An Open Letter to Oprah

oprahDear Oprah,

What is the deal with television interview shows that use a constantly moving camera? Especially when they have both people in the shot, and the camera keeps moving in a lazy arc back and forth around them? It’s annoying. Stop it. What it is supposed to represent – a restless dog’s eye-view of the conversation?

I don’t know who started this “I can’t sit still for two seconds” style of camera work, but I first noticed it on your otherwise wonderful Super Soul Sunday productions. I highly recommend this antidote to the flotsam and jetsam of most TV programming. Interesting, intelligent people discussing spiritual matters in an easy-to-follow question and answer format. Good for you, Oprah.

But stop with the ADD camera work! I’d at least like the illusion that I’m sitting across from you and Michael Singer, listening to a fascinating conversation. But I can’t sustain that fiction when I’m constantly annoyed by a viewpoint that drifts lazily to the right, then lazily to the left, then lazily to the right. Sit still already!

This roving camera adds nothing to the experience besides annoyance. Yes, we see slightly different angles of you and your guest and the scenery. So what? Who cares? All it does it call attention to the fact that this is a television show. Duh.

On a related note is the jittery camera for close ups. Put it on a tripod, for god’s sake. And stop zoomimg in and out. Again – I know I’m viewing this world through an electronic eye, but the experience would be way more enjoyable if you stopped calling attention to it.

Here’s how to do interview TV. Static two shot of both people, to establish the setting. Close up of a person talking. Close up of a person listening. Mix and match, and you’re done. No pans, tracking shots, or zooms needed. If you want me to feel like I’ve invited two interesting people into my living room, that’s all that’s needed. The second you call attention to camera work, the illusion is shattered. Honestly, Oprah, if you were visiting I would not spend the whole time walking in half-circles around your chair.

Though I first noticed it on your network, I see that these restless camera techniques have also spread to public television. You’d think the producers of quality public programming might be immune to trendy TV techniques, but sadly, no, they have also embraced the fidgety camera. Why? Do they think they will attract a younger demographic with their “hip” camera work? Hello – all you are doing is annoying your regular viewers. No one is going to watch a program because the camera moves around a lot. Or turn the channel because it doesn’t.

I realize I’m tilting at windmills here. You’re not about to read this letter (ever), much less respond, “You know Tom, you’re right. It is extremely annoying to watch a TV show that constantly calls attention to the camera. It distracts and distances the viewer, the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

But on the fat chance cold day in H E double L possibility this letter actually got through to you, just one more item. A lot of people now have 40” or bigger High Definition televisions, so could you please back up a bit on the close ups? Giant heads with magnified nostrils and pores also breaks the illusion of sitting in the living room and listening to a fascinating discussion, unless you normally wander over at regular intervals to inspect your guest’s face with a high-powered light and magnifying glass.

Sincerely yours,

Tom

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