No, that isn’t some odd Frankenstein-vampire thing. It is a term that is often used by documentary editors to explain how we edit certain interview clips. Much like Frankenstein’s Monster was made from body parts of different people, a “Frankenbite” is a soundbite made up of statements from several sentences from an interview subject. We might need half of one sentence, and the other half of another, or a small word to piece together a couple sentences, or to add to make what they say sound right (mean, make sense).
Now, to keep things ethical, which is one of the main rules of documentaries, you shouldn’t do this to make the subject say something they didn’t say. Rather, we are trying to condense what they are saying, or make what they are saying clearer…make sense. Not everyone is concise in how they say things, nor can some people explain things in a way that makes sense to the normal everyday viewer.
It’s a bit different than a “pull up.” A “pull up” is when an editor cuts out “uhm,” “uh,” “you know,” “like,” or any number of paused-in-thought-words, or stumbles, repeated words…or empty air when the subject is formulating what they what they are about to say. We make “So I, uh…I ran across the str…the road to the store, uhm, where I, you know, ran into Harrison Ford, like…uh…buying beer” into “So I ran across the road to the store, where I ran into Harrison Ford buying beer.” Basically just cleaning up the statement.
Frankenbyting is where we try to fix what people say. Take the following statement: “The school I went too, back in 1988, I was in third grade at the time. I was listening to our teacher talk about Andrew Jackson, the president who forced the Indians to march hundreds of miles from the east coast to Oklahoma…many of them died. Mr.Braeburn said he was a hero for moving these dirty Indians away from civilized people, but I…I couldn’t stand for that, so I raised my hand…I am Indian…I confronted that…told him he was wrong for saying that.” I might want to chop this up and make it more clear. “Back in 1998, (when) I was in third grade, our teacher, Mr Braeburn, (said) that President Andrew Jackson forced Indians to march hundreds of miles to Oklahoma, (and) man of them died. He said that he was a hero for moving these dirty indians away from civilized people. I am Indian…I couldn’t stand for that. I confronted (him) (and) told him he was wrong.”
So what I did was make what the subject said clearer…but say the exact same thing. Because their speech pattern was so broken up that it make it difficult to follow. So I rearranged things to make it clearer. But I didn’t have all the words I needed to make it right. You’ll note that the words in parenthesis, (these things), those are words that aren’t in that sentence…bridging words that I need to find. I will listen to other parts of the interview in order to find those words. But not only do I need to find those words…they need to sound right. Someone might say “and” differently, depending on what they are talking about…or “but.” Or any other word. So I have to find that word, and it needs to sound right, fit the sentence. Have the right inflection.
Was this time consuming…you bet it was. But now there is software out there that can help us. Scott Simmons of The Edit Blog over at Pro Video Coalition mentioned this on Twitter. He said that he used GET, from AV3 software, to search for the word “but” to help him build his Frankenbite. GET, and PhraseFind on the Avid side, is designed to use waveform prediction (corrected by Phillip Hodgetts in the comments below) which uses pattern matching of audio waveforms to catalog narration, and allow us the editors to search for soundbites, or words, by simply searching for it. Now that is what I call handy!
Now, this can have an evil side. This can be, and has been, used to make people say things that they didn’t really say. I would hope that it would go without saying that this is highly unethical, but many people do this. So that the person would say what they need them to say to further the story they are working on. Just plain wrong.
Now, the intention of this article wasn’t as marketting for GET or PhraseFind. It stemmed from the Twitter post where Scott mentioned that he used GET to find a word, and then I commented how it’s great for Frankenbiting, and more than a few people hadn’t heard the term. But that software is darn useful, and I like pointing out useful tools to editors any chance I get.