Zoom zoom.

My mother often complains about movies being too much like video games. It was for this reason that she didn't like the recent Star Trek film. At the time, I had a factual understanding of her complaint, though I lacked a visceral understanding. Academically speaking, her issue was that directors enjoy swooshing a camera in and around the action, but for people who don't habitually subject themselves to this kind of visual overload it's too much to keep track of.

Last night I totally went bonkers for the same reason as my mother.

After dining with my grandparents, we turned on the television to give ample time for digestion before desert. Choosing to edify ourselves through PBS, we watched as NOVA discussed human ancestry and anthropology, likely due to some recent discoveries in the field.

I can't really be sure, because I was horribly distracted by the director's incredibly annoying camera work.

Our new generations have grown up in an era where information is instantly available, where attention spans are ever shorter, and where video games now involve flailing in front of the television. I can understand that NOVA, as it was when I was a kid, has to expend some effort updating its methods of operation to match the changing times. To remain the same is to become a fossil.

That said, they should find better directors.

There are a lot of tools at a director's disposal. The more obvious the tool, the less often it should be used. Otherwise the viewer becomes aware of the tool and it ceases to be illuminating. Instead, it beings to obscure in proportion to how much it is abused.

The director of this episode of Nova had an obsession with two forms of zoom. Form one was to start close to a picture, just enough that most of the important bits weren't visible, and then quickly zoom out to a fuller view with an graphical blur and refocus, accompanied by an audible whoosh. Form two was to start zoom out from a picture, just enough that most of the interesting bits were too small to make out, and then zoom in with the same graphical and audible effects as the other form.

The intent was obviously to make pictures of skeletons and anthropologists exciting. However, the frequency with which these zooms occurred, and the short duration the technique alloted to actually look at the skeletons or interesting photos, created a situation where it was nearly impossible to actually appreciate whatever it was the director wanted you to look at.

I could almost have sworn there were two little kids fighting over the zoom function on the camera, all while talking in whoosh noises.

In addition to this visual repetition, the program itself was arranged with many, many repeated narrations. I can scarcely remember just how many times the narrator said, "For the first time in X years...", "Then, there was an amazing discovery...", and similar phrases. I could potentially see the worth in continually repeating the weird names of the skeletons, given that they aren't easy to remember of learn. But for the love of variety don't say the name with exactly the same inflection, tone, pitch and feeling every single time.

The whole presentation felt like a broken record being played over a projector with bits and pieces of a child's wild drawings thrown in. By the fifth amazing discovery I couldn't bear to watch it anymore. Not that I could have seen anything anyway what with all the blur-zooming going on. It might have been better if there wasn't that conspicuous whooshing noise there every single time.

Grr. Get off my lawn!

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