Monday, September 14, 2009

How to watch TV

Here's a primer on TV viewing from Ben (as imagined by me)

First of all, let's get one thing straight. When I say "TV" I mean DVDs of movies or other shows you can get from NetFlix, the video store, the library or the bookstore. Also shows that my dad downloads for me on the big computer.

I do not understand why anyone would watch just whatever is "on" at the moment or anything that doesn't have scene selection. I have some movies and shows on VHS cassette, as opposed to DVD. These do not have scene selection, and they are not optimal.

First, when you start your movie, go to the DVD menu and turn on captions. Movies make so much more sense when you can read what the characters are saying. This will also help you memorize the movie, of course, or at least the funny parts.

Compare the movie to the sneak peek

Watch the trailers, or sneak peeks, at the beginning of movies and memorize them.

Ask your mom or dad to get the movies in the sneak peeks from NetFlix or the video store. When you get a new movie, scan through the movie or use scene selection to confirm that every scene from the sneak peek is, in fact, in the movie.

You can also recreate the sneak peek this way on your own. Be forewarned that you will discover, for example, that some scenes from the beginning of the sneak peek are actually in the middle or at the end of the movie.

You may also discover that the footage in the sneak peeks is sometimes different than the actual movie and this may be very upsetting.

Read-along narration

I recommend choosing movies that have been adapted into a Read-Along storybook. Read-Along* storybooks, which come with an audio CD, have narration that explains what's going on, which is helpful because sometimes it's hard to tell.

Get the book, start the movie, and read the narrator parts from the book as you watch the movie. Sometimes, it's hard to fit the entire narrator line in before the character talks, so you have to practice these parts many, many, many times to make sure your timing is perfect.

(And if you don't know the difference between narration and dialogue then you must be, like, eighteen months old or something.)

Make up your own narration

Some movies don't have Read-Along books or even Read Aloud books** to go with them. I know this is hard to believe, but it's true.

For these movies, you just have to make up your own narration. Make sure you stand right in front of the screen and describe what's happening in the movie. You may not be able to do this until you've seen the movie several times, but that's okay.

Punctuate your lines with something like "suddenly" or "meanwhile" and use a very dramatic tone of voice. This is very effective.

Match the frame

For movies that have books to go with them, see if you can find the exact frame of the movie they've used on each page of the book. This will require you to watch the movie almost frame by frame, but once you practice your remote control technique, you'll be able to do it.

I'll warn you that it's very frustrating when you find out that the picture in the book is different or doesn't even exist in the movie to begin with. VERY frustrating.

I should note that this technique also works if you have the View Master of the movie. Once you become really advanced, see if you can compare the frame of the movie, the picture in the book and the View Master to look for inconsistencies and discrepancies.


All of these techniques require that you are all by yourself. I can't stress this point enough.

No one else can be in the room while you are watching movies.

These activities require an enormous amount of concentration and you can't allow some well-meaning adult to make some comment or ask you a question about the movie like "Oh, what is he doing now?" or "Why do you think Mulan is sad?" to make you lose your focus.

Occasionally, my mom and dad have something called "Movie Nights" where they invite my cousins or one of my friends over to my house and make me watch a movie with them without scene selection and without the remote control.

This is NOT ideal, but I'm willing to put up with it since there is always popcorn and right after everybody leaves, they let me have the remote again.


*Do not confuse Read Along storybooks with Read Aloud storybooks. Read Aloud storybooks are fine, but they often have words that are different from the movie. Also, don't even try this with Golden Books, which are completely different and therefore useless.

I have recently discovered Junior Novelizations of movies which actually describe everything in the movie and have just about every line of dialog!

I will be investigating these further in the future. Another advantage to these is that it allows you to recreate the ENTIRE movie in the backseat of the car!

** I also highly recommend the entire Scholastic Video Collection with adaptations of all my favorite books. Watching the videos and reading the books at the same time has been one of my favorite activities for a long time now.


Squid said...

I know you're not supposed to be in the room, but maybe you could rig a remote-operated video camera so we could see this triplicate media action?

Thank you for the blow-by-blow. Fascinating stuff. Amazing kid.

drama mama said...

I think this is my favorite post ever written.


Anonymous said...


This is a great post.

Hi Ben,

We watched WALL-E (from a distance) with you as a guide. Your scene selection, play by play, written word and dramatic transitions were great. A spoken segue always had an air of suspense and magic.

I especially liked watching the movie with you reading the story in sync. I always knew what was happening. Repeats and playbacks are OK with Grandpa and Grandma.


KAL said...

This is amazing, Ben is such an interesting kid, what a mind for details! Sam turns on the captions on his DVDs too and lately has started changing the language so that he's watching in French or Spanish.

This post, though, really gave me insight into what his brother might be doing every time he switches DVDs to intently watch just the previews. He doesn't have the words to tell me, but I think I'm beginning to see.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Oh how seriously hilarious is this? I laughed out loud all the way through. Especially at the parts that are familiar to me - captions, providing narration.

Ben, you're a one of a kind!

Anonymous said...

* this is Not Just a Label, but it won't let me sign in*

OH MY. I am looking into the future, I just know it. This is UTTERLY HILARIOUS... not to mention I can TOTALLY see that happening in my house in 2 years.

OH MY. I need to stop laughing now.

Or, maybe I'll show this to my husband and THEN stop laughing.

Thanks Ben. You're the best!!

J said...

FYI, if you have an equally capable twin it makes the job a bit easier, but you've definately captured the essence of how to watch "tv"

"Don't talk about it, Dad" with an outstretched hand indicating I should leave is the line I get if I dare to ask about a show.