I’ve spent a lot of last month cleaning up a few tweaks, bugs, and to do items on getting my media center completely setup, and one of the things on the list was to get movie trailers ripped off of my DVDs.
There were two things that surprised me: how many DVDs had trailers that I didn’t expect, and how many trailers that I expected to, didn’t.
I really wish that *all* the DVDs had trailers for their movies on them . In my mind, this is the most basic feature that they should all ship with. Sadly, it’s not just one studio that I can pinpoint the lack of archival foresight on — it’s across the board. Even then, it happens on all kinds of DVDs, both special editions (which is a total misnomer, if it’s the only edition) and normal releases. What’s even more annoying is when they have trailers for other movies (not talking about just Disney here), but not their own. There’s really no fast and hard rule of which ones you can predictably guess which DVDs will have them or not, and so it leaves me with the unenviable task of just checking every disc.
The first thing I did was just take a quick glance at the back of every cover to see if it lists trailers in its features. This is where I got really surprised by the movies that did have them, that I wouldn’t think they would bother. Case in point: The Glass Bottom Boat, The Rescuers Down Under, The World’s Greatest Athlete. So far I’ve got about 43 ripped, which I’m probably about halfway through the “regular” editions, so there’s probably another 40 or so to rip. My collection is about 150 or 160, so about half the DVDs have their own movie trailer on there. Not really great percentages, in my mind.
Next up, I need to dig through the special editions. Because of how I find the trailers — I lazily just use lsdvd to list out tracks that are between under 60 minutes long, and then just cycle through those tracks with mplayer — the multi-disc ones and SE DVDs are harder to find because there are so many tracks with deleted scenes, featurettes and stuff. Plus there’s usually more than one disc. On a normal DVD there’s normally between one to four possible tracks, but on the SEs, there’s up to 30. Makes it kind of tedious. It’s always worth it though. Really good releases like Star Wars usually put out a lot of the trailers they created.
Time for a little tangent of history and nostalgia, though. When I worked at the movie theater as a projectionist (I was also an usher, worked at box, in concessions, and later as a manager … good times), we would build the movies manually. There are two types of trailers, though: teasers and trailers. Teasers are really short previews that are generally just between 30 seconds to a minute long and will come out in theaters months and months before the movie is actually released. It’s just that, too, a teaser of things to come. Trailers come out much closer to the release date, and are between 2 to 5 minutes long.
Also, the reason they are called trailers is because back in the good old days, the trailers would come at the very end of the movie. If you’ve ever seen an old movie, you’ll notice that they did elaborate credits and titling at the very beginning of the movie, and when it finished, you would see “The End”, and that was it .. it was *done*. Not another 15 minutes of credits and notices and soundtrack rehashes and bloopers and copyright notices and special thanks to. The reason for that was because the trailers really were trailing the movie. Because of how a film is put together, or built, it’s a lot simpler if you just put the trailers on the end.
The movie arrives at the movie theater in a couple of cannisters (generally two) split up on a couple of reels (usually about half an hour or so per reel). The projectionist gets to stay up late putting the film together from three or four reels and puts it on the huge platter. Before they build it though, they pick which trailers are going to go on there. Well, the projectionist doesn’t. Actually it’s all wrapped up in licensing deals with both the studios of who releases the film and the ones who want their trailers on what. What will happen is the teasers and trailers will go on first, then the movie theater chain will usually have some kind of “help us not go poor and spend money on our 800% marked up popcorn and candy in the lobby while thin animal characters dance to a chorus of Butterfingers and a river of soda” and then after that, there’s usually a trailer by the studio that released the movie right before the actual feature film. Oh, and sometimes there’s a Dolby / SDDS / DTS / digital theater ear candy insert somewhere in there too.
Anyway, the cool thing is this. When theaters are done with the movies, they ship them back to Hollywood, but they get to keep the trailers. They usually take them off just because they don’t know if they’re going to need them for another film or not, but they always remove them from the film regardless, as they are essentially their property anyway once the studio sends them to them. The thing is, that nobody wants the teasers back, and every theater I’ve worked at will have a cabinet full of *years* worth of original 35mm film teasers and trailers just sitting around collecting dust. I collected them for a few years, cherry picking the good ones — I distinctly remember having one to A Bug’s Life and The Prince of Egypt, but I know I had a lot more … dozens, I just can’t think of any — but eventually I got bored with it, when I realized I’d probably never buy a projector just to load them up and watch them. I think I just gave them away or something. I’m sure you could still buy some on ebay.
That’s the history part. As far as nostalgia goes, I remember absolutely loving movie trailers even when I was a little kid and would go to the movies. It was always an exciting part because with a good trailer, it would suck you in so much that you’d completely forget what movie you were even there to see. That still happens to me today, and I’ll show up at a movie early just to catch the trailers with the true theater experience. I love archiving them, too, because even now when I watch them it’ll get me all fired up to watch a movie.
Back to ripping trailers, I finished up ripping the “normal” ones, and started poking at the discs which I knew I didn’t have a trailer but I thought for sure there should be one on there. The first one I grabbed was Peter Pan (which is actually the first DVD in my collection, which I could go off on a whole other long post on the story behind that). The disc is supposed to be a special edition, and I trudged through about 15 tracks of commentary and grip buys talking about their jobs to verify that there was indeed, nothing on there. Stupid Universal Pictures.
I remembered, though, that Apple’s trailer website had one on there, so I hopped off and wondered over to my desktop to search their website. I clicked on the page to view the trailer, and it opens some page that says its trying to open up iTunes. Aaaaaaaaaargh! (Warning: Apple rant.) So, annoyed, I reboot my computer for the first time in at least a month to get into Windows and load up iTunes to see if I can get this sucker or not. I have to say that it really ticks me off that Apple, being a minority in the computer field, would think to remember what it’s like when stuff isn’t supported on your native platform and at least make it possible so I don’t have to use their own stupid software to access content. I can’t blame them for making nice software and hardware, but when it comes to vendor lock-in, they are 10 times worse than any other software developer.
It gets worse, though. The iTunes store did have a lot of movie trailers, but the downloads were near worthless, at least by today’s media standards. For each trailer they had only Small and Medium varieties to download. In some rare cases they had HD ones as well, which are the only ones even worth bothering with. The Medium ones were so blurry and came in at a really low bitrate that it was pretty much a complete waste of time. On one hand, it was fun to be able to get them, but they were annoying to watch. The HD ones looked really nice, though. I only got about 5 of movies I wanted, but that kind of made the trip worthwhile.
Well, this post ended up a lot longer than I wanted, but oh well. Trailers are fun, that’s about it. I wish more DVDs had them. As a matter of archiving, they are almost a lost art. It’s really hard to find originals online (and I’m not talking about YouTube), and while historians do a good job of keeping the actual films around, it’s a shame that trailers don’t get any love. Maybe I should start a repository.