Haha, can’t argue with that maths 😉
I’d also prefer to not have to use them, since they’re not exactly a modern convention, and it’s always better to “show, don’t tell”. But I think I have to, for a few reasons.
Firstly, even in the original versions of some episodes, the newsreel at the beginning carried important exposition that the episodes didn’t cover. Dropping the newsreel - which I think is the right move to mature the tone and give me more editing control - means losing that expositon, which means needing to find an alternate home for it. A good example of this is the holocron arc, where Cad Bane finding master Ropal was actually in the newsreel between two episodes of the arc.
Secondly, sometimes in order to better pace or restructure an episode, I want the ability to cut exposition sequences from the episodes themselves. A one minute text description up front is better than many boring minutes I may have to keep in order to preserve a bit of explanation. A good example of this is my Christophsis, where I can get the main characters onto the planet and establish their mission and relationships without any faff, meaning we only have entertaining content to enjoy.
Thirdly, sometimes I want to recontextualise something that’s going to appear in the episode. In my Domino Squad episode I felt like my big change to make their initial failiure send them to the outpost could have done with more clarity, so I used the intro text to emphasise that they risk lesser duties if they fail. Or in my Holocron episode, to intercut Holocron (Bane + shapeshifter) with Hostage Crisis (Bane + posse), I used the text to emphasise that Bane’s a guy who can pull together a posse quickly.
Fourthly, I can use it to make causal links. My Christophsis left the matter of a mole in the Republic open, and reminding the viewer of the Republic mole in Cloak of Darkness encourages the viewer to infer that it’s Argyus, since he matches that role. Mental niggle now removed - and implicitly now the viewer will be more comfortable with any elements not answered in a given episode, trusting it will be addressed later.
Fifthly, I can also, for example, highlight characters or events a bit more directly, so that the viewer is a little more likely to pay attention to the elements of the episodes that I think are the strongest. Emphasising the Satine angle in our first Mandalore episodes means we treat her as less of a single episode character, and pay particular attention to her. I’ll be doing the same with the political situation in the next Mandalore episode, since it’s important to the later Mauldalore arc.
Sixthly, I can use it like a “previously on The Clone Wars”, like with the Maul arc.
And finally, when I’m not using it for those purposes, I try to use it as an opportunity to keep the viewer on top of the ‘state of the galaxy’, and give a bit more of a sense of the ebb and flow of the war, and keep the whole feeling cohesive. In my first season I tried to emphasise that all of the Separatists attacks were against strategic targets - making them more of a competent threat - but that the Republic during that season successfully established a foothold. In the second season, it’s the rise of scum and villainy, etc.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that while these may be boring for the preexistent Clone Wars viewer, who knows all the necessary context, for the new Clone Wars viewer this infodump may be important to their understanding and enjoyment, therefore a more engaging way to start the episode than it would be for an existing one.
In conclusion, I think it’s more valuable to have it than not. That said though, that’s not me trying to shut down discussion on this, because I think it’s a worthy topic. If I’m missing the bar on any of that, it’s definitely worth discussing. If there are elements of the intro crawls which you guys think I should change, or apply better to achieve the above goals, or additional things I should use those crawls for, I’m all ears.
(I should emphasise here, when I share things like this, it really isn’t to shut down discussion - it’s just to “show my working” and share my thought process on the raised subject. I don’t ever want the fact that I’ve thought about something a bunch to make people feel like I consider the matter final. I can expand on any of this stuff, and there’s nothing in this process or these episodes that I wouldn’t welcome other people’s input on.)
In terms of the format, obviously text gives me the most flexibility - I don’t really have the ability to use any other format, and modifying the newsreel would be too limiting. Luckily, Star Wars as a franchise uniquely has a tolerance for text crawls, so if you can get away with it anywhere, you can get away with it here. Much like wipe transitions, it’s very much a dead medium, but this particular franchise grants a lucky amount of leeway.
My goal, I suppose, is to make this show as good as it can be - even if that ultimately means it still doesn’t pass the modern bar for quality. Because people will always love Star Wars and want the fuller picture - especially now that so much is calling back to TCW - and TCW doesn’t deserve to be the black sheep that people feel they have to avoid or resentfully trudge through. I can’t remove all the imperfections, and sometimes I’ll have to replace one imperfection with another, but ultimately every judgment has to be made against the goal of making the entirety of the experience I produce as palatable as possible - which might incorporate an up-front minute of boredom per episode. I’ll always continue to encourage discussion though, not least because you guys will have new ideas which help me bring up that quality level and minimise those imperfections.
(And if it’s a maths game, you may be pleased to know I’ve already shaved off five hours of almost universally absolute dreck in those seventeen episodes released to date alone [not even including the episodes skipped entirely], and the final 50 episodes should be saving you about 17 hours total.)
In terms of cold opens, they’re not really an option. I’ve been actively looking out for opportunities but unfortunately the episodes just aren’t structured in that way. A cold open needs to have some punch to it, and nine times out of ten you don’t have any options in the first third of an episode to break on such a moment. Furthermore, audio transitions into and out of proper content are one of the hardest things to get right - far harder than smushing two bits of content together - so I’d be effectively doubling the likelihood that we end up with jarring transitions.