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Background music in documentaries - love it or hate it?

 
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:08 pm    Post subject: Background music in documentaries - love it or hate it? Reply with quote

The increasing prevalence of background music in documentaries has been bugging me for some years now, but I swear that it's getting even worse.

It's completely unnecessary and is, generally speaking, no more than noise pollution, so much so that it has caused me to switch off many documentaries which I would otherwise have watched.

Sometimes it works if it's well chosen, used sparingly and isn't over-bearing, but sadly such instances are no longer the norm.

No doubt today's 'new media' bods would say that it helps tie together the narrative of a documentary, and no doubt it can if used sensibly, but I would argue that it's often extremely poorly used.

Of course, it's just one thing that is supposedly used to 'enhance' today's documentaries, along with fast cut editing, crazy camera angles, wobbly camera-work and loud and stupid presenters and/or narrators.

Am I alone in my thoughts? Does anyone LIKE the background music in documentaries, or do you manage to somehow ignore it?
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It depends on the documentary, the director, the channel it's intended for showing on (the needs of Channel 5 will differ from BBC 4) and the target audience.

The thing I really hate is the trend for cameramen to intentionally move the camera even when it's on a static, tight shot of an interviewee. I just cannot figure why "wobblycam" is felt to be acceptable.

Usually, it's the result of a newbie director trying to make it "edgy" (whatever that means) and also trying to make his/her mark.

It wasn't like it in my day................... Wink
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Helen May



Joined: 10 Dec 2006
Posts: 18215
Location: Cheshire

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't mind some of it but it's too loud and getting louder all the time.

While we are on about cameras why do they (in a gardening programme for instance) show the presenter's face when you need to see what his hands are doing with soil/plant etc. It really annoys me when that happens!

H
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I said it live on air in the studio with Jeremy Vine on 10/3/2005
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed regarding the camera work.

I recently re-watched an old recording of a 1985 documentary called "The Million Pound Bird Book". It was wonderful for all kinds of reasons, but more than anything barely ANY background music was used, and what WAS used was appropriately selected, toned down and used in extreme moderation.

Marvellous.

If only all documentaries were made this way.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen May wrote:
While we are on about cameras why do they (in a gardening programme for instance) show the presenter's face when you need to see what his hands are doing with soil/plant etc. It really annoys me when that happens!


It's often what's called a paste-over shot, which is needed if the shot you want to see has been done in segments (due to retakes, etc). In the edit, these shots would jump - so a cutaway of the person's face or something else is used to cover the join.

Of course it could just be that the director and/or editor are crap! (That's not unknown these days).
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen May wrote:
I don't mind some of it but it's too loud and getting louder all the time.

While we are on about cameras why do they (in a gardening programme for instance) show the presenter's face when you need to see what his hands are doing with soil/plant etc. It really annoys me when that happens!

H


That reminds me of Keth Floyd and is frequent instructions to the cameraman on where to point the camera. Smile

At least Floyd knew how to do it correctly!
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barty wrote:
That reminds me of Keth Floyd and is frequent instructions to the cameraman on where to point the camera. Smile


That cameraman was Clive North, who was at the time a film lighting cameraman working out of BBC Bristol in Whiteladies Road.

He's still working today. I saw him credited at the end of a documentary the other night. My friend Ian bought a 16mm film camera from Clive when he himself upgraded. He assured us it had been used on the first series of Floyd on Food!
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating, thanks for that tidbit. Smile
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Helen May



Joined: 10 Dec 2006
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Location: Cheshire

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There were a lot of complaints last season about the camera work (and other things too!) on Gardener's World when they changed presenters. So your latter comment was probably more than part of the reason! It's not so bad this year but still some gaffs.

H
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barty wrote:
Fascinating, thanks for that tidbit. Smile


My head's full of all this crap, as my long-suffering wife will tell you! Smile
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen May wrote:
There were a lot of complaints last season about the camera work (and other things too!) on Gardener's World when they changed presenters. So your latter comment was probably more than part of the reason! It's not so bad this year but still some gaffs.


The funny thing is that many of the new generation of directors actually have this ambition to direct feature films in Hollywood, yet they like to think they'll make their mark by breaking with convention (and the best film and TV training is based upon accepted methods and conventions). It's ironic, therefore, that almost all feature films are shot and edited using techniques that were established almost 100 years ago. Shots are properly set up and composed, sequences are constructed using accepted conventions, and things are done in much the same way as they always have.

And yet still they think they're going to change things!

It's always funny when you get young rookie directors working with older, experienced, technicians!
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
Barty wrote:
Fascinating, thanks for that tidbit. Smile


My head's full of all this crap, as my long-suffering wife will tell you! Smile


You should write a book. Wink

Back on the subject of background music, I've recently been watching a fair few of the Time Team 'Specials' via 4oD. Can't help but notice that, regarding the Time Team Specials, in about 2007 the background music becomes ever more prevalent even in the sacred halls of Time Team.

Damn annoying it is.


Last edited by Barty on Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barty wrote:
You should write a book. Wink


I've had three books published in the last 5 years! Smile
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
Barty wrote:
You should write a book. Wink


I've had three books published in the last 5 years! Smile


Time to write another then, I suggest calling it "Colin's Television Tidbits". Wink
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's my most recent book (published in 2006) called Go Digital!. I was the principal author but for some reason one of my co-authors gets the main Amazon credit!

And HERE is the German version. Smile
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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Must take a look. Smile
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Lord Evan Elpuss



Joined: 10 Dec 2006
Posts: 3357
Location: Cloud Cuckoo Land

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only today on The One Show on the nature spot, Mike Dilger was discussing Grasshoppers, more specifically the noise they make. What did they do? Yes, inserted some needless music when we were supposed to be listening to the grasshopper noise that Mike had just described! Why?
My other bugbear is unecessary speeding up of the film. Yes, it happens on The One Show. This evening, it was seen on Bang Goes The Theory. It's done on numerous other programmes as well. Please stop it as it really 'does my eyes in' (to use modern parlance) I know it has always been done to some degree but nowhere near as much as now when (I suspect) most things are computerised. I just have to shield my eyes from it when they do this, unlike years ago in pre computerised times when it didn't affect me in this way. Likewise, that berluddy moving map on the weather forecast. It makes me feel queasy. Why did they have to change the way the weather is presented. That was a case of change for change's sake.

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Barty



Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tell me about it. Rolling Eyes

Seems like a bunch of failed art and media studies students are now in charge of what they see as making TV output more 'punchy'. (They would probably use a lot more words and, basically, it would sound like marketing bollox).
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barty wrote:
Tell me about it. Rolling Eyes

Seems like a bunch of failed art and media studies students are now in charge of what they see as making TV output more 'punchy'. (They would probably use a lot more words and, basically, it would sound like marketing bollox).


Trouble is that much of mainstream general features TV is made on a shoestring. The location packages (or "pieces" as they're called) for shows like The One Show are now shot and directed by one or two people at most. Usually, the cameraman is also director, and there's rarely even a sound-man.

Then, when it's shot, there's a reliance on the editor to put some life into it - and that's why it's all covered up with fast editing and crappy music.

At one time, the BBC used to train its technical staff properly down at Evesham, with producers coming on the graduate production scheme in Elstree and elsewhere.

These days, training is minimal - and you see the evidence of it every day. I get really angry when I see pictures that are over-exposed and sound that's over-modulated. That's the way it si though, and as budgets are shaved more we'll see more of it, unfortunately.

And all the time, the vulture that is Murdoch perches on a branch overlooking the scene in the knowledge that the Tories will soon let him have first pickings at the carcass that was once a proud BBC.
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