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Credits where credits due - Anthony Bailey's blog
Credits where credits due
(A piece about TV credits on Mongoose World caused in turn by this piece from the BBC provoked a rant from me on that subject and particularly how it relates to machinima. It seems to have broken my writer's block, so I've copied/pasted/edited it here.)

Full screen credits on plain old broadcast television might still be reasonable, because how else do you get the information? But that medium is increasingly dead. We shall speak of it no more.

Full screen credits on TV as we increasingly watch it (DVR, DVD, IP) seem anomalous. Pack them into an information burst: if I want to read them, I'll pause and advance through individual frames. If I'm on a smart device, put the credits in metadata I can browse with that device. If the device is Net-enabled, put them on a page I can navigate to from the program. Don't make me sit through this stuff. Brand a little if you must, but if I care about obscure details, I'll seek out the information, and be very happy to read much more than you could cram into the credit footage.

Full screen credits in typical machinima (and other YouTube-length pieces) are a sign the medium is far too indebted to its older media parents, and is too slavishly following their inappropriate conventions. See above: viewer is almost certainly watching on a Net-enabled device. And a minute of credits on a five minute piece is a real tax on my time!

Further, there should be two default downloads/streams for episodic machinima:
  • There should be the new episode for returning viewers (without credits, of course - we already saw them so many times. You can do a "previously" if the plot so demands.)
  • And there should be everything from the first up to the new episode in a single download/stream for people coming to the story for the first time.
These are your two markets - cater to them. The second is particularly ill-served by having to watch umpteen short previous episodes in order to catch-up, where tedious credits/theme song prevent me getting into your wonderful art.

(Sorry for the explosion of highly subjective opinion. I don't know why I care so much about it. I remember I tried and failed to convince Hugh to do this kind of thing with Bloodspell.)


7 comments or Leave a comment
cairmen From: cairmen Date: February 4th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
One issue - viewers often don't particularly care about seeing credits, but the people whose credits they are very much care about them being seen. There's a subliminal effect - whilst I didn't necessarily want to see the credits on Buffy, having watched them a lot I now knew who made it, which is good for them and their careers.
From: ihatesheep Date: February 5th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Although I agree with Hugh's point entirely (despite being accidentally missed off the credits for BloodSpell myself!), I think that Anthony makes a lot of very valid arguments, particularly

"Full screen credits in typical machinima ... are a sign the medium is far too indebted to its older media parents"

Now that I totally agree with. We haven't really thought about the way that credit information should be provided, and full-screen credits are probably not the most logical way to go. Certainly, doing it in that way doesn't take advantage of the uniqueness of the medium. We can incorporate metadata (either through iTunes tags, or through some other format designed by sane people), but we rarely do. For such a supposedly-cutting-edge, geek-fueled movement as machinima, that's a major oversight.
cairmen From: cairmen Date: February 5th, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
A few random points:

1) TV's changing the way its opening credits work at the moment. Very short titles followed by credits running under the opening act works - although it does mean you are less likely to notice them, which is a problem.

2) Credits take up tiny anounts of space in a video file - MP4 encoding is *really* good at them.

3) No credits means no theme tune. For me, that's a major loss. No Babylon 5 theme? No Twin Peaks theme? No Buffy theme?

4) Sorry. Sorry. Very sorry about the credits thing. Sorry!

Edited at 2008-02-05 12:58 pm (UTC)
anthonybailey From: anthonybailey Date: February 5th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks to all so far for comments.

I guessed I'd see creator push-back; just didn't want to pre-empt it, as I'm not one: I'm a viewer.

I should state the obvious that creator ego is completely valid and may be a deciding factor in some cases: I have no right to tell creators how they should want to be credited.

On the utility side, though, I believe there is a trade-off, and that you're much more likely to have me walk away because of long credits than you are to have me stick around and have said credits to seep in subconsciously. For me, you'll get the best results if you establish your brand strongly and quickly, and provide an obvious navigation route to further information. Once I'm a fan I will click around even more obsessively than you could dare hope.

For me, branding is effectively done with a logo / single creator credit, and a theme song of some duration proportional to the content. The proportion in question is probably less than most creators believe it to be. A five minute machinima episode doesn't need as much as fifteen seconds. A forty minute TV episode doesn't need as much as a minute, and I strongly approve of the trend Hugh identifies in his first numbered point. I do love a good theme, and think a typical TV theme length makes for a suitable intro to a DVD of several episodes.

I would mention Seinfeld as an interesting example of where a desire to cram as much as possible into a limited broadcast slot led to wonderfully sparse credits. The opening intro was that (annoying) bass riff and title logo. The ending credits happened simultaneously with some of the best pay-off jokes of the episode. Rewatching them end-to-end on DVD was accidentally made much more pleasant as a result.

(The space in a video file is a complete red herring, I think. It's my time and attention that I value, not the bytes.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 5th, 2008 06:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good discussion. I tend to agree with Anthony; credits and the form that credits take on screen are due for change in both machinima and on-line creations. But you have to confront the expectations that Hugh points out. This should lead to ingenious ways to present the information about the people who created the film. A single individual shouldn't have to worry about credits (we all know who made the film), but a group (like Strange Films or Lit Fuse) will need to have some way of informing the viewer about the cast, crew,etc. The blending of titles with opening scene is starting to get old, too, but it seems to work better (aesthetically) than the "information burst" which Anthony mentions.

Perhaps (with tongue in cheek) for larger projects and entirely separate episode of just the credits would work. You know, "RvB: the Credits" or "Bloodspell: Who Did What" where you can show actual clips of people working on the project along with their names, biographies and quotes from their relatives. At least this approach would steer people away from the "indebted to older medium" problem.;-)

-Ricky Grove
cairmen From: cairmen Date: February 6th, 2008 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)
That's a very good idea. I'm certainly of the opinion that you should always shoot "making of" footage - and turning the credits into a seperate episode is a *bloody* good way of showcasing the people involved.
From: alfituri Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

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