A Quick Analysis

(I can’t help feeling like this is a blatant flailing around of my ignorance, but here it is anyway.)

ABC’s “Nightline” from 3/30 opens with a billboard:  headlines superimposed over clips, some complete with nat sound from upcoming stories—all very active scenes to give the audience the feeling of “things happening” that people tend stop to gawk at normally (like slowing down to look at an accident on the street)—and voice over teasers to accompany each clip.  The teasers say just enough to give the audience an idea of where the clips are coming from, but not enough to explain what it is exactly the audience is seeing.

ABC could have used simple graphics or left out the sound from the clips and just had the voice over, but the action and the chaos in the first clip of the girls fighting is attention getting thanks to shock value and the voice over serves the purpose of explaining a little to keep that attention.  The headline is short, large and eye catching in case the audience is paying more attention to what they’re seeing instead of the voice over.  The audience still gets an idea of what they’re seeing without any real explanation.

The next clip is even more dramatic, building on the intensity of the clip before, though it does not include the nat sounds.  It puts alarming images right up front with the voice over associating distressing notions with those images by playing over them as they rush past in a quick montage of buildings falling and people running and fires raging.  All of it sending a quietly urgent message:  “The world is falling apart!”  But the voice over implies the news can tell everyone what exactly there is to fear and other things that might help.

The last clip is something “pleasing.”  The clip still has a feeling of “something happening,” but there is no doom involved, so it’s just nice.  At that point the audience is already caught, almost anticipating the next blow; the first clip being shocking and uncomfortable, the second clip terrifying.  When the last one arrives it’s a pleasant surprise and interesting just for being so drastically different from what came before.  Now the audience is calmed and still interested so they don’t feel like maybe they should get up and run or prepare for anything immediately, they’re okay again with sitting down for the program.

The first package is opened again with the clip of girls fighting with nat sound before going in with a voice over.  They could have switched to stand up once the scene had been firmly planted in front of the audience to remind them they are curious, but it wouldn’t have been as visually engaging.  Fading the audio from the clips they use in the “Reality Fighting” package out as they bring up SOT from interviews works well as a transition and definitely connects the two pieces.  The fact that they don’t do that every time they move over to an interview keeps things interesting.  The voice of the interviewee has already been established as something the audience can associate with the clips that caught their attention, so the abrupt change to SOT every so often instead of that transition reattaches audience attention who might have started to let their minds wander wondering about those clips and the people in them.  If the audience is allowed to wander for too long, they miss the point of the package.  The reporter isn’t seen too often, which is good since all visuals are kept relevant and keeps the audience’s attention on the story.

The same is done for the other two packages, though the last package jumps around a lot less.  The last package moves at a more relaxed pace.  The interviewee is allowed to be heard more, to tell his own story more.  After the shocking and the danger, the audience is reminded that there are some harmless things in the world, so people don’t leave “Nightline” feeling anxious and associating that anxiety with the program and consequently being averse to coming back for another episode.


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