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Visual Style > Routines - Pg. 342

PART 6 Production Techniques Actuality is a more transparent style. We make it very clear to the audience that we are in a studio by deliberately revealing all of the production equip- ment and crew. On location, the unsteady hand- held camera and microphone dipping into shots supposedly give an authenticity to the occasion. Routines Some production techniques have become so familiar that it would seem strange if we presented them in any other way--such as a newscaster presenting an entire newscast in shorts or on a set with flashing lights. FIGURE 20.1 A display treatment is an unrealistic, decorative way of presenting the subject with the emphasis on effect. (Photo courtesy of CBS/John Paul Filo/ Landov) Certain approaches have become so stereotyped that they enter the realms of cliché--routine methods for routine situations. A number of standard production formats have emerged for productions, such as newscasts, studio interviews, game shows, chat shows, and others. If we analyze these produc- tions, we usually find that styles have evolved and become the most effective, economical, and reliable ways of handling their specific type of subjects (Figure 20.2). If we regard these formats as "a container for the content," these routine treatments can free the audience to concentrate on the show. However, if we consider the treatment as an opportunity to encourage interest and heighten enjoyment, then any "routine" becomes unacceptable. Clearly, a dramatic treatment would not work for many types of television productions. Instead, it is best to aim for a variety of camera shots, coupled with clear, unam- biguous visual statements that direct and concentrate the audience's attention, rather than introduce any imposed style. How many sensible meaningful shot variations can you take of people speaking to each other, or driving an automobile, or playing an instrument, or demonstrating an item? The range is small. For certain subjects, the picture is virtually irrelevant. What a person has to say may be extremely important; what the talent looks like is immaterial to the message. It may even prove a distraction or create prejudicial bias. "Talking heads" appear in most television shows. However, unless the speaker is particularly animated and interesting, the viewers' visual inter- est is seldom sustained. Changing the shot viewpoint can help, but may be a distraction. 342 FIGURE 20.2 Newscasts have become very routine in their presentations, freeing the audience to concentrate on the subject. (Photo courtesy of KOMU-TV) Ambience From the moment a show begins, we are influencing our audience's attitude to the production itself. Introductory music and graphic style can immediately convey a serious or casual feeling toward what is to come. We have only to recall how the hushed voice, quiet organ notes, and slow visual pace can provide a reverential air to proceedings, or the difference between a regal and a "showbiz"-type opening fanfare to realize how our expectancy changes. Surroundings can also directly affect how convincingly we convey information. Certain envi- ronments, for example, provide a context of authority or scholarship: classroom, laboratory, "Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms." Alfred Hitchcock