FORUMS: list search recent posts

A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"

COW Forums : Art of the Edit

<< PREVIOUS   •   VIEW ALL   •   PRINT   •   NEXT >>
greg janza
A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Mar 31, 2018 at 4:32:26 pm

I stumbled onto this video which gives a detailed editing analysis of David Letterman's new Netflix show. I have a huge amount of respect for Letterman and I think his new show is a great second act for him but at the same time the points raised in the analysis are valid and quite illuminating:







Windows 10 Pro
i7-5820k CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Adobe CC 2018
Renders/cache: Samsung SSD 950 Pro x2 in Raid 0
Media: Samsung SSD 960 PRO PCIe NVMe M.2 2280
Media: OWC Thunderbay 4 x 2 Raid 0 mirrored with FreeFileSync


Return to posts index

Simon Ubsdell
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Mar 31, 2018 at 6:22:26 pm

An very interesting critique and well observed. We don't spend enough time thinking about the language of talking heads generally - it all seems far too obvious to analyse, which is why mistakes so easily get made.

One of the problems here that is not touched on is the use of the side angle - not the side angle two-shot which is OK, but rather the side angle single.

Coupled with the fact that this is quite a low angle, it undermines completely out the feeling of participating in the interview and it's jarring and dislocating. We don't feel we are part of the conversation (which surely we want to feel here!) - we feel we have been excluded from it and are merely an onlooker. It's a really important factor and so few directors seem aware of it.

I raised this particular point in a COW thread some time back:

https://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/88262

Another factor that seems to be influencing the style of the Letterman show is "multicam-itis".

It's great to be able to create all this coverage, but why are we doing it? Generally there are really only three cameras that have valid angles for a set-up like this, but the existence of multicam has created the demand to use it all the time for everything and not actually think why you're doing it.

And then because you've shot all those angles you feel you have to use them which means (as here) that you cut far more frequently (and randomly) than is desirable. Multicam has contributed to the notion that it's the eye candy that's important, not the meaning of each individual shot.

It's a terrible development.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo productions
hawaiki


Return to posts index

greg janza
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 1, 2018 at 7:14:13 pm

All good points Simon.

Multicam is both a blessing and a curse which can easily be abused due to how easy it is to edit multiple angles.

Windows 10 Pro
i7-5820k CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Adobe CC 2018
Renders/cache: Samsung SSD 950 Pro x2 in Raid 0
Media: Samsung SSD 960 PRO PCIe NVMe M.2 2280
Media: OWC Thunderbay 4 x 2 Raid 0 mirrored with FreeFileSync


Return to posts index


Simon Ubsdell
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:12:11 am

One of the really startling things about the redundant side angle single in the Letterman set-up is how the colour of the background is utterly different to the over-the-shoulder single.





Cutting between those two shots is always going to be jarring because of this basic colour issue - partly a production design miscalculation, but it does show clearly the issue of multicam-itis. You stick cameras everywhere with little thought as to how the angles are meant to work together in the final piece. Because multicam is now a production imperative that no-one ever questions ...

Another slightly disconcerting thing is how the camera is quite a bit lower in the side angle than in the OTS - again that really isn't going to help the cut. It's always going to feel like a bump.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo productions
hawaiki


Return to posts index

Mark Suszko
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 2:16:48 pm

It could be that the producers believe this kind of cutting is what a "millennial" audience likes and is attracted to, whether it makes story-telling sense or not, or is true or not. That's my thesis in my post in the Cinematography thread called: You're doing it wrong", referring to mis-use of a side- angle when the speaker is addressing to/thru the lens.

https://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/54/865447


Return to posts index

Simon Ubsdell
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 4:43:08 pm

That was a very interesting thread.

I think it's possible to pinpoint when this side-angle trope first started to become normalised.

It is associated with the advent of the DV camera in the late 90's. It became common practice to use the DV as a second camera, frequently shooting from the side. And typically, because the quality was so poor in relation to the main camera you would heavily stylise the look, usually making it black and white.

My recollection however is that when this started it was more about picking up close-up details that you wouldn't necessarily hold on for very long and hence it was more of a "textural" device.

My guess would be that it's only more recently, once the price of all cameras came down (?) and especially now that multicam coverage is considered "essential", that the side angle became an angle in its own right.

You make a good point about how the side angle effectively alienates the viewer from the conversation and I think this is very important. I would go further and point out that all camera angles really have a psychological component and that this helps to explain why we feel alienated by this device.

Imagine you and George and David are having a conversation at a party. What would naturally happen, if all three of you were being polite, is that each contributor to the conversation would try as much as possible to face the other two equally. You as the third party would feel that David and George were "including you in the conversation".

Now imagine that George turns away from you and speaks directly to David, showing you the side of his head instead of including you in his look. It goes without saying that George is "excluding you from the conversation". You feel slighted, demoted in status, irritated.

It's exactly this psychological reaction you get from being suddenly presented with the side angle. It's not just a question of film grammar - it's about how the shot feels to you as someone who thought they were a participant in the conversation and have just been unceremoniously kicked off it.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo productions
hawaiki


Return to posts index


Mark Suszko
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 4:51:07 pm

My point exactly. But a lot of newer practitioners just don't comprehend or accept this principle. My sense of it is that the ones that abuse that angle/shot don't generally have much of an education in film aesthetics, so they tend to mis-apply things that they think look "cool", - without understanding the semiotics or context of when to use such a shot.

Now I have to adjust the onion on my belt, so excuse me...


Return to posts index

greg janza
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 6:05:43 pm

All interesting points being made and yes that other thread was good too.

When set up correctly the side angle can be quite effective at getting further into an interview or punctuating a thought. The best example that I have from my own work is a show I worked on that had a very brief existence on ESPN. It covered Barry Bonds' run up to breaking Babe ruth's home run record and I'd argue that the two angles for his sit down interview work very well at heightening the interest of what he's saying.

At 1:50 in this clip:



Windows 10 Pro
i7-5820k CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Adobe CC 2018
Renders/cache: Samsung SSD 950 Pro x2 in Raid 0
Media: Samsung SSD 960 PRO PCIe NVMe M.2 2280
Media: OWC Thunderbay 4 x 2 Raid 0 mirrored with FreeFileSync


Return to posts index

Simon Ubsdell
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 7:58:51 pm

[greg janza] "When set up correctly the side angle can be quite effective at getting further into an interview or punctuating a thought. "

Yes, that's effective but it's quite a bit different from the type of side angle used in the Letterman set-up.

Your example is much less a side angle and much closer to an intimate close-up that creates greater connection with the subject and not less.

You can still more or less see into the eyes, which is the important difference, wouldn't you say?

Also what's important is that the shot size is very substantially different to the more frontal angle which means the cut is much less jarring. In the Letterman shots the shot sizes are uncomfortably similar:





Simon Ubsdell
tokyo productions
hawaiki


Return to posts index


greg janza
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 2, 2018 at 10:56:22 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "what's important is that the shot size is very substantially different to the more frontal angle which means the cut is much less jarring. In the Letterman shots the shot sizes are uncomfortably similar:"

agreed.

Windows 10 Pro
i7-5820k CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Adobe CC 2018
Renders/cache: Samsung SSD 950 Pro x2 in Raid 0
Media: Samsung SSD 960 PRO PCIe NVMe M.2 2280
Media: OWC Thunderbay 4 x 2 Raid 0 mirrored with FreeFileSync


Return to posts index

Oliver Peters
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 3, 2018 at 6:34:02 pm

I think there are a couple of things going on here. First is the director's desire to have constantly moving cameras. These obviously will reach the end of their travel and often at undesired points, which will force unmotivated cuts.

The second is that this appears to be a highly edited show. I doubt much of it is "live". Look at the cut at 4:49 - "the pattern". The former President's hands are clearly mismatched, so it's a cheat to make the edit work. I suspect there's a lot of that. Once you start doing that to pull out stumbles, "ahs", pauses, etc, you end up with a lot of cuts dictated by these edits. As a result, when you have clean (unedited) sections, you end up increasing the pace of the camera cuts, as well, just so that the more-highly-edited sections don't stick out as badly.

The third trend is to simply have a cuttier show, which is edited like a concert video (unfortunately without the musical motivation.)

- Oliver

Oliver Peters - oliverpeters.com


Return to posts index

Simon Ubsdell
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 3, 2018 at 7:23:52 pm

[Oliver Peters] "First is the director's desire to have constantly moving cameras. These obviously will reach the end of their travel and often at undesired points, which will force unmotivated cuts. "

This is a very important point.

The notion that you can have cameras move continuously without a plan as to why they are moving is completely absurd.

But in this situation, because you don't know how the conversation is going to unfold, the movement is entirely unmotivated. Which means that it's the purest luck if the movement actually benefits the end result rather than fighting it.

Movement without motivation is almost always very frustrating because as viewers we are conditioned to think that there is a motivation. Consequently we end up having our attention drawn to things that we should never have noticed.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo productions
hawaiki


Return to posts index


Oliver Peters
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 3, 2018 at 8:11:49 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "The notion that you can have cameras move continuously without a plan as to why they are moving is completely absurd."

I've done a lot of these types of interview edits in corporate work. The director simply has the side camera on a slider of some type and it's constantly moving back and forth slowly. There's no control of where the camera is or whether it's traveling left of right at any given time, since the conversation is unstructured. Then invariably in the edit you try to resist the director's desire to cut to the camera when it's looking slightly at the back of the person's ear. ☺

- Oliver

Oliver Peters - oliverpeters.com


Return to posts index

Simon Ubsdell
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 3, 2018 at 9:19:08 pm

[Oliver Peters] "Then invariably in the edit you try to resist the director's desire to cut to the camera when it's looking slightly at the back of the person's ear. "

I think we're just showing a lack of sensitivity here.

Ears can be very expressive.

If you're an elephant!

;-)


Return to posts index

Mark Suszko
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 3, 2018 at 10:03:24 pm

Something my shop does a lot of these days is oral history interview recordings. We cover a lot of various subjects; from veterans of various wars, to politicians, to farmers and "regular folks". But we shoot them all the same way; with essentially static cameras from a wide 2-shot, and a medium iso of the guest, plus a single of the interviewer that isn't iso'd.

I switch these shows live in standard talk-show type format, only without breaks, and I stay on the guest a lot more often without reaction cut-aways, than I would for, say, the public affairs politics talk shows we shoot for local access distribution. Those are done in a pretty conventional manner.

But it's different for the oral history gigs, which can run into multi-hour, multi-day sessions. I'm cutting not just for the present, but preserving clean versions for some future director and editor or scholar.

So no fancy trucking moves, no jib tongue moves, no sliders, no whip pans, just plain. simple. documentation... of a conversation that's engaging enough to the viewer not to need any tricks.

A person might think: "well, that's some pretty static directing - you could up the drama quite a bit with more camera motion and more kinetic pacing of cuts and angles."

They'd be wrong.

You really don't need embellishment for a man telling you how at 16 he lied his way into the Air Force and after less than a full year of training, got assigned to a B-17 bomber ...and piloted his first mission - his very FIRST mission at the controls - into the disastrous daylight raid on Schweinfurt. You don't need a slider on the shot when you can look into his eyes and hear him describe how the flack was so thick it looked like the sky was paved with stone and you could walk home on it... how desperately at that moment he wanted to walk home on it, because something like 3/4 of the men he took off with were falling to the Earth in flames to every side of him, the whole damn time he was clenching that yoke and fighting his every natural inclination to press on to a target and make a drop, before he could turn around...

And then he had to do that job another twenty-four times. And living with what he'd seen and experienced. Lives he took, and lives he saved.

You don't need special camera moves for that. Or fancy switcher solos. You shut up, stand back, and let the story tell itself.

My cuts, when I do make them, are used to frame a section or "punctuate" a tale being told, and that's all the "enhancement" we want in this kind of thing. Because we also keep camera isos, someone in the future can overrule my directing decisions as they like, or extract unmodified passages of the recording to suit whatever their future needs are. The shots are made a little wider than usual so there's room to add virtual pans or zooms in post somewhere down the line. But we don't add any fancy razz-matazz when we shoot it. The story doesn't need tricks to be compelling.

We keep it real.


Return to posts index


Mike Cohen
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 6, 2018 at 4:32:38 pm

I have shot many interviews, mostly single camera with a locked shot. Time permitting I may change the zoom amount between questions. On a few occasions I have parked a 2nd camera next to the main camera for a locked off closeup, for smoother editing. A few times I have setup a 2nd or 3rd locked off camera with a side view like it being discussed here, but only to give some variety for editing out content, rarely for a creative purpose. I agree that these Letterman interviews seem to be using more cameras to try to make a static interview visually more interesting, but it is not enough justification for some of the shots.

A couple of years ago I went to a TEDx event. Each talk has one person standing center stage, with a remote control to advance slides. The event was live switched for I-MAG with 3 cameras. A master medium shot, a closer shot and a camera on stage right which alternated between a side view of the speaker and audience reaction shots. In a live switching situation this can work well, as the 1,000 people in the audience were often laughing, crying, clapping or smiling. Depending upon what the speaker was doing the side view may or may not have been appropriate, and it is up to the director or TD to make those decisions in real time.

These Letterman interviews are conducted in a theater with an audience, so I wonder if there is live switching for I-MAG, and then they re-edit from ISOs or tweak the live switched recording. I have done both methods with multi-camera events.

I have only watched the Obama episode, but this show is in my queue along with about 500 other shows!

Mike


Return to posts index

Mark Suszko
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 6, 2018 at 5:53:27 pm

IMAG is a unique case and you can't really do IMAG well and expect it to also cut well for conventional use


Return to posts index

Bill Davis
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 24, 2018 at 9:29:34 pm
Last Edited By Bill Davis on Apr 24, 2018 at 9:34:11 pm

Dang, I missed this discussion the first time around and I'm REALLY late to this AND kinda bummed I missed it at the time.

Because, of course, I have a bit of a contrarian observation.

(But at least one built around a real life experience!)

I consume media in the same way most of you guys do. I watch the presentation hoping to be engrossed with it such that my disbelief is suspended and I become immersed in the narrative. I FOCUS on it from the first frame. It's how I was trained with DECADES of sitting in darkened theaters or living rooms with single choice content delivery modes at one time.

That's my default expectation.

But a few years back, I watched my then teenage son watch content in our living room - and realized his entire experience of consuming media was massively different from mine.

He had the Television, his Laptop, an iPad and his phone engaged all at once and he was scanning and interacting with each. He essentially had a "curation state" in play - assessing which feed he would access at any given time.

Movement, change, visual richness - THOSE aspects would draw his attention to one of the other, in turn.

Is this good or bad? That's WAY too big a topic for me to address. But it's how his attention was being engaged.

It's VERY possible, I suspect, that Letterman's show is edited to POP from this type of modern scanning feed. To present more variety, more visual change, more INTEREST to someone scanning across content looking for something to watch.

It MIMICS his viewing consumption style much more closely than traditional style editorial. Constantly searching, scanning, seeking - for good or ill.

Just an observation - and certainly one that I could be entirely wrong about. But that Letterman interview style might have way more opportunity to appeal to someone of Mike's conditioning - than it does for someone of my conditioning.

Just food for thought.

Creator of XinTwo - http://www.xintwo.com
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.


Return to posts index


greg janza
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 24, 2018 at 11:08:51 pm

[Bill Davis] "But a few years back, I watched my then teenage son watch content in our living room - and realized his entire experience of consuming media was massively different from mine."

My kids also consume media in that way.


[Bill Davis] "It's VERY possible, I suspect, that Letterman's show is edited to POP from this type of modern scanning feed. To present more variety, more visual change, more INTEREST to someone scanning across content looking for something to watch."

Interesting idea of creating the programming in such as way as to attract younger eyeballs but I'm not sure this show is attempting to do that. The reason I doubt it is because Letterman's audience is naturally going to skew on the older side. Netflix is also such a powerhouse that it doesn't really matter how good or bad the viewing numbers are for Letterman's show. Letterman just adds yet even more prestige to the Netflix portfolio. I think Netflix has surpassed HBO at this point as the premiere "network."

But TV being the tramp that it is, I'm sure a lot of programming today is consciously being made with the thought of how to attract those young eyeballs.

The encouraging thing that I see with my own kids is that they will watch a wide variety of traditional style programming just as intently as new media as long as the storytelling is compelling.

Windows 10 Pro
i7-5820k CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Blackmagic Decklink 4k Mini Monitor
Adobe CC 2018
Renders/cache: Samsung SSD 950 Pro x2 in Raid 0
Media: Samsung SSD 960 PRO PCIe NVMe M.2 2280
Media: OWC Thunderbay 4 x 2 Raid 0 mirrored with FreeFileSync


Return to posts index

Bill Davis
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Apr 25, 2018 at 7:02:59 pm
Last Edited By Bill Davis on Apr 25, 2018 at 7:10:41 pm

[greg janza] "But TV being the tramp that it is, I'm sure a lot of programming today is consciously being made with the thought of how to attract those young eyeballs."

It strikes me a little bit like the "wide verses tall" thing.

Taken JUST in the context of content viewing - most all of us go for for wide every time. Even to the point of ridiculing people who shoot "vertical videos."

Yet I look at the splash page of Netflix today - and what do I see?



Poster frames set as BOTH vertical and horizontal. They want more options to attract eyeballs to the promoted content above - and then are happy to switch to a horizontal layout when the choice is made to dive deeper. Some of those will undoubtedly be the "smartphone" poster frames - others will be served to laptops and other wide screen modes.

I think there's a design aesthetic at work here that's increasingly common. Catch first - extrapolate later.

Interesting to think about.

Creator of XinTwo - http://www.xintwo.com
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.


Return to posts index

Mike Cohen
Re: A technical editing critique of Letterman's "My Next Guest"
on Sep 7, 2018 at 4:24:00 pm

Speaking of unmotivated camera work, lately I have noticed on Meet the Press they have a couple of fast jib or dolly like shots per episode. It is during the discussion at the big table with 4 guests and the host. If it were a slow move it would be better, in my opinion. The fast move calls attention to itself and takes my attention out of the conversation.

In contrast on Today they do a steadycam or crane shot before the 7:30 commercial break where the camera goes about 180 degrees around the anchor desk. It is quick and fun but the Today show is supposed to be an energetic morning show so it is a fun camera move.

Good camera work is supposed to be invisible to the viewer and be motivated by the story or subject matter. Drones are starting to become overused in some shows also. It is cool that you can do something that once would have required a chopper, but these dramatic shots where the camera goes from ground level to 300 feet seem to be saying "hey, we have a drone!" If it helps tell the story go for it, but too much of a good ting can become too much.

Mike


Return to posts index

<< PREVIOUS   •   VIEW ALL   •   PRINT   •   NEXT >>
© 2018 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]