Virtual (The) View

In late January, impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich appeared on ABC’s “The View” to plead his innocence. Barbara Walters, veteran journalist and interviewer, was not in the studio, but conducted the much-publicized interview via satellite. This is not uncommon, as many TV interviews, especially those on daily news programs, interview guests from a distance. The format standard is to split the screen, providing the interviewer and interviewee a share of the screen, with both parties looking at each other through the camera, and, by extension, the audience. There is an implicit understanding that when we look at either party, each talking head also sees the same. We piggyback on the sightline between the split-screen figures. Host looks into camera and sees video of guest, guests reciprocate the sightline, and the audience is along for the ride.

What makes Walters’ interview different is that Gov. Blagojevich is live in a studio audience, looking at a screen on the set, which is angled to accommodate his view as well as the audience visual angle. What is remarkable is that Walters’ sightline is calibrated to look as though she is looking at Gov. Blagojevich straight in the eye. For this to happen, she does not look into the camera. A monitor must be placed, off camera, at the precise angle to compensate for the angle of the monitor in front of the Governor. There is some fancy triangulation going on here to make what amounts to a simple agenda of overcoming the feeling of distance between two parties. Add the details like Walters’ background approximating the set of The View, and an unfortunate attempt to hide the monitor with a giant fern, and it is clear that the producers are trying to bridge the digital gap by using projection relationships.

Diagrammed, we have two figures, one on a set and one off set. At least one camera is trained on each subject. Each subject looks into a monitor, directly at the other subject. non of these are aligned in the traditional way. All is made to appear as two people talking directly to each other. Add the studio cameras shooting the conversation and this is a complex projection triangulation. 

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