Meet The Sloths (2013)

Meet The Sloths is a documentary that follows a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica; it was edited by Lucy Cooke.

This documentary doesn’t take itself too seriously and this is shown via the comical musical choices and humorous voiceover. An example of this is when the narrator is claiming a sloth is ‘making a run for it’; paired with the footage of the moving sloth with close-ups of its stretching limbs and comical music, this scene is amusing and interesting to watch.

In another attempt to make this funny, the edit uses effects such as white vignettes over some images, to make the sloths look ‘attractive’ for example, as the narrator and the footage show a mating decision. Unlike the previous techniques, this just looks too obvious and a tad juvenile when just adding funny music and cutting it quickly to the music works just as well. There are also a lot of transitions, such as wipes and fades, but never used consistently enough to be considered part of the style and this inconsistency is sometimes difficult to watch as the sudden transition breaks the audience’s focus.

There is an obvious lack of coverage in the series, as there are often recycled pieces of footage, such as a sloth hanging off a wire fence or a pan of the forest canopy. While these clips are good to use to fill a gap in the edit where the voiceover can’t be trimmed but there’s no relevant footage, seeing the same three clips over again just shows the lack of coverage obviously and suggests that this edit was difficult to find content for.

There are quite a few serious moments in this documentary, such as the death of sloths or dangerous rescues of babies; to juxtapose these previous elements of comedy, the edit features much heavier music with a more constant beat and the shots vary little during these scenes so the audience can get fully invested in the scene without their focus being shifted by a shot change.

Due to the documentary covering an entire year in the life of the sanctuary, and the fact that sloths aren’t the fastest of creatures to film or edit, time lapses are used several times. One example is when one volunteer was testing the speed of the sloths, and considering no one would want to watch a sloth try and find its way out of a chalk circle in real time, the edit uses a time lapse so that the audience still see the results of the experiment, but it doesn’t waste time in the edit nor loses the audience’s attention.

Each episode tended to pick two focuses, such as two sloths, or two subjects and cut between the two, using shots of the surrounding fauna or shots of sloths interacting with their habitat as a ‘break’ before changing topic. This often worked well so that the audience wouldn’t be confused by an abrupt subject change and they also got to see more about the location of the sanctuary.

The sound of the edit was obviously levelled so that music isn’t overpowering the dialogue and audio of the people in the documentary. The narrator was levelled well so that her voice was never too loud. There were moments, such as the audio on the sloths’ mating call, that must’ve peaked while recording due to them being so loud. They haven’t been levelled as well as they could have been, as the sound is still very loud and piercing and while this could be in the intention of the editor, so that the audience get an impression of how the volunteers feel, it is disruptive to the edit and uncomfortable to listen to.

Overall, this documentary has a lot of interesting content, but the edit, due to its use of effects and random transitions, feels a little juvenile and unprofessional. It does, however, make it amusing and the humour is a compelling reason to keep watching and the interesting variation of shots make the documentary enjoyable and worth watching.

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