Posts Tagged ‘editing’

The Hills: Actually a Bravo Competition Show.

December 8, 2009

Even though this was my first taste of The Hills/Laguna Beach/The City genra of shows, I felt that the editing and overall style was very familiar.  I am a devoted Top Chef fan, and I know that pretty much all of the Bravo branded reality competitions have the same look and feel, but i was blown away to find out that The Hills fits eerily well into this style.

The opening credits for both shows go through their list of character/contestants with a heavy slathering of effects filters.  The main difference being that Top Chef acknowledges the audience while The Hills ignore it.  Watch from 0:55 to 1:40  of the Top Chef video and from 0:27 to 1:30 of The Hills video to get a sense of the openings.

In both shows the openings are followed by a similar set of cut scenes  that are repeated throughout the episode in between the competition or the teen drama.  Shots of busy streets, fancy restaurant interiors and exteriors, are beautifully saturated and framed to look “careless.”  What would have been ordinary shots are sped up and slowed down and shot with wide angle lenses to give a sense of movement and excitement to cars driving on a road or a person entering a building.

I suppose for arguments sake, Top Chef’s non competition editing can also be made for MTV.  There is an ever lingering sense that the editors are searching for any little shred of anger, friendship or romance to create a huge side story.  And while the cheftestants are not expected to be actors, some of them are more convincing in their obviously scripted, yet subtle product placements than Heidi is at playing the painfully stupid and meddlesome character in The Hills.

These shows also end in suspense that is blown out of proportion.  Through Lauren’s crazy escapades of the first episode, The Hills sets up what is expected to be a major chewing out of the main character.  I could picture in my mind the millions of commercials that week replaying Lauren’s nervous face, but instead she hardly gets a slap on the wrist.  Top Chef takes the same stance in their next week previews where it seems like Tom has had a conniption over someones terrible food or a portal to hell has opened up in the kitchen and a cheftestant is swallowed up.  Just like The Hills the suspense hardly ever pays off.

Camerawork and Editing in “The Hills”

December 7, 2009

One thing that I thought was interesting about “The Hills” was that the shots and editing mix documentary-style and narrative-style techniques, much like the show itself (which I’ve come to understand is about real people, but is mostly scripted).

On the one hand, many of the conversations are filmed with a shot reverse shot, where there is a close-up of one character talking to the other, which then cuts to a close-up of the other character. It looks like this:

The shot reverse shot is a convention used in countless narrative programs, sitcoms and dramas alike. It is less common in pre-“Laguna Beach” reality shows, and in shows that still strive to convey authenticity (even though they’re all scripted, if not on paper, then in the editing room). Take “Project Runway” for example, whose director filmed this conversation using a single camera in its recent season finale:

The camera starts with a close-up of Irina, then zooms out for a medium close-up of both her and Althea. This has a more realistic feel than the shot reverse shot technique used by “The Hills.”

“The Hills” does break some of the conventions seen in most narrative television, though. For instance, it breaks the “180 degree rule” at least once. This rule  says that “two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other.” Here you can see where “The Hills” breaks that rule:

The scene begins with a shot of Lauren and Heidi from the back (wtf?), but then cuts to a shot that shows them from the front.