Special Effects: The Fox Network Look

I recently edited a video for someone who said he wanted his tape to have a raw, artsy, "Fox TV" look. I knew exactly what he was talking about. As anyone who watches TV may have noticed, the Fox Network uses a variety of non-traditional video shooting and editing techniques to convey a distinct image. Employing lots of motion, dramatic fast cuts, blurred images and whip-pans (not to mention frequently controversial subject matter), Fox creates an image of youthful, irreverent "hipness." We could spend months discussing the hundreds of techniques that the network uses to achieve this look. For now, we’ll focus on one simple technique that you can use to make your videos "hipper" in just a few minutes. While it might not be appropriate for every production, if you think your project can benefit from this progressive look and feel, it’s easier to accomplish than you might think.

The trick is to play your original footage on a TV set, and re-shoot the footage by taping the screen as it plays. First, transfer your run-of-the-mill footage to VHS tape so you can pop it into your VCR and view it on a TV. Load a new tape into your camcorder and you’re ready to shoot the screen. As the footage plays on the TV, you can zoom in for extreme closeups to isolate the subjects on screen. You can tilt your camcorder on its side to add interest, rock it back and forth in your hands to add motion, or zoom in extremely tight and pan across the screen to add a dramatic feel. Because your TV screen breaks the image into hundreds of little dots, and you’ll be losing a generation, the re-taped footage will have a grainy, pixelized look that is retro, hip and very, well, Fox-ish.

This effect can be made even more powerful by tweaking the color adjustments on your television set. Most TVs will allow you to adjust color, hue, tint and brightness. Want your new grainy footage to be black and white? Twist the color knob. Want your image to be saturated with a blue tint? Play with the hue and tint adjustments. Get it to look the way you like on your set, and you’ll have it that way on your video, too. Incorporate some of your camcorder’s own built-in digital effects like strobe, sepia, or color effects to add even more variety.

After you’ve got it on tape, you’re ready to edit. Cut your second-generation "Foxed footage" together with the original material to create unique transitions, or use it on its own to add impact to an interview, attitude to a music video or pizzazz to the opening sequence of your tape. Footage like this looks fabulous in an edited montage. The only rules for creating this artsy visual effect are: Watch TV, and don’t worry about breaking the rules.

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