House minus dialogue
March 27, 2015 7:58 AM   Subscribe

House minus dialogue
I cut all of the dialogue out of an episode (S1E11, "Detox") of House M.D. just to see what would be left. Answer: only about 14 minutes of running time, a reasonably coherent storyline thanks to some good blocking and visual direction, a lot of exasperated reaction shots, and a few long uncut segments where wordlessness was the point of the originally-aired sequence.


1. My goal was to maximize non-speaking human face time, and so in addition to dialogue I also removed most of the (few) cutaway and establishing shots in the episode, to keep it all about humans. The cutaways were mostly exterior shots of the car in the intro segment and repeated shots of the hospital coming back from a commercial break or a scene change, and a couple of Medical Computer Imagery type things; I chose to leave in the establishing shot of the kid's home late in the episode because Chase and Foreman suddenly being somewhere other than the hospital seemed worth the extra couple seconds given that they proceed to knock a hole in a wall.

2. This is almost all of the substantial non-dialogue footage from the episode, entirely in order; I kept long silent sequences intact, of which this episode has several (more than usual?), but also included lots of short but deliberate pauses in conversations, which leads to a lot of scenes reduced to a series of emotive back-and-forth face tennis. I cut a few short reaction shots to improve the visual flow, primarily in cases where the same character ended up with two adjacent silent clips with similar framing and the discontinuity of jumping from one to the next was jarring while serving no particular narrative goal. (An exception: House tossing Cuddy his pills is a key sequence, during which he speaks very briefly; I cut the line but kept the action on either side of it, which makes for a jerky little jump between edits but is worth it for the story.)

3. The soundtrack is unretouched; if made no attempt to clean up transitions and, notably, dropped otherwise great reaction shots if they were cut against offscreen. Episode would probably be a couple minutes longer if I hadn't followed this rule, with some bonus gaping-at-what-House-just-said. So there's a lot of discontinuity in the music and ambient sound, though given the generally sort of chill feeling of the House soundtrack that's less of an issue that it might have been.

Part of the episode are visually stronger than others; this isn't an attempt a tight narrative edit, and so it's all in there. I suspect that with some work and a more aggressively editorial approach to the source material you could get a much shorter, much punchier version of the key narrative beats out of it.
Role: Editor
posted by cortex (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

That's kind of amazing. I'm surprised how much plot comes through.
posted by mathowie at 8:03 AM on March 27, 2015

This was really good. It was strange how much of a "real" episode it felt even though I wasn't just watching with no dialogue, but no sound at all due to my crappy work computer. And I've never watched a single episode of House so I wasn't falling back on character knowledge. Bravo.

On saying that, 2 notes:

1) With no dialogue, and therefore no way of knowing what was coming, I was freaked out by the sudden NEEDLE IN EYEBALL AARRGH! Thanks for that.
2) Shouldn't you be working like 24/7 these days?
posted by billiebee at 5:55 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, caveat emptor with medical dramas; House doesn't do a ton of surgical closeups and such things, but it's not shy about them either. More than just the medical side where that's an issue, really; I've actually been looking close at the intros of lots of episodes in service of what might turn into another video, and while the key moments of most of them are just sort of traumatic-as-in-sudden-medical-distress stuff like people clutching their chest or falling over or struggling to breath, some are more outright trigger stuff like rape scenarios or infant death. Par for the course for thing-of-the-week formula procedurals but still sort of strange to see a whole bunch all jammed together with those holy shit moments.
posted by cortex at 6:58 AM on April 2, 2015

I haven't watched this yet, but I think it'd be a great exercise for film-school types. You could for example compare a movie with its crappier remake and see how the direction in both stands (or not) without the dialogue to tell the story.
posted by TwoWordReview at 3:43 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cortex, this is awesome.

I figure that I should watch this three times: First, your edit without the dialogue. Then, after reading a plot summary, your edit again so I can see how close my guess were. Then, the third time, the actual broadcast episode.

I am curious how various series measure up to one another, in terms of dialogue versus silence versus grimaces/shrugs/sighs/confusion/etc. -- but finding out out would probably be RSI-inducing for the dedicated researcher/editor!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:43 AM on April 13, 2015

Yeah, I think it'd be a lot of fun to look at multiple shows and see how they respond to the treatment. What would a West Wing look like without all the Sorkin patter? What shows already consist almost entirely of smoldering looks?
posted by cortex at 10:55 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

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