for more.  

From the team who brought you guides like 6 Ways to Make Money on TikTok and A How-To Guide for Multi-Camera Live Streaming comes a brand-new guide on how to make a trailer that captures your audience. 

We’ll cover everything from the basics like a 3-act structure, to more complex ideas like editing, music, and voice-overs. 

Now pop some popcorn and let’s get into it.

1. Approach It From the Viewer’s Perspective

There are few things worse than making your audience feel like they missed out on something. To keep your viewers top of mind, approach your video trailer by asking yourself questions about who you are, your product’s features, and your brand.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What does your audience expect from you?
  • What kind of content will excite your viewers? 
  • Is there a collab or video format that they have been asking for?
  • Can you make the video both topical and on-brand?

With these questions in mind, you’ll be able to deliver a trailer that will keep your viewers interested and checking your page for updates. 

And if you don’t give a specific date and instead opt for a “coming soon” banner at the end, they may even turn on notifications for all your posts. 

A preview screen before a trailer that shows recommendations on how to make a trailer by surprising your audience

2. Have a Stash of Videos Ready

As an experienced content creator, you may be looking to create a general trailer for your product marketing campaign or video-on-demand platform

Before you start editing some full-length videos, it might be helpful to use some exciting clips from your backlog to create movie trailers that will build your audience even further. 

As you’re going through your video trailer ideas, see what footage works best with others. The more footage you have, the better — don’t leave good shots on the cutting room floor. 

It’s also best to find footage that tells more than one story. Using footage that both advances the plot and is funny will elevate your trailer to feel like more than just B-roll.

3. Use a 3-Act Structure To Hook Your Audience

A 3-act structure is essential to creating a story that will keep your viewers entertained. 

But did you know you can implement a 3-act structure for trailers as well? Treating your trailer like a mini story or standalone experience will help it feel more engrossing. 

Keep these 3 things in mind when you start drafting your trailer:

  1. Introduce the audience to your project.
  2. Create conflict.
  3. End with a resolution, cliffhanger, or stinger.

This will ensure that your trailer can hook an audience. 

Remember that your trailer doesn’t need to tie up every loose end that you introduce — that’s what your full-length video is for. Don’t give everything away as you draft your movie trailer script.

Make sure you stick to nailing down all 3 acts, too. If your trailer only consists of cliffhangers and stingers, the audience won’t be able to identify the story you’re trying to tell. 

An infographic for how to make a trailer and a 3-act structure that looks like a film reel countdown in ascending order from one to three.

4. Introduce Yourself or Your Product

How many times have you watched a trailer and then said “meh” as the screen faded to black? This is probably because you weren’t properly introduced to the digital product, story, characters, or concept that it tried to hook you on. 

By properly marketing yourself, your product, or next video, your audience will know exactly what to expect from you and want to take action. The last thing you want to do is blindside your audience by making a trailer that doesn’t match the content it’s teasing. 

Here’s how to market yourself with a trailer:

  • Give yourself a quick introduction on screen.
  • Use subtitles or text to brand yourself. 
  • Include a witty voice-over.
  • Feature engaging and unforgettable footage.

5. Show Social Proof

Social proof includes reviews and testimonials that give content creators legitimacy in their field. Think of it as 5-star reviews that you can add to the trailer that will make people that much more eager to click your links. 

If you’re a creator who hosts webinars or other online learning services, including social proof will be a great way to show your success in a specific field. 

You can include social proof in the following ways:

  • Add screenshots of positive comments and reviews.
  • Splice interview testimonials throughout the trailer.
  • Share student success stories.  

These examples of social proof could be the reason why somebody finally clicks the subscribe button for your channel or membership site

6. Include Captivating Visuals

A trailer’s story isn’t all about the writing and voice-over — you need to create a visual story as well. Make sure that the clips you include in your trailer move the story forward while painting a stunning picture of who you are and what you love to do.

These kinds of visuals can include…

  • high-quality footage
  • buttons, text, and subtitles that complement your footage
  • custom images 
  • unique graphic design elements
  • visual and special effects

…to name just a few.

With this in mind, you should only include original footage that is high quality. Even a 2-second clip of grainy and confusing footage can ruin a short trailer.

Remember that you shouldn’t throw everything and the kitchen sink into your trailer. It’s best to keep the footage relevant and concise. 

7. Use Voice-Over and Text Strategically

A perfect trailer strikes a balance between the visuals and the writing or voice-over. 

By strategically using voice-over and text elements, you can keep your audience on the hook and entice them in more ways than one — you can draw them in visually and audibly.

To create a successful voice-over:

  • Create a video script so you don’t stray from the topic and story you want to tell.
  • Speak clearly, take your time with the lines, and hire a professional if you need to.
  • Match the tone and energy of your trailer.
  • Edit the voice-over to fit the visuals and story elements of your trailer.  

Finally, guarantee that your voice-over progresses the story while being relevant and fun to listen to. 

An informative graphic about voice-over tips when it comes to how to make a trailer for a channel or product.

8. Find the Right Music

Imagine you are looking for a workout class or exercise program and the trailer has polka music blasting in the background. Doesn’t seem like a good choice, does it? The right music goes a long way to making your trailer stick out.

However, you’ll probably want to find free video editing music and avoid movie trailer cliches for your custom movie trailer. 

You can get free background music for your trailer at these websites:

  • Free Music Archive
  • Incompetech
  • CCTrax
  • SoundCloud
  • YouTube Audio Library

Big, thumping bass sounds and acoustic song covers are best left to the professionals — and those who can afford the royalty fees and copyright strikes. 

9. Edit Scenes To Tighten the Pace

Nothing is worse than a trailer that feels like the length of an entire movie. Remember that an audience only desires a small taste from your trailer, not the whole meal. 

By editing and shortening some scenes, you can tighten the pace to keep the story moving forward to the cliffhanger.

The length of a trailer will vary depending on the content. However, the average length of a trailer is around 114 seconds (or just under 2 minutes). This means that every shot, text, and voice-over has to matter in order to make an impact. 

Avoid sloppy transitions and awkward silences by staying up to date with the latest hacks for video editing and movie trailer trends. Audiences will know when you didn’t spend enough time or effort on creating a movie trailer for your online presence.

10. Leave Viewers Wanting More

Cliffhangers might be one of the most important aspects as you create a trailer for your channel or platform. 

And there are several elements that go into creating a perfect cliffhanger for your trailer:

  • Make your audience ask what you’ll give them next.
  • Keep this question at the front of their mind and answer with your solution. 
  • Introduce an unexpected surprise to hook the audience. 

The 3-act structure usually requires a resolution after a crisis or compelling event. But when it comes to making a movie trailer, you can finish your trailer at the climax so the audience has to wait to get their answers from your product or video.

11. End With a Call to Action

The best calls to action (CTAs) ensure that your audience will hit your subscribe button. Make a call to action original, exciting, and engaging, and avoid cliches. 

Effective calls to action like…

  • subscribe to my channel to see more
  • sign up for the newsletter
  • click here for updates
  • check out my merch
  • buy the product here

….can help you make sales and gain subscribers.

A guide for creating CTAs that looks like a video end screen with boxes that show examples of calls to action for how to make a trailer.

Make sure that your CTA is genuine and sounds like something you would actually say. Your followers will be able to tell when you’re not being yourself and just fishing for more subscribers.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you have the basics for how to make a trailer for a video, your channel, or subscription service, you can put it to the test. You might want to start by looking through a backlog of recent footage you can use to entice potential subscribers.

If you feel like you’re short on content, reach out to your online community for testimonials and firsthand experience with your product to give viewers social proof. 

Remember that the most important aspect of your product is you — keep everything genuine as you create a trailer and expand your audience.

To borrow from our final step for how to make a trailer, we encourage you to give Uscreen a try for your video-on-demand platform.

It’s simple with Uscreen.

Build, launch and manage your membership, all in one place.

FAQs About How To Make a Trailer

You may still have lingering questions when it comes to how to make a movie trailer. Luckily, we’re here to help.

How Long Is a Normal Trailer?

A normal trailer is typically anywhere between one and 3 minutes long. This usually depends on the content of your trailer and how much you want to give away. A short teaser may be 30-60 seconds, while a traditional trailer may last 90 seconds to 3 minutes long.

Why Are They Called Trailers?

Believe it or not, trailers used to come after the movie during the golden age of Hollywood. Since they trailed the movie, they became known as “trailers.”

What’s the Difference Between Trailers and Teasers?

Teasers and trailers vary based on the length and amount of content you show. A teaser is typically shorter and gives a small taste of things to come — they may even tease an upcoming trailer. Trailers, however, are longer and have an identifiable structure.