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Friday, April 25, 2008

eye candy

I read a Portals column by Lee Gomes in the Wall Street Journal recently that made me think about video effects and graphics and how they so often seem to define the current approach to making programs. These days software programs and video clip art make it easy to add effects. And that certainly seems to define the video look. Jazz it up with lots of eye candy. Below is a link to a video example of what I mean.


Gomes relates a story that puts it very well. Quoting from his column:

"The Daily Show" satirist Samantha Bee once visited the Washington bureau of Al-Jazeera English, the Middle East news channel that U.S. Cable and satellite companies won't provide for their American customers. Ms. Bee set about making the show more palatable to Yanks. She did so not by changing its perspective on events, but by redoing its look. Full-screen shots of solo anchors talking calmly at their desks were tossed out, replaced with computer-rendered crawls, tickers, charts and graphs. None of the fake graphics imparted any useful information. That was part of the joke. The show's writers were making the point that as far as TV news is concerned, nothing says "Made Proudly in the USA" better than video game-style graphics that keep viewers in a perpetually agitated state.

Later he quotes Dean Velez, a veteran of the news-graphics business, "Just because you can use Apple's LiveType to animate text with fire doesn't mean you should use Apple's LiveType to animate text with fire." Amen to that.

The truth is, if your piece is vital and compelling then graphics just get in the way. And if it is boring and full of facts, then graphics will appear to make that bitter pill go down better. But basically, all that eye candy is a poor excuse for not doing a better job at making a compelling program.

In the final analysis, good producing, shooting and editing beats anything else. And around here, our work, sans eye candy, is still winning the awards.

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