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Semiotics moving image 2013


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semiotics of the moving image

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Semiotics moving image 2013

  1. 1. LZ411 – Critical Media theory Semiotics of the moving image Aims … •To explore the moving image as ‘visual language’ using semiotics •To identify the different codes operating in moving image texts (social and cinematographic) •To practise semiotic analysis of short moving image texts (short docs, TV intros and TV adverts)
  2. 2. A (short) initial example ‘Pockets’ – James Lees (2008)
  3. 3. The problem of analysing the moving image (film/video) “Film is too intelligible, which is what makes it difficult to analyze… … A film is difficult to explain because it is easy to understand” Monaco, J. (2000) How to read a film 3rd ed., New York: Oxford University Press (citing Metz (1974))
  4. 4. The visual and the verbal “The artist’s choice in cinema is without limit; the artist’s choice in literature is circumscribed, while the reverse is true of the observer: the great thing about literature is that you can imagine; the great thing about film is that you can’t.” (Monaco 2000:158)
  5. 5. Verbal language “A man is sitting with his dog” “A man is sitting with a dog on his shoulder” “A man is sitting with a dog on his shoulder, looking at us”
  6. 6. Verbal language “Sitting on a bench, a young women is resting her head on the shoulder of an older woman. They are hugging”
  7. 7. Volver (2006) Dir. Pedro Almodóvar Volver (2006) – Pedro Almodovar 8
  8. 8. Visual and verbal ‘languages’: key differences • verbal signs are arbitrary • (Moving) image signs are motivated face What’s the difference in meaning? ’Face’ is generalised/abstract. It means ‘a face’ is specific. It means ‘this face’
  9. 9. Shots as utterances 1. Shots are infinite, words limited. Shots are thus more like statements. 2. Shots are creations, whereas words are shared. 3. Shots present ‘a quantity of undefined information’ unlike words. 4. Shots are like assertions. The image of a house doesn’t signify ‘house’ (abstract) but ‘Here is a house’ (an actualised house). Statements do the same. 5. “Words are always part of at least one more or less organized semantic field…Only to a small extent does a shot assume its meaning in paradigmatic contrast to other shots that might have occurred” Metz, C. (1974) Film Language. A semiotics of the cinema. (p.115)
  10. 10. Filmmaker choices – the paradigmatic • Choices of what to shoot (the pro-filmic) – (connotations from social/cultural codes) - e.g. setting, costume, acting, dialogue etc. Mise-en-scene • Choices of how to shoot (connotations from cinematographic codes) - e.g. lighting, shot size, framing, lens and camera movement, angle, focus etc. Cinematography • Choices of how to edit (connotations from editing codes) – e.g. rhythm, duration, matches, transitions etc. Editing
  11. 11. The syntagmatic – putting it all together • Choices of how to present within and across shots: • The organization of space - mise-en-scène • The organization of time – editing
  12. 12. Denotation/connotation in the moving image Psycho (1960) – Alfred Hitchcok
  13. 13. Putting it all together In our semiotic analysis of the moving image we are going to focus on various codes: choices of signs in terms of editing, sound, cinematrography and profilmic choices. 1) Mise en scène – setting, props, dress, performance, lighting, colour, composition of elements within a shot etc 2) Cinematography – framing, camera angle, shot size, length of take, camera and lens movement, depth of field and focus etc 3) Editing – transitions, matching and duration etc 4) Sound – voice/effects/music, parallel/contrapuntal, rhythm and image/soundtrack editing relationships (sound bridges) etc 5) Narrative codes (more on this next week)
  14. 14. Pockets
  15. 15. Reading Edgar-Hunt, R., Marland, J. and Rawle, S. (2010) The language of film. Lausanne: AVA books. Available via our online library also the ‘reading list’ on the studentcentral module.