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Crossing The MMAxis

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

When you cover a sport like hockey, basketball or football, there is a clear, defined direction of play, that being east-west, or for the viewer, left-right. However, what happens in a sport when there is no clearly-defined direction of play? With MMA becoming more and more mainstream everyday, and more events being televised, I felt it time to write down my thoughts on where the line is drawn in crossing the axis in MMA.

However, before we go there, let’s talk about what crossing the axis is and how it affects the broadcast of a sport. Let’s take football as our example. When we watch a game on TV, the main game camera is set up in the stands around the 50-yard line. With the camera here, the action goes from left to right (endzone to endzone). Thus, the axis is created…an imaginary line that intersects the field parallel to the direction of play. If a camera is placed on the opposite side of this line, then we create a “reverse angle”. However, if we switch to it live, then a jarring effect happens. If a player is running the ball right-to-left on the screen, and we cut to our reverse-angle camera, that player is now running left-to-right, causing it to seem if the player is going in the wrong direction.

This is why reverse-angle cameras are only used as replays. We’re established the direction of play by watching it from beginning to end, so we know that the player isn’t actually going the wrong way. To avoid crossing the axis, all cameras are placed on one side of the axis. Cameras placed dead-centre in the endzone are okay, as you have the full 180 degree axis to work with. This is why netcams in hockey and above-the-rim cameras in basketball are allowed…they sit on the axis without crossing it.

Now, that brings us to MMA. By the very nature of the field of play (in this case, the cage), we create a sport that has a true 360 degree direction of play…or, more realistically, no real direction of play. Grappling can take place anywhere in the cage, wins can happen at any spot. There is no goalline, no net…no target to reach”. In this sense, an axis cannot be defined.

But let’s take the sport out of the equation. Let’s look at this purely from a broadcasting point of view. First, let’s look at the placement of your cameras. For the most part, you’ll usually only need 3 handheld cameras cageside. You’ll probably have a jib too, but we’ll put that aside for now. Around the cage, your cameras will, more than likely, be set up in a triangular formation. What this creates is a unique formation. With no clear direction of play, we can take our shot as being ON the axis, rather than facing the axis.

Now, the rules of the axis in any sport dictate that, if you switch to a camera on the axis, you can then go to any camera you want, on either side of the axis. The reason…because by switching to a camera on the axis, we have actually changed the direction of play for the viewing audience. In the case of hockey, if we go to the behind-the-net camera, the action now goes north-south. We now can safely switch to a reverse angle shot, because from north-south, it doesn’t confuse the viewer if you switch to either east-west or west-east. This is the same reason jibs are so useful…they can cross the axis in one fluid motion, but because it’s the same shot, you actually witness the axis being crossed, so you’re no longer disoriented.

Now that we’ve established that we can flip back and forth across the axis so long as we start on the axis, we allow ourselves the ability to switch to either camera 2 or 3 from camera 1 in our triangular camera positioning around an MMA cage. And since we have established that there is no direction of play, we actually create a new axis with every camera change. Or, if you’re a stickler for rules, consider this…since there is no set direction of play, it can be assumed that there is an infinite number of directions for play to go….therefore, an infinite number of axis for us to use. So, no matter what camera you use, you are technically ON an axis and can therefore switch to any camera.

So there you have it…a clear case of breaking the rules by knowing the rules. Granted, this is all in theory, but having done a number of MMA shows, the theory holds. No shot seems out of place or mirrored, as in left-right sports. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, because as with all things in television, things change and rules become mere guidelines. So please have your say and let the discussion begin!

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s More Than Just Words On The Screen – It’s A Message

January 11, 2012 1 comment

Over the course of an edit session, you may spend hours or longer fretting over a number of edit choices. Tempo, music, colour tinting, which take to use…the list goes on and on. Let me throw in another decision that, whether you realize it or not, can have a huge impact on your project.

Choice of font.

Now, before you write this off as just a perfectionist nitpicking, have a quick watch of this video, then we’ll continue.

Admittedly, this is completely overboard, but the wrong font choice can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of what you’re trying to accomplish. The problem is, with so many font choices out there, you could agonize over which font best works for your piece. Add to that, the choice of bolding the font, or writing in italics, the placement on the screen, upsetting the visual balance of an image…all of this goes in to adding font. Here are some thing to consider when it comes time to putting words on the screen.

1) Does the font match the feel of the piece?

If you’re doing a fact board about deaths caused by second-hand smoke over the last 5 decades, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to write it in Comic Sans. You laugh, but some people really like that font. The truth is, not all fonts are universal. Think about what you’re trying to convey, then really look at it typed in a number of different fonts. Here’s a few examples for you…a simple message, but notice how the change in font can completely change the impact.

You see how just a simple change in font can change the meaning intended by the words? The font you choose can convey more emotion into your message than your choice of words. Just having the words on-screen isn’t enough anymore. Consider this…how many times have you been waiting in line somewhere and there’s a TV on that you can see, but you can’t hear? Or in a restaurant or bar? You need to be able to convey the same sentiment visually as you do audibly. Also…choose one font and stick with it. If you have 5 different fonts on the screen, by the time the viewer has deciphered and read everything, the font is gone. Simple and clear are the key.

2) Does your screen have a proper balance to it?

Belive it or not, where you put the words on the screen in relation to what’s behind the font can affect what people see. It’s called screen balance…creating a weighted symmetry to your screen, so that not one thing overpowers or is overshadowed by something else? Consider this…you have a picture of a person on the right side of your screen, and you have some font you need on the screen. If you put it across the bottom of the screen, the left side is empty, making your picture right-heavy. It`s the same reason why, when you shoot a sitdown interview with two people, you make sure the framing is the same on both shots. That way, going back and forth from one camera to the other is not jarring. Also, if you have a tight, close-up shot on the right, use a bigger-sized font. A looser pictrue…smaller font size. The key here is symmetry. Make your screen balance so avoid skewing the message.

3) Watch out for what’s behind the words!

Have you ever wondered why there are options for drop shadows and borders/edges on your font? Allow me to enlighten you…

You should be conscience of the colour scheme of the shot, and keep it in mind when choosing your font colour. A simple drop shadow and edge can also help differentiate the font from the background. The last thing you want is for the message to be lost in the medium…or worse yet, misinterpreted, as in the video example above.

Above all else, though, is clarity. Here is a good time to bring in the buddy system. If you bring in a friend and they have to openly question what is written, or ask you to bring it back so they can re-read it…change the font. TV is a visual medium…make the visuals clear and easy to read, and the piece will be better for it. But, above all else…have fun!