Sunday, April 5, 2009

Death by Design

As we had seen in class, Death by Design is filled with archive footage of micro-biology to illustrate the ideas presented in the documentary. The expertise of this documentary is its use of visual metaphors. The elements of the documentary are really pretty minimal when you think about it. It has 4-6 interviews each with one set-up (sometimes an over-the-shoulder shoulder if the subject is drawing something) and visual metaphors (archive footage, microscopic-perspective footage, contemporary b-roll, etc.) with synchronized sound. This proves that with careful editing, you can carry a great story with only primary interviews and creative & illustrative b-roll footage.

Despite tapping into footage that already existed, it seems like the documentarians also created there own visual metaphors. In order to illustrate the immune system of an animal, they created animations illustrating the process of how it works as the base interviews narrate. I'm a huge fan of well executed visual metaphors and this documentary is full of them. No point or idea will be missed or misunderstood because you'll hear and see it.

Also, I like how the documentary uses music to heighten emotion. I think we all found ourselves turning sympathetic to the death of cells but quickly realized how ridiculous it was. But! Needless to say, the relationship between music and visuals worked in its intended emotion.

And finally, in the last section of the documentary, they were able to get one of the first scientists to notice the program cell death among cells. Surprisingly, she has a twin who is the more artistic one. Her works illustrate the beautiful and natural relationships between life and death, the central tenant with in the documentary.

Through the addition of b-roll illustration and in-text real life relations, this documentary provides an interesting story without overly elaborate interviews or b-roll. Keeping it simple, creative, and inventive in relation to the ideas of the story will make for an excellent and compelling documentary.

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