Let the Pros Make the Programmes

19h06 - 19 november 2017 / 0 comments

Dr John Grierson explains why TV programme-making should be the preserve of the professionals, not children.

Watching a really well-made documentary is a major delight. But at the other end of the scale of competence are programmes made by directors and producer-directors whose brains have clearly been addled by too much nose-candy and who allow camerapersons and editors free reign to go wherever fancy takes them.

So – upside down. Forty-five-degree angles and worse. Jumpy hand-held follow-the-action shots taken by a cameraman with St. Vitus’s dance. Eye-wateringly fast pans this way and that, and back again, designed, I assume to “add reality” to the scene. Adds exactly nothing. As things stand, in the era of citizen-reporting using Fruit phones (other makes are available) we are already subjected to the worst that an amateur cameraperson can throw at us, and which the TV channels are happy to broadcast. But when it is down to the so-called professionals, they ought to know better.

And my worst, currently very much in fashion; the out-of-focus shot which either stays that way, or only very gradually comes into focus. The idiot producers or directors of such stuff do not appear to know that the human eye and brain have evolved to see things the way they are, and abhors things which are out of focus. So, when faced with these utterly unnecessarily blurred images, the eye/brain combo tries to correct them, resulting in a horrible headache, because it can’t be done. This is a problem unique to me? No. I have asked a lot of people about this – in the age range from ten to death – and they all say the same thing. It’s a nuisance and adds nothing to the programme. So just stop it, OK? Use the camera lens the way it was designed to be used. To bring everything into sharp focus and keep it there.

Now I know that even the most sophisticated cameras cannot compete with the eye when it comes to handling depth of field and variable focus, so the cameraperson has to do what is called “pulling focus” to move from tight focus close-ups to the same further away, or vice-versa. That’s unavoidable if it is really necessary to the visual aspect of the story, but deliberately taking a shot way out of focus and leaving it there? Phooey. That’s just camera w***king and you know what is supposed to happen if you do too much of that. You go blind.

And does it end there? No. Editing either film or video is a digitised doddle now, compared to the old methods which involved razor blades and glue, and that’s got to be a good thing.

But what in the name of visual torture persuades directors and editors that transitions from one scene to another have to be carried out with irritating flashes, whirling circles and animated squares, discothèque-type strobe effects and a lot else, all doing nothing other than give bored seventeen-year-old editors something to play with? Drives some viewers mad? Too bad. Modden, innit, so we are expected to live with it. I don’t care if you think that this makes me a fuddy-duddy media dinosaur. TV is a miracle without having to add bling. So, just don’t.

There’s more to come. Watch this part of the Airwaves space.

Dr John Grierson – PhD in local and community radio studies; in his time a radio pioneer, manager, motivator, director, presenter, writer, actor, all over the world. Writer on any subject that catches his eye, and unapologetic ranter when he sees injustice, unfairness, greed, arrogance and sloppy, slack production in TV, radio and all other media. His contributions to www.theairwaves.org.uk are drawn from, or based on, items in his book “Righteous Rants for Thinkers”, available on Kindle.