Visual vs. Visual Effect

Question: What is the difference between the “Visual” and “Visual Effect” captions?

Answer: These are very often confused. “Visual” refers to “Visual Performance”. That particular captions deals primarily with the cleanliness of the visual performance. Are the lines straight, the spacing consistent, the feet moving at the same pulse and using the same technique? Is the guard manipulating their equipment together? If your answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’, you would expect that band to score well in the visual performance caption (evaluated by two separate judges). Keep in mind, however, that the judges can’t always see everything 100% of the time. I try to sample individual sections (the clarinets, the battery percussion, etc.) as well as look at the total ensemble (also known as near focus vs. far focus). If I’m evaluating a 16-count visual phrase by the flutes on the left side 30-yd line, I may miss the two baritone players out of the form on the right side 25-yd line. On the new KMEA sheets, there is also a sub-caption for content where a judge can credit the various responsibilities that the performers are given within the show.

Contrary to popular belief, visual effect is NOT all about how many horn flashes and body lunges that you do! Visual effect concerns itself more with the actual content of the program from a design standpoint and how well that program is being communicated by the performers. Do the transitions from phrase to phrase make sense? Are the guard and percussion integrated into the visual program? Does the program contain a good amount of variety? Does the visual program enhance the music being presented? Are the performers emotionally involved in the performance and able to create various moods and nuances? If your answer to these questions is ‘yes’, you would expect that band to score well in the visual effect caption.

One of the common misconceptions in today’s competitive world is that people think that bands that march well should automatically score well in the visual effect caption. That may not always be the case. A very basic show with limited variety could potentially score well in the visual performance caption, but would more than likely not fare as well in visual effect. You can also have program that may have a fair amount of ‘dirt’ in them but are so well designed from a conceptual standpoint that they do better in effect than they do in performance. The top level bands ultimately do well in BOTH captions. 

– Mark Culp   10/03/2007