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How To Spot Reality TV Editing Tricks: Creating Conflict

How To Spot Reality TV Editing Tricks: Creating Conflict

Sometimes the "reality" on reality shows needs a little help. Here, our intrepid editors show you how to spot one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal: The Reaction Shot.

Step 1: Set The Scene

First, editors must signal to the audience that there's an important roadblock. Often this is done by cutting off the music as soon as the problem is announced to get our attention. Then the editor will grab a couple of stunned reaction shots. If the actual reaction shot isn't what she's looking for, she'll just grab it from somewhere else.

Step 2: Cut To Commercial

When a show cuts to commercial right after a conflict rears its head, it creates what's called a "tease", designed to keep the viewer watching. So stay tuned.

Step 3: Draw It Out

Real-life conflict rarely comes in the right size for TV. If a conflict is too short or subtle, producers will draw it out with interviews. This way, a problem that lasted a moment can become a whole act in the show. Producers will always have cast members set up the conflict in an interview to clarify and to build the stakes… Then AFTER the conflict, the producer will plumb their every thought until they get a bite that reinforces the drama. Over the interviews, they'll cut back to the action. You can tell they're probably exaggerating the conflict if they run the same footage more than once. They may try to disguise it by using black and white, slo-mo, or a re-sizing effect.

Step 4: Get Personal

To make us care about any conflict, editors must tie it to a character's larger storyline. Editors will comb through footage for evidence of tension, and slug it in wherever it has the greatest impact.

Step 5: Resolved

In classic storytelling, any conflict has to have a resolution. In real life, since things aren't so cut-and-dry, the resolution will often come in interview form.