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Old March 6th, 2008, 07:30 PM   #31
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All the hard line "i want to remain neutral" sentiment is noble, but a bit idealistic. When i'm cutting legal docs or depositions, sure I would avoid anything to color the piece, but a storytelling doc? Why wouldnt you? And as to releasing your raw footage for the internet to judge... That seems really extreme. Who cares what people on the internet think?

When I'm editing, I try to figure out the spirit of what the person is saying, and help them to say it to the best of their ability. I recorded my grandmother a few years before her death giving her own eulogy. When she passed away, i edited the hell out of it to make her points as clear as possible and as emotive as possible. When she was 60 she was an awesome orator, and while what she said at 93 was still poignant, it lacked the clarity and focus she would have wanted. I took 40 minutes of ideas down to 10 minutes of really heartfelt and snappy narration. Now, i knew my grandmother really well, and I am POSITIVE that what I did was not only right, but what she would have wanted. Colored? definitely. a misrepresentation of what she said? probably. A misrepresentation of what she had to say? not at all.

I had to do all the foley on an episode of NOVA i made. It was about a shipwreck excavation, but to keep the water out of the area they ran loud generators and pumps 24/7. I had to basically build the entire soundscape from scratch in my garage. Now, its likely that my interpretations of what spraying water on wet timber, and squishing mud, and screening shells while looking for tiny artifacts were fairly different from the real sounds. In fact, my sounds were probably misleading and deceptive... and who cares? The point of the doc was the science of the excavation and the spirit of the sailors that had once been on that ship. Would 54 minutes of generator drone really have been better for the viewer? Does it make any lick of difference? Should this story have never been told because we couldnt capture clean audio?

I also subscribe to the "use your morals and do your best to stay true" theory. The people on the internet can tell their own stories.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 02:18 PM   #32
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media literacy

I think a lot of the fear of misleading an audience comes from the fact that our audiences know nothing about the filmmaking process. They know nothing but they guess everything based on what they see on extra features on DVDs and from what their eyes and ears tell them while they watch. This is because media literacy is terrifyingly absent from any high school or liberal arts college's core curriculum. I was a communication arts major and I found that even some of my fellow majors were making statements about reality television and documentaries that were 100% guesses.

In my Intro to Mass Communication class one group of students were assigned to cover "meta-movies" and "meta-television" (movies or television about movies or television) and to decide after researching whether or not the content accurately represented their medium. Their conclusion was that the content was accurate, and my professor didn't hesitate to rebuke them in front of the rest of the class for clearly doing no research on the topic.

There's a lot to be scared about when making decisions that concern representing reality but we can't afford to teach our audience about the process within a doc that has nothing to do with media literacy. I think there should be more of those, though! If our schools aren't going to provide this education then we should! Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure is a good one, actually. Check it out with an open mind.
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Old September 14th, 2008, 06:55 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
It's obvious we all have our own 'ethics' in filmmaking, as well as life. That's what makes for good discussions.
Totally agree, it's also what makes for good documentaries.
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Old March 30th, 2009, 08:00 PM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabriel Chiefetz View Post
Marco has it right. If you're adding artificial sounds into your documentary, you don't have a documentary-- you have a cartoon. I know that sounds extreme, but what you are doing is intentionally misleading.
Would the absence of sounds for footsteps be any less misleading?

The mere presence of a film maker is artificial. Their job is to assemble a story from one that wouldn't otherwise present itself. Even commentary that is normally unspoken is artificial.
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Old March 31st, 2009, 09:37 AM   #35
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Errol Morris discusses this at length in his blog at the New York Times:

Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up - Errol Morris Blog - NYTimes.com

But be forewarned - Morris is from that group of filmmakers concerned with "truthiness".

Today most documentary makers follow the Ken Burns infotainment model.
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Old April 1st, 2009, 03:01 PM   #36
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Verisimilitude

I am going to introduce you to a word that belongs in every documentary filmmakers lexicon: verisimilitude. It is the appearance or essence of the truth.

For example, my interview subject (whose interview I am editing at the moment) makes quite a few stutters, "ahs" and "ums" as well as plenty of false-starts to her thoughts which unedited makes it hard to follow, especially when she uses 50 words to make a point she could have made in 10. Now, in order to make it work on screen, I edit out the uhs and umms and reorder her phrasing. This is an ethical slippery slope, however I am not putting any words in her mouth that she didn't say and I am still remaining true to the essence of what she said. This is the test to pass verisimilitude. As long as the essence of the truth is kept intact, I have no moral dilemma.

For me, this is the best litmus test for any moral quandary: does it pass verisimilitude?

A good book which contains a great chapter on the subject is Barry Hampe's "Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos".
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Old April 1st, 2009, 06:49 PM   #37
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As an international shooter/editor, I can tell you that we have foleyed sounds like birds chirping after the interview was complete, BUT we waited in and around the immediate area where we conducted the interview and used the rationale "if we had conducted the interview 20 feet to the left and 15 minutes later, it WOULD have sounded like THIS..." This allows us control in edit to add JUST the right amount of ambient audio which we go out of the way to EXCLUDE while capturing subject interview audio... Oh what a tangled web we weave...

What we DON'T do is add the sounds of buses and airplanes to secluded accessible only by foot areas well off of a flight path.

And not to be argumentative, but I'm not sure one could say MOST documentarians follow the infotainment model; I would prefer MANY follow...

Verisimilitude... haven't heard that in years. Thanks for the refresher, Mike.
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Old April 1st, 2009, 07:39 PM   #38
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getting back to the OP...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Buys View Post
I think my doc sounds much stronger now with added thumps and huffs and crashes. [...] Is adding extra noise to a bike crash in a documentary morally questionable?
Is this a real crash caught on tape or is it an enactment? That must be made clear in your doc, period.

Now, if it is an enactment, then sound design is pretty much an open game, but should still be approached with caution. If it is a real crash caught on tape, then your leeway is significantly limited as to how far you can go before crossing the line. What kinds of sounds do you have in mind to add?

Again, I can't stress the importance of verisimilitude. (Are you reading this, Mr. Moore?)
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Old April 2nd, 2009, 02:02 PM   #39
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I second Mike's idea of working with "verisimilitude".
BTW: I just checked my Italian-English dictionary,
and found no satisfying English equivalent for our (Italian) adj. "verosimile".
The dictionary lists: likely, probable, credible.
I'm quite happy to see that, for once, YOU appear to lack something that WE do have... :-)

"Truth": that's always a problem.
Example: city sidewalk, a few pedestrians.
You shoot with a WA at low level: looks like there's almost nobody around.
You shoot with tele at eye level, compressing the few pedestrians in your shot: looks
like the sidewalk is really crowded.
How do you apply the concept of "truth", i.e. "it was actually there, and I just recorded it as I saw it" to this setup?
"Verisimilitude" works better, IMHO...

(my humble two cents, of course)

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Old April 2nd, 2009, 02:44 PM   #40
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We do have the same word in English.

Verisimilitude means "the appearance of truth". It is normally used as an accolade in describing dramatic productions but in documentaries it would be a backhanded compliment, hinting at deception of some sort.
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Old April 2nd, 2009, 02:58 PM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Bennett View Post
in documentaries it would be a backhanded compliment, hinting at deception of some sort.
No, it isn't. Verisimilitude is the goal of the documentary filmmaker; it is the opposite of deception. It is the effort of the filmmaker to be as close to the truth as can be practical.
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Old April 2nd, 2009, 03:12 PM   #42
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"You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means..." Inigo Montoya.

I think there is a misunderstanding about the word - Here's the encyleopedia Britanica's take for instance -

verisimilitude

the semblance of reality in dramatic or nondramatic fiction. The concept implies that either the action represented must be acceptable or convincing according to the audience's own experience or knowledge or, as in the presentation of science fiction or tales of the supernatural, the audience must be enticed into willingly suspending disbelief and accepting improbable actions as true within the framework of the narrative.

----------------

So it IS used in conjunction with fiction, as well as non-fiction. And frankly I don't think it's any kind of definitive metric at all. It's simply a word that leaves room for subjective judgement of what is 'truthfull' - which is always up for debate in doc work.

The OP's bicycle crash sound - 'truthful' or not?

Suppose I'm shooting an extremely long shot of two people, walking along a battlefield - we get a context of where they are, and they are wearing WIRELESS mics - so we can pick up their conversation. You couldn't possibly hear them from the shot where the camera is placed, and yet we hear them as if they are standing right next to 'us' - the viewer. Is that 'truthful'? Does it 'appear' truthfull to reality? - No. But it is truthful in the context of FILM - which the viewer has come to accept and understand - most of us have an understanding of the syntax of cuts and distance implied in shots - this shot FOLLOWS that shot in Time... etc.

So there is ALWAYS going to be a line drawn around what is acceptable and not. There are 'best' and 'standard' practices - most of these posts address those, and there are 'questionable' practices - where one mans' verisimilitude is another man's deception.

And so it goes.
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Old April 2nd, 2009, 03:31 PM   #43
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Here is an example of what is IMO a verisimilitude FAIL: Newspaper upset with Michael Moore - Fahrenheit 9/11- msnbc.com

Getting the date on the paper wrong isn't so bad. For me, the fail is in the misrepresentation that the headline in question was on the front page when it was really a small heading above a letter to the editor. That IMHO is a verisimilitude fail.
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Old April 2nd, 2009, 03:43 PM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Bennett View Post
We do have the same word in English.

Verisimilitude means "the appearance of truth". It is normally used as an accolade in describing dramatic productions but in documentaries it would be a backhanded compliment, hinting at deception of some sort.
Yes, I know you have it as a noun, but (according to my dictionary) not as an adjective.
And I don't think it means what you say... Definitely not.

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Old April 2nd, 2009, 03:56 PM   #45
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here is the defininiton from Webster's College Dictionary 4th edition:

1. the appearance of being true or real
2. something having the mere appearance of being true or real

Vasco -the adjective you are looking for is verisimilar.

Last edited by Doug Bennett; April 2nd, 2009 at 04:27 PM.
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