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mjjason
11-05-2007, 10:49 AM
A lot of the shorts in this fest, as well as a lot of indie films, heavily rely on voice-over to tell the story. Personally, I do not like voice-over in film, particularly shorts, as it tells far to much of the story and takes away from the imagery and dialog which should be doing that.

I wonder what the general consensus on this forum is regarding the over-reliance on voice-over in short films.

Do you like it or are you turned off by it? For me, my interest in a short drops considerably once I hear a voice-over.

FilmBoy77
11-05-2007, 11:13 AM
i think voice overs are okay if used effectively but the problem is most of the time they're not used effectively. a lot of people use VO's as a crutch to "tell" rather than "show"

another thing that kills my interest in VO's is a lot of times the voice talking is uninteresting or is a turn off.

to each his own though.

HorseFilms
11-05-2007, 11:24 AM
In 5 minutes, there's only so much showing you can do. The voice over is often necessary to get the viewer up to speed.

Kholi
11-05-2007, 11:29 AM
There's a discussion around here somewhere about the use of voice over. If done right, it's great.

Unfortunately, that's about 1 out of 10 shorts. It seems like they appear when the writer hasn't thought out what it's writing. That's not in every case, but most when dealing with short films.

FilmBoy77
11-05-2007, 03:06 PM
In 5 minutes, there's only so much showing you can do. The voice over is often necessary to get the viewer up to speed.

not true. there's tons of shorts even on this website without VO's that are done nicely. i've seen dozens of shorts at even 2 mins without VO's that get the job done.


There's a discussion around here somewhere about the use of voice over. If done right, it's great.

Unfortunately, that's about 1 out of 10 shorts. It seems like they appear when the writer hasn't thought out what it's writing. That's not in every case, but most when dealing with short films.

my point.

Mickey Munday
11-05-2007, 03:11 PM
In 5 minutes, there's only so much showing you can do. The voice over is often necessary to get the viewer up to speed.

i disagree.

the problem is that a majority of the time the filmmaker needs the voice over as a crutch because he doesn't know how to show rather than tell (not because there's not enough time) or he's picked the wrong story to try and tell in 5 minutes. if it were necessary then everybody would be using VO's in their shorts.

some of the shorts on that spielberg reality show were pretty decent and done well under 5 mins.

like Kholi said, probably about 1 out of 10 shorts get it right.

bosindy
11-05-2007, 03:18 PM
with few exceptions, voice over = bad writing. In the short form it really takes the audience out of the story. In the long form it usually is a disaster as well. The only time it feels okay for me is when a screenplay is adapted from a novel. There is really few other ways to capture the essence of novel that was written in the first person.

J.R. Hudson
11-05-2007, 03:19 PM
I find most VO's to be nothing but uneccasary exposition and prose; without convincing delivery or purpose.

Film is a visual medium. If you need the Voice Over to tell the audience a story then you may be doing something wrong.

Films like Shawshank, Badlands or Sunset Blvd are exceptions, not the norm.

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cinealma
11-05-2007, 03:46 PM
I agree. VO's should never be used to tell and not show. Film IS a visual medium and therefore you need to find a visual way to tell the story.

Good VO works because it ADDS TO the film. This same film, you could take away the VO and it's still a good film. That's kind of my own test.

Seamus McFlannel
11-05-2007, 04:59 PM
"Stand by Me", "Christmas Story", and "Goodfellas" are also good examples of movies with VO's that are well done.
I think a voice-over is like any other "tool" in the art of film, and when it is done well, it greatly adds to the film. I don't think any of the films mentioned above would have been as good without them. In fact, the narration is what I remember most about them.

Wild Imagination Films
11-05-2007, 06:33 PM
As I take the lid off this barrel of monkeys....
Blade Runner with the VO ( as bad as it was- watched it again last night) was IMO soooooo much easier to understand and follow and enjoy than the DC without the VO. People I know who have never seen the original theatrical release are clueless. And they aren't even stupid people to begin with.
I think VO is a tool and like any tool it can be used to create something really spectacular or something really not.

John LaBonney
11-07-2007, 09:37 AM
I think a voice-over is like any other "tool" in the art of film...

Spot on!

I think because we see voice-over narration used poorly too frequently, we have a tendency to automatically demonize it and classify it as "poor writing". But the voice-over, like the flashback, is simply a brush in the artist's toolbox. And who's to say which is the correct way to use those tools? Certainly not me! I don't think it makes much sense to say: "this is the proper/correct method of using voice-over narration," or "flashbacks are almost always poor filmmaking," or even "in these rare instances it works well." Hogwash! I think it's just fine to try out these tools.

When I'm writing and think about using voice-over narration, flashbacks, or gun violence, I remind myself that these are "red flag" techniques that require extra care if they aren't going to ruin the piece.

All-in-all I think that too many filmmakers have avoided these techniques simply because they're afraid of the impending criticism.

traviscool
11-07-2007, 11:36 PM
i think voice overs are okay if used effectively but the problem is most of the time they're not used effectively. a lot of people use VO's as a crutch to "tell" rather than "show"


I agree, that's why I voted no. Especially in short films, as most of the others have said in longer films it's more tolerable.

Blaine
11-08-2007, 12:05 AM
I agree. VO's should never be used to tell and not show. Film IS a visual medium and therefore you need to find a visual way to tell the story.

Good VO works because it ADDS TO the film. This same film, you could take away the VO and it's still a good film. That's kind of my own test.You hit the nail on the head, John. VO is, more often than not, a sign of lazy writing. The only time I really like it is in a film noir setting. While most HATE the VO in the theatrical release of Blade Runner, I find it gives it that extra noir character which, to me, is one of its few legitimate uses.

The writer should do everything he/she can to avoid VO when ever possible. There are so many better ways to tell a story. I

Michael Anthony Horrigan
11-08-2007, 07:15 AM
While most HATE the VO in the theatrical release of Blade Runner, I find it gives it that extra noir character which, to me, is one of its few legitimate uses.
I love it! Gives an old feel to a sci-fi movie.

Of course, I grew up with it and wouldn't have it any other way. The Director's Cut just feels bland to me in comparison.

VO is a tool, when used properly... it works.

Mike

Noel Evans
11-08-2007, 07:47 AM
I find most VO's to be nothing but uneccasary exposition and prose; without convincing delivery or purpose.

Film is a visual medium. If you need the Voice Over to tell the audience a story then you may be doing something wrong.

Films like Shawshank, Badlands or Sunset Blvd are exceptions, not the norm.

-

That and voice over is unimaginative. Cinemagraphically speaking Im behind the 8 ball, but Ive never thought voice over is worth a dime apart from aforementioned... but in a short :S

John LaBonney
11-08-2007, 09:09 AM
The writer should do everything he/she can to avoid VO when ever possible. There are so many better ways to tell a story.


That and voice over is unimaginative.

I am aware I am in an insignificant minority here, but I don't see it this way. Voice-overs work, they work fine, and they're not unimaginative. There's no reason to go to extreme lengths to avoid them. They're not automatically bad writing. They're simply one tool, one technique, one method of expressing a story. They can be used liberally, or lightly, or not at all. They can be good or bad, but again, who's to say what is a good way to use them or which is the "according to Hoyle" correct way?

I think it's a cop-out to categorize voice-overs as weak. I don't even think it's fair to say they're bad "except in rare instances when used well."

capitalP
11-08-2007, 10:55 AM
I voted, "Dond Mind" like alot has mentioned it can work if used right and it's a great tool in film making like, the characters, and props are, sometimes a character/actor can ruin a movie no matter what, same way voice over can.

But in a Short, I think a VO can hurt the short more than anything... since you have so little time in a short to tell the story, you should let your actions and good pacing tell the story and not the VO.

preston
11-08-2007, 03:06 PM
my two cents:

for me, the choice to use a v/o was an easy one. I'm referring to my drama-fest entry here - I wanted to get in a good amount of back-story before the real 'action' started, and since the story was based on the death of a rock-star, I chose to present the voice-over in the form of a rock radio DJ giving a "breaking news" type of monologue.

anyway, I didn't get any comments - good or bad - on the v/o, so I figured no one had a problem with it. I guess if it fits, it's transparent - just like good shot choices and editing and acting and everything else.

if it sticks out like a sore thumb, then that's exactly what it is. if it's in context, it's just another tool we can use to tell our stories.

Gohanto
11-08-2007, 03:56 PM
It's a different way of telling the story. You could montage the events leading up to the main events of the film, or you can rely on an actor to not only tell the events but convey his view of it as well (through how the words are spoken). The choice is made by how you want your audience to view the story.

VO during events can be effectively used to so that the events are HIS perception of the events and may not be how they actually happened.

Or, like in Sin City, it just sets up the style of movie your telling.

mjjason
11-08-2007, 05:33 PM
My main problem with v/o is not the v/o itself but the use of it. In a short people tend to use it throughout the short. Sometimes its the only thing you hear. That is what turns me off.

In a full length film it can be less of an issue unless it is overused but in a short alot of people use it way too much. That is what I dislike.

StefanHaynes
11-08-2007, 06:16 PM
Good use of V.O. in shorts:

http://www.chickenfactory.co.uk/shamepage.html

http://youtube.com/watch?v=DvyBCpv5-RM

Essentially: if it is an element of the film that adds artistic motivation and is unique in and of itself, then it is acceptable; both of those shorts create additional character depth through poetic dialog and sharp interaction with the live footage.

If it is there merely to "fill in the plot" or state some coy character trait, then no. Absolutely not. A five minute time constraint is no excuse.

deedive
11-08-2007, 07:49 PM
add a '"when used correctly" and i'll click that.

John LaBonney
11-08-2007, 07:52 PM
add a '"when used correctly" and i'll click that.

But that's been my point! Who's to say what correctly is?

We could refer to a set of guidelines, as some have done in this thread, but is it not okay to break/bend/expand the rules of the art?

I surrender already.

Noel Evans
11-09-2007, 05:36 AM
Well it is OK to break and bend etc. But if its rank then thats all it is.

deedive
11-09-2007, 11:06 AM
But that's been my point! Who's to say what correctly is? We could refer to a set of guidelines, as some have done in this thread, but is it not okay to break/bend/expand the rules of the art?
I surrender already.

since this is art it is not an easy answer. Just like certain genres, some people will automatically hate it. Sometimes it is hard to be objective but usually if u can honestly say "I would want to see this movie" then go with it. Ultimately the movie is for people like u:)

This may be vague but here is my formula
visual + VO = something that couldn't be created without either

Barry_S
11-10-2007, 07:44 AM
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the use of VO's. There are plenty of films where they work beautifully and strengthen the connection between a character and the audience. Like any technique, they should serve the story and not be used as a shortcut. Every technique can (and will be ) abused in filmmaking, just as nothing is off-limits if it's used well.

I have a bigger complaint about the use of guns--not from a moral standpoint, but as a narrative crutch. Yeah, just have some guy pull out a gun and that creates interest, drama, and tension. Bullsh*t! Three-quarter's of the time, it's a cheap band-aid for the lack of character and story development. Quentin Tarantino's characters aren't memorable because of a *prop*.

There's no right and wrong, there's only what works.

Blaine
11-10-2007, 11:30 AM
Like any technique, they should serve the story and not be used as a shortcut. Every technique can (and will be ) abused in filmmaking, just as nothing is off-limits if it's used well.And that's why I generally don't like VO. Too often it used as a way to present exposition. If a writer is using it to present his/her exposition he/she needs to take more time with the script and see if he/she can't find a better way to present the information. Flashbacks often suffer for the same reason.