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Documentary Techniques
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Old September 3rd, 2007, 12:45 AM   #16
New Boot
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Location: Elkins, WV
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Documentary Advice Needed

I usually lurk in one of the DV post production forums and this is my first post here. So, if I'm off topic, I apologize in advance.

I am currently working on my first documentary, using old photographs, video footage, and interviews shot at a family reunion. I'm wading through the enormous bulk of old photos and 8 hours or so of talking head footage and have broken the job down into 10 "segments" that will run between 5 to 10 minutes each. I plan to identify each talking head in the credits, and the target audience is the family members themselves.

My question is: Are there any rules for placing titles below the talking heads? Specifically, how often to use the titles.

I hate it when I'm watching a documentary and the talking head is not identified, but it seems overkill to include the title each time the same person re-appears after a cutaway.

My initial thought is to identify the talking head once per segment, the first time they appear within each segment.

All advice welcome (on this specific topic as well as any other advice you may have on this type of production).
Rick Newsom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 3rd, 2007, 08:57 AM   #17
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First time they talk is the rule and maybe towards the end, if there are other interviewees in between (in case someone jumps in on the Discovery Channel and don't know who the person is). If not, just once should be fine. I'm guessing it's the latter, since you want to do segments.

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Heath McKnight is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 3rd, 2007, 09:42 AM   #18
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It kind of depends on the structure of the documentary, how often the "head" appears and what context it appears in. Basically, the purpose of the lower third is to IDENTIFY the head, and to MINIMIZE CONFUSION. You put it up in the first shot to identify the speaker - "JANE SMITH of the KANSAS CITY SMITHS" perhaps.

Later, you're taking about the Jones family, and you want to cut in Jane again, because she makes an interesting comment, you might want to slug her lower third so the viewer doesn't think she's a Smith.

Depending on how your doc is cut together, you may not need to identify the head again. IF all the "Smith Family" segments are cut together, than we know she belongs with the SMith Family. If we are cutting back and forth between various families, while they talk about VACATIONS OVERSEAS... then ask yourself if the unidentified head is confusing in context to the viewer. Does the head before this one talk about "My sister always goes skiing" and then you cut to his Aunt? Might the viewer confuse the comment about the sister with the footage of the Aunt? In that case, identifying the Aunt might be necessary a second time.

It's really a case by case basis. You don't want to interrupt the visuals or the flow of the story... but you don't want the story lost either. It's a balance between identification,distraction, and confustion.

So make your rough cut, screen it for fresh eyes, and then ask if they got lost or confused or were distracted... then go in for the next cut, making adjustments.

Make sense?
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Old September 3rd, 2007, 08:03 PM   #19
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Heath and Richard,

Thanks for the help.
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