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Media semiotics-pt-21


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Media semiotics-pt-21

  1. 1. Media Semiotics:“Reading” Visual Texts, Part 2. Film Language Michael Fitzgerald HU-3000 Winter, 2009
  2. 2. Film “language”• Film does not literally have a “language” (we are using the word as a metaphor or comparison). • There is no basic linguistic unit, such as a word. • There is no formal grammar.• Film does, however, make statements, so it works like a language.• The closest devices it has to a real language are: – shots (could be compared to words) – scenes (like sentences) – sequences (like paragraphs) • However, these are often difficult to differentiate from one another: • A lengthy shot can be considered a scene. • Statements can be made within a shot, using movement, focus, color, proxemics, camera position, etc.).
  3. 3. Two types of film “statements”: Paradigmatic and syntagmatic• Paradigmatic: Everything that is seen in the shot (mise-en-scene) including how it is composed: – what to shoot – how to shoot it Usually associated with realism.• Syntagmatic (contextual)—usually associated with expressionism: – editing/“montage”
  4. 4. Paradigmatic statements• Mise-en-scene: everything in the shot, including how it is composed• Staging, sets, props, costumes, casting, etc.• Use of frame • Closed • Open• Proxemics /proximity (distance from camera) – ECU – CU – MS (“two-shot”) – LS – ELS• Proxemics /“blocking”: use of space, placement of actors, etc.• Composition – lines (vertical; horizontal; diagonal or oblique) – lighting source/direction – camera angle/PoV • tilt (low/high; up/down): look for horizon • roll (slant) • crane (extremely high) • overhead/”bird’s-eye view “(often with see-through ceiling) • helicopter (ELS): God’s-eye view
  5. 5. More paradigmatic statements• Choice of film: – Low or hi-rez (70 mm, 35 mm, 16 mm or Super-8; videotape). Low rez (grainy) suggests immediacy and actuality.• Lighting: – Available (“magic hour”) or artificial. – bright or dark (noir). – key, fill, back, etc. – silhouette (back light only).• Colors: – warmth, coolness, danger, passion, etc. – color intensity (saturation).• Focus: – sharp – soft (sometimes done with filters or screens) – planar (rack shot/rack focus): can alternate between two planes – deep focus (dev. by Gregg Toland; see Citizen Kane) – zoom in or out (what does zoom-in to ECU of face imply?)• Camera movement: – track shot, dolly shot, truck shot, crane (or motorized Louma) shot, sky-cam – hand-held (shaky). Documentary style: suggests immediacy, actuality, action
  6. 6. Composition (deep focus)
  7. 7. Synecdoche
  8. 8. Rack focus
  9. 9. Rack focus
  10. 10. Close-ups• Camera angles, close-ups, and editing techniques contribute to viewers’ feelings toward a character.• Viewers do not care much either way about characters seen at a distance.• They are more likely to empathize or identify with a character who is often seen in close- ups.Meyrovitz, Joshua. “Multiple Media Literacies.” Journal of Communications 48 (1). Winter 1998: 96-108.
  11. 11. ECU
  12. 12. ELS
  13. 13. ELS as “establishing shot”
  14. 14. Low-angle shot
  15. 15. Aura (halo effect)
  16. 16. Aura (halo effect)
  17. 17. Aura (halo effect)
  18. 18. Syntagmatic statements• Two images juxtaposed suggest a third meaning:
  19. 19. Montage (Fr.: “mounting” or “assembling”• In US called cutting or editing (taking away)• Logical purpose is to collapse time (fast-forward), skip mundane details (“cut to the chase”), eliminate dead air, etc.• Occurs in: – storytelling, jokes, etc. – novels (“meanwhile, back at the ranch…”) – dreams (jump cuts)
  20. 20. Two basic concepts of montage:Diachronic (chronological or linear):• One idea leads chronologically to the next: • shot/reaction shot • dissolve to next scene • match cut• One idea leads logically (in terms of how the story is being told) to the next: • Flashback/flash-forward • What about Memento?Synchronic (non-linear):• Two or more things appear to happen simultaneously: • Parallel editing (“cross-cutting”): two scenes occurring at the same time (chase scene) • Two separate story lines that converge later (or maybe never—used often in serials)• Scenes/shots may have no logical relationship but are juxtaposed strictly for emotional effect: • Sergei Eisenstein (Soviet filmmaker) • Ox-slaughtering images in Apocalypse Now • Can be used to connote fast action or excitement • Often used in TV commercials and music videos to hold viewer interest— simply because movement in itself is compelling
  21. 21. Realist fictionBorrows from documentary/actuality– location shoots– hand-held camera technique– grainy film– available lighting– long takes, minimal editing– edits are usually linear, chronological– nonprofessional actorsEx.: Lumiere brothers, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory (1895).
  22. 22. Expressionism– dream-like, fantastical, mythical– montage/jump cuts– non-linear editing– shot on sets– staged lighting– viewers expected to “fill in” their own meaningsEx.: Georges Melies, Trip to the Moon (1902) Robt. Wiene, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  23. 23. Classical Hollywood style• well-known actors• heavy on glamour, myth, fantasy• careful lighting (three-source)• carefully controlled sound• careful, often elaborate camera work (Steadicam, tracks shots, cranes, helicopters, etc.)• high-resolution film• smooth, precise (“invisible”) editing• usually linear, mostly chronological• does most of the “work” for viewers
  24. 24. Classical Hollywood style• Where does classical Hollywood drama fall in the realism-expressionism continuum? – actuality (no editing, Lumiere Bros.) – verite/direct cinema (stark documentary style, minimal editing, minimal or no story line—“slice of life”) – narrative documentary style – realist fiction – classical (Hollywood) – expressionist (Melies, Weine, etc.) – experimental (Dziga Vertov)
  25. 25. Quotes“Everything about a movie is manipulation.” –Frederick Wiseman, documentary filmmaker“I enjoy playing the audience like a piano.” – Alfred Hitchcock