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Old 09-30-2009, 03:18 PM   #21
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Default Re: VO vs OS vs OC...

Originally Posted by LatteAddict View Post
Theory #1 (advocated by Cole & Haag et al) is that characters not present in the room should be (V.O.) as they do not have to be on the set at the day of shooting.

Theory #2 (advocated by the Nicholls, Michael Hague, et al) is that everything that originates in the actual movie world (such as a TV set, a phone, a rtadio etc) should be (O.S.) whereas (V.O.) is reserved for non-diegetic (google it! ) sounds only.

I am a strong fan of theory number two, since there is no telling where to draw the line for when a non-visible character might or might not be summoned to the set.
I so tried not to join in but regulars know I'm a sucker for the VO/OS discussion. (I think they've found the gene that causes this.) People are making this too complicated - I've posted a summary of this stuff in the past, it should be easy to search.

Without wanting to rile anyone or diss Nicholls, Hague & co., theory #2 is 'wrong' for two simple reasons.
(1) O.S. means only one thing and applies only to a character; it means a character is present in a scene and can be heard, but can not be seen by the camera. That's all. (And yes, I know some writers use the equivalent television term O.C. meaning off-camera and nobody complains.)
(2) Any broader or more creative use of the term has only one effect - it makes the whole issue less clear and gives rise to threads such as this.

Devices which transmit voice - a phone, radio, TV, Skype, answer machine - are best treated as either V.O., with or without FILTERED, or VOICE OVER PHONE, OR VOICE OVER RADIO etc. whether we see the device or not.

Of course V.O. also means narration or thought track in its various incarnations.

Every now and then someone comes along - often someone writing a how-to guide - who feels they are contributing to the creative power of screenwriting by making elaborate extensions and revisions to the use of simple indicators such as V.O., but I think this is because some people just can't resist trying to fix what ain't broke.

There's a perfect reason in the above for not redefining these terms: "...there is no telling where to draw the line for when a non-visible character might or might not be summoned to the set." For O.S. the actor is there. Make that 'should be' there. Everything else is (or can be) V.O. (the exception being that an actor might be present to speak into a remote device for the purposes of production expediency but that is not the concern of the screenwriter).

In the context of screenwriting, whether the sound is diegetic or not doesn't matter and shouldn't have any influence over the use of V.O. vs O.S. If a writer sticks to the simple conventions for using V.O. and O.S. it's remarkably simple. If there was a good reason for revising their usage I'd go along with it, but when I see this become a controversy only one thing comes to mind: you're worrying about the wrong stuff.

I haven't looked at the FAQs but maybe it should be explained there.
"Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

Last edited by DavidK : 09-30-2009 at 03:20 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old 09-30-2009, 03:53 PM   #22
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Default Re: VO vs OS vs OC...

yeah, I always figure something that's OnS, but a VO is (FILTERED)
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Old 10-01-2009, 09:27 AM   #23
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Default Re: VO vs OS vs OC...

Why don't we move on? This has been thoroughly discussed.

"The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." ComicBent.
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Old 10-11-2009, 08:12 PM   #24
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Default How much V.O?

Ok since I came across this thread, just a question. Can you have a Protagonist and the Antagonist speak in V.O at times throughout the script? Or is only one entity recommended?
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Old 10-14-2009, 02:10 PM   #25
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Default Re: VO vs OS vs OC...

Originally Posted by altoption View Post
Aw, hell. You made me dig it out.


Page 75:

Use of (V.O.) and (O.S.)

(V.O.) or VOICE OVER means the character is not usually seen on screen but we hear his voice conveyed over some kind of mechanical contrivance such as a telephone or tape recorder. The situation may be one where the character is thinking out loud. We will hear that character's voice on a pre-recorded sound tape while the camera is on the character. When someone is talking over the other end of the telephone, we would not see that person.

(O.S.) or OFF SCREEN or OFF STAGE means that the character is not seen on the screen but we hear him talking from another room in a house or from some adjacent area. In an (O.S.) situation the character is readily available to be on camera. Both (V.O.) and (O.S.) appear capitalized in parenthesis, abbreviated after the character cue.

So, there.
Here, our friends Cole and Haag seem to miss what's probably the most common use of (VO) and that is narration. Odd that.

OC is a television convention, don't use it in a spec.

Rather than being something a spec writer "shouldn't sweat," as stated in the thread, I think proper use of these conventions is crucial to getting your movie on the page so that a reader can imagine it as you intend it to be, which is, after all, a spec writer's job, eh?

A reader should simply know in every case what the source of any dialogue is, which of course in 95% of cases will be an on screen character speaking.

But when the character isn't on screen a writer has to choose, is this (OS) or is it (VO)?

Speeches that are (OS) are pretty easy to apprehend, the speaking character isn't on the screen but is sufficiently proximate to the scene (behind a door, in the next room, on the street below, etc.) to be heard by characters that are on screen and who's speech will be recorded live as the scene is shot.

Speeches that are properly identified as being (VO) are those that are NOT recorded live when the scene is shot but are, rather, recorded at a time different, usually in a sound booth. This includes any and all narration, inner monologues, voices from the unseen parts of telecons, and voices that emanate from some device like a radio or a TV or a tape recorder.

Proper use of these conventions allows your reader to envision your scene as you intend it to appear on the screen, which is, after all, your goal.
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Old 06-09-2017, 07:50 PM   #26
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Default Re: VO vs OS vs OC...

Not wishing to annoy beating this dead horse but I just came upon what seems to me like a novel situation:

Usually I understand V.O. to be narration. Otherwise I prefer to distinctly state "TV NEWSCASTER" or "VOICEMAIL CALL" etc.

I've stumbled into a situation where a split personality has both inner dialogue with his other half and the character has the equivalent of what in comics would be 'thought bubbles'.

If find that "DAVID (V.O.)" could be construed as a narrator in the future, instead of his 'thought bubbles' in the present tense, as the action unfolds.

I chose to write it as "DAVID'S VOICE" or "BAD DAVID'S VOICE" - Is that clear enough?
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Old 06-11-2017, 07:59 PM   #27
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Default Re: VO vs OS vs OC...

Originally Posted by martin View Post
I chose to write it as "DAVID'S VOICE" or "BAD DAVID'S VOICE" - Is that clear enough?
So long as you've made it simple and unambiguous, that's fine.
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