What does “style” mean?

Style of ProductionA production’s style is a concept, an overall theme of a production; essentially this is how the audio and visual aspects come together as a complete product to impress upon the audience. To demonstrate what this means: you can easily tell the difference between a news broadcast and a game-show simply based on the apparent theme; it is quite easy to tell even if the production is in a different language. Am I right?

Over the years, a number of standard style approaches have been developed and used in television production – some have proven to be temporary fads, which have faded away and are no longer in use. Other formats are still in use today, as they have evolved and proven themselves over time to be the most economical, reliable and effective at serving a specific purpose.

Choosing an appropriate style is important to the overall production, as it generates the overall impression an audience takes. To be sure, an inappropriately selected production style can make an audience confused, distracted and disinterested.

Visual Themes

The “appropriateness” of a particular is essentially a matter of custom and tradition. Depending on the nature of a production and the director’s objectives, production styles can range from being formal, informal, flashy or transparent.

Standard Visual Styles

There are several commonly used standard visual styles. Informal presentations are given in a “natural” manner; for example a light and unscripted chat-style interview (perhaps while taking a walk or visiting someone’s home). Formal presentations, on the other hand follow a predetermined and artificial design, and may incorporate a pre-designed set. The “reality” of a production also plays into visual style.

Using simulated environments as opposed to a “display” theme contrasts this. In a simulated environment, the director attempts to build an entirely realistic illusion (which cannot be contaminated by outside interference or flashy effects).

A director using a display theme, on the other hand, incorporates a very unrealistic but flashy and ornamental method of presentation (display themes are most recognizably used for game shows). “Actuality” has also become common style of production that emphasizes to the audience that filming is taking place inside a studio (by allowing studio equipment and surroundings to be visible).

Indeed, some production techniques and styles have become so familiar that it would be difficult to imagine them presented in any other way. Professional news reports are a good example of this; as such a standard and formal format appears to be the best and most appropriate way of presenting such information as the daily news.

These standard routines are essentially regarded as “content containers,” essentially; they have proven to be the best and most effective method to present certain types of content. The audience has come to expect this routine, and this allows them to focus more on the content free of distraction.

Artistic Effects

Creating the appropriate ambiance is critical to the success of a production. Upon watching a production, the audience immediately begins to form an attitude and emotional disposition. Introductory music can communicate either an informal or serious tone, while graphics and visual pace can be used to convey the overall mood.

The general surroundings can also have an influence on how convincing the information being presented is; for example, a laboratory environment can provide an academic context. Sometimes, even unintended (or overlooked) details (such as filming on overcast versus sunny days) can have a strong impact on overall impressions.

A careful arrangement of subjects combined with a fitting visual ambiance can have a profound impact on the way an audience interprets a scene. A good director has the power to effectively shape and mold what the audience interprets. This can be done to create dramatic effect or even work towards influencing the audience into taking a certain position (such as in advertising and propaganda). Similarly, more abstract concepts and feelings can also be inspired by the same methods.

Images can be used not only to directly deliver information, identify features and provide context. They can also be used to induce the audience to interpret a situation through symbolism by relying on the viewer’s associative feelings towards certain visual stimuli.

Images are often used to couple ideas by using pictures to link themes and events or to create a visual mosaic to represent a concept (e.g. love or the horrors of war). The art of rhetoric can be used in television production just as it can be in persuasive speaking. By using style and technique, an audience can be swayed to feel an intended emotion or take a certain position.

Using Sound

Audio and Video

Generally speaking, people tend to be more discerning when it comes to visual stimuli than auditory. This provides an opportunity to use sound to move beyond visual prejudices. To see this more effectively, one can take note of the fact that a sound effect can be used repeatedly, but a costume or prop can quickly become familiar. Although frequently taken for granted, audio can prove to be a powerful artistic tool in television production. Music and audio effects can augment the bearing a visual image has over the viewer.

Types of Audio

A scene can incorporate four basic audio elements, which the director selects based on what is appropriate for the shot. By using a combination of voice, effects, music and silence at the appropriate times, a good director can effectively contribute to the production style.

Incorporating the human voice can be done in one of several ways. Depending on what is appropriate to the particular shot, a director may decide to use either a single individual may address the camera directly or use a narrated voiceover (off screen).  Other examples of using the human voice to influence style production (besides using natural dialog) would be to narrate a particular character’s thoughts. This allows the audience to listen in on the thoughts of a character aloud to give the audience an idea of that character’s thinking.

Background music has become particularly important in the modern age, as it can give suggestive support. Sound effects are also particularly important for productions in which a specific atmosphere and setting need to be simulated (e.g. office background noises for an office setting).

The absence of noise (silence), used at the right time during certain segments can also be critical to the production. Sudden silence or sudden noise during an extended period of silence can influence the audience’s emotions – creating a tense mood or a sense of anticipation.

The Finished Product

Using good production techniques, imagination and a strong vision of the desired final product, audio and video should fit together seamlessly. The emotional impact generated by the picture can be directly influenced by (and even be dependent upon) accompanying audio. Conversely, the impressions an audience gets from the audio can be influenced by the image on the screen.  These effects may be cumulative and build on each other or even apply a more complicated and abstract idea.