Sunday, February 17, 2013

Curious habits of Japanese TV

--There is no disinclination to show the same short video--a man getting out of his car caught in a traffic jam, shaking his fist at the cars struck around him, then resignedly getting back into his car--twice, three times, even four or five times in a few minutes while the reader rattles on. The essential importance of video supporting the narrative or narrative explaining the video is often not recognized.

--Another example of witless picture editing is the all-too-familiar shot of a gaggle of politicians coming out of one room and striding down the hall to enter another room, without the slightest verbal exchange or the slightest notice of the camera. What can the viewer possibly learn from this?

--We have already made note of the extraordinary detail of weather reports. It's also interesting to note that on NHK's evening weather report, the main (usually  male) news reader stays on camera when the young (female) weather reporter begins her run-through of the expected weather, and he invariably injects a comment to show his interest, then after a moment or two backs away out of camera, thus showing that he while he is interested in the weather report he is not really responsible.    

--Ads, particularly those for soft drinks, are often built around a shot of fanatically precision dancing by an outlandishly costumed troop, featuring the unnatural jerking back and forth of arms and leg movements and spins as meticulous as well-oiled machinery. These five-second sequences by a dozen or so dancers of exactly the same height must have required weeks of rehearsal.

--NHK broadcasts the Evening News in 27 languages, including Gaelic.

--You will have noticed that when something untoward happens, but something which is photogenic and which by good luck has been captured on camera, such as a picturesque bicycle accident or a bank robbery in a remote prefecture, the evening news programs will devote five minutes or more to it, with the police shown diligently making measurements and holding patchy interviews with attractive observers. The time devoted is governed by the supposed interest in the video, not by the importance of the story.

--Sometimes video will show someone (a politician usually) speaking, but then narration comes on and the speaker is still shown to be speaking but the video's sound is cut off to let the narration go on under. So the politician or whoever is shown to be saying something but we don't hear what. 

--We are too often treated to stock shots of the signs of political parties on the roofs of their headquarters, when there's nothing else handy to show.

--The camera will pan across four or five people lined up behind a desk pretending to engage in a panel discussion but in fact there will be no exchange of ideas. One person will go on for three or four minutes about something and the others will periodically nod and say things like "Of course" and "I see."  Then another person at the desk will rattle on about something else which may or may not be related while the others nod and say "Naturally" and "Uh huh." So there is no real discussion at all. This practice even has a name; the person who gives a periodic mumbled response to the long explanation is called an "ai-zuchi," which means roughly the person on the other side who nods. 

- Alex Mitsumori

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