You've been forewarned.
Any anamoly from this standard looks freaky, especially when it's smack up against a standard shot in split screen.
In the first debate the cameras were at the same zoom level, and they attempted to equalize by shifting Bush up in the frame. This dedicated the bottom of his frame to the front of a blank podium. The effect was likened to a short person standing on a box.
How did they try to correct this?
In last night's debate Kerry maintained the same zoom level, but in attempting to fill the frame with Bush according to standard, leaving out the erroneous podium front, they zoomed in on him. This cut him off mid torso and the effect was likened to someone stepping forward and getting "in your face". It also left out the "all-important" podium lights.
No one likes their personal space invaded, and that is what it felt like to me. I felt the urge to lean back when to compensate when it came to him. Thus the freaky huge head effect.
If the compensation were made differently?
Scenario 1, matching the framing techniques of the first debate, could have given Bush the standard shot and shifted the frame on Kerry so that he was cut off mid-torso. This would have been the same framing you saw in last night's debate, only swapped between candidates (Bush standard framing, Kerry cut off, no podium lights). The difference though would be that head sizes would have remained consistent, saving us from the huge head/in your face effect. Surely this would have been a better solution.
Scenario 2, zoom technique, but compensating in the other direction, i.e. giving Bush the standard shot and zooming out on Kerry. This would have included all information (instead of cropping off lights for one candidate) but would have given Kerry the freaky effect, in that he would have appeared small and doll-like.
Those darned lights. If there were none, then it would not have to be counted as important information. You could have shot them much like in scenario 1, but said screw the lights for both candidates. After all, it must not have been important any more if Bush's were no longer shown.
If no lights were shown for either, and therefore no marker like the top of a podium to go by, the height difference would have been minimized in the best way possible. Same zoom, crop Bush's shot to just above the podium, Kerry mid-torso. Heck, if you want lights, run a third frame across the bottom showing the lights in front of the moderator. Harder to measure height difference that way.
Last night's camera zoom adjustments made it seem like the camera person was Desparately Seeking Balance. The changes in zoom on Bush were like watching reruns of Laugh-In.