Without the author’s words

In the story we watched in Lecture, A Thousand More, there were many compelling elements. Number one, the story was emotional and strong. Secondly, music was used well and the shots were all framed magnificently. The characters that filled the screen were compelling and really let you into their lives. Philly was witty and brave. All of these things were combined to make an excellent piece of work that I certainly admired.

But, my favorite part of the entire story was that it was told without voiceovers. The entire story came simply through the words of the people involved. Every question was answered, every detail was clarified and not once did you hear a producer or camera person’s voice.

This is great for me. Every time in the past I have done a story in broadcast format, I have combined still shots with moving shots, b-roll, nat sound, SOTs and, of course, VOs. That’s always the catch though. Not only is it kinda tough to write a short, clear, but detailed voice over, sometimes you feel like you’re leaving out parts. Or, like me, you just really hate the way your voice sounds on camera.

I’ve always feared the broadcast world for this reason. I’m not afraid of talking at all, but somehow, once my voice is recorded, it sounds so different, and when I’m reading from a script, it always sounds that way. My skin tone never manages to look good on camera either, but I figure that if somehow I ended up in the broadcast world, someone would show me how to do my makeup better so I didn’t look washed out or orange on camera.

My appearance isn’t really my biggest concern though. It has always been my voice. So, watching this story was inspiring to me. I always knew you were supposed to keep VO’s short and let the people tell their own story. To eliminate VOs completely though? Before Tuesday, I probably wouldn’t have believed it to be possible. At least, not possible and really compelling.

Now though, I have faith. When the story is there, and the people are there, and every element is straight on– you can nail the story without the sound of your own voice. In fact, I officially think VOs are the least important part in a story, when I used to think they mattered.

When I actually think about it though, when you watch a documentary, even the good ones with Morgan Freeman or Richard Attenborough narrating, are you really listening to their voices? Or are you watching the captivating shots of far-away landscapes and sounds of the forest at night? Do you care more about the statistics thrown out by an overhead voice or about the polar bear cubs rolling through the snow with their mother? The only reason those need narration is because the animals can’t speak for themselves. Otherwise, I doubt National Geographic or Discovery would spend the money trying to find someone with just the right amount of sultry and power in their voice to effectively capture the audience.

So, in the future of my multimedia projects, I vow to try and make them powerful and meaningful without a single murmur from me. Aside from asking the questions. But those won’t make the final cut.


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