I am a huge fan of Marvel and the MCU. Marvel Studios has just released the trailer for Secret Invasion and I wanted to take a look at it and do a breakdown of the trailer music.
It’s what I would do anyway as a matter of professional development and thought it would be cool to do it properly and share it with you all.
If you don’t fancy reading I have also done it as a video to accompany the post.
Let’s dive in.
What Genre is The Secret Invasion Trailer Music
The music for Marvel Studios Secret Invasion Official Trailer is a dark action sound design. This is a very common go-to in the darker world of the MCU.
These sound design tracks lend themselves to very rhythmical editing and often have so much swagger that they would fit right in with one of those slow-motion walking scenes from Peaky Blinders.
What Is The Structure of The Secret Invasion Trailer Music
The trailer lasts for 1 minute and 54 seconds. The structure of the Secret Invasion trailer is pretty much taking the 3 act structure and splitting it into 3rds; with each act lasting around 30 seconds or so. In between each of those three acts is a 4-6 second break.
It is quite common for sound design trailers to be slightly shorter and more punchy for the reasons you might expect; catching people’s attention and being a little shorter makes them leave you with that feeling of wanting to watch them again. Much like the Teletubbies, I find myself saying, “Again, again!”
How long is each act?
This is one of the most often asked questions, ‘how long should each act be?’
The answer is, “it depends”. In this case, though you can see the exact breakdown in seconds:
Act 1: 0.00 – 0.36 – 36 seconds
Break: 6 seconds
Act 2: 0.38 – 1.02 – 24 seconds
Break: 4 seconds
Act 3: 1.06 – 1.37 – 29 seconds
Break: 6 seconds
Act 4: 1.43 – 1.54 – 9 seconds
Act 1 Breakdown
This is all about setting the scene, mood, and feeling of the character. This is your main character before it all starts to happen; your character in their life before they are thrown into disarray.
In Secret Invasion, Act 1 is dark, brooding, and spacious. The composer has used pulsing synths to create the feeling of movement, tension, and darkness.
This is a really simple way to set up your first act without doing much “work” – a deep, pulsing synth. Make sure it is pulsing but not often otherwise you will take away from Act 2 (that’s when you set the pace).
What I mean by this is that if the pulsing is too intense or too frequent in Act 1 then when you get to Act 2 you will have less room to grow and develop. Or at least it will be a little more work for you.
There are other things going on in the sound design but I suspect a lot of that was done by the editor to match up with what is happening on screen (like that door slamming which was drenched in reverb).
Your takeaway from this?
Use pulsing bass synths to give your first act life and a sense of foreboding.
Act 2 Breakdown
The awesome thing about the second act of this trailer is that it basically cuts back to a ticking sound. This sound is courtesy of a violin played col legno (the wood of the bow banging the strings).
The clever thing about this is that it gives the track lots of room to grow.
As the act progresses we start to hear trailer hits in increasingly smaller intervals and to add to the build of the act we hear a percussive piano riser which sounds really creepy.
Interspersed between all of this is the odd deep “ping” drenched in reverb. This has the effect of giving the track a bigger sense of scale and is a nod to the alarm sounds we hear in act 3.
As act 2 draws to a close it ends with the big drums hammering a simple rhythm into the stop down before act 3. This is a really useful tool to ramp up into the stop down and also hint at the scale of the impending act 3.
This isn’t all. The stop-down has some risers and transitions to bring us into act 3.
Act 3 Breakdown
In act three we are met with a huge wall of synth BRAAAM!
The thing I love about this is that we only hear it for a moment. There is a breath of “silence” after each braaam. The “silence” is only really filled with that ticking sound and the odd transition.
This silence works so brilliantly at making the huge braaams sound even bigger.
This is one brilliant thing to bear in mind when you are writing very big-sounding tracks. Make sure that you leave space for quieter moments as a way to contrast against the noise. This contrast works in your favor and makes your loud even louder. This is why stopdowns are so effective.
The way act three develops is by using alarm sounds that are introduced halfway through and gradually “speed up” as you hear more and more of them. These are layered with hits to build the climax of the third act.
Act 4 Breakdown
Act 4 is essentially a “sting” – a short piece of music used over logos or changes of scene.
In this trailer, it is the former, played over the show’s logo and culminating on the Disney+ logo.
This is very effective as it is very short and full of power.
I like to use risers extensively in my 4th act to really ramp up to the logo reveal.
What Can You Learn From The Secret Invasion Music?
- Keep your first act minimal
- Act 2 is about pace, it doesn’t have to be complicated
- Save your biggest hits for the end of act 2 and throughout act 3 and 4
- Leave moments of “silence” as ways to make your loudest sounds even louder
- Try to add a short “sting” to your track to let the editors use it over the logo