Media studies. Notes from the professor. 500-‐word essay applying notes to the present. (Each student should apply terms and definitions from notes from the professor to current media. Students should evaluate observations from Notes about editing and news.)
You may choose to write a critique of the cinematography of a film, TV
episode or advertisement. This is not a requirement, but in the past
students have found it to be of value.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOME BASICS
(All definitions within arrows <> are testable.)
Cinematography=<the technical and mechanical aspect of film, and by
extension related visual media>.
Media=<the plural of medium=a means of communication>
Since most of us are so influenced by our visual sense, it is not
surprising that visual media have a profound influence on us. Most of us
are heavily influenced by movies, TV, and visual advertising of all sorts.
The assumption is that filmmakers are trying to communicate with audiences while advertisers are attempting to change behavior, perhaps even to manipulate their viewers.
From the beginning of movies and TV, educators and culture critics have
worried that visual media interfere with thought. Since our visual sense
is so strong and so appealing, since so many more of the synapses in our
brains fire when we watch television, for example, than when we read, the
theory is that there is less likelihood that we can think clearly when we
watch visual media than when we engage print media. The implications for
advertising, politics, etc. are pretty obvious.
Readers of novels are most often disappointed when those readers view
films adapted from novels. There are two basic reasons for this. 1-Time is
more restrictive in cinema. It is obviously more expensive and
labor-intensive to include material in a movie than in a novel, and movies
have the obvious restriction of running time. 2-Since print is so
abstract, so non-sensory, readers are freer to ideally and more personally
imagine the visual aspect than are viewers who have images presented to
them. Imaging=<the ability of a person to control his/her imagination>,
and print is obviously better at giving us such control.
Editing (<the decisions of what to include in a work and how to make that
inclusion>) is the most important consideration in television news, most
texts agree, but editing is also obviously important to other TV and to
other media. When watching television news programming, one should always
wonder what has been left out; so goes the conventional caveat
Part of the basic cinematographic grammar is the montage, <a series of clips edited together to serve some purpose>. Cross cutting is <more than one storyline interspersed in a montage>.
Very crudely, if one is editing a comedy, the clips should be of short
duration, the focus soft, and the lighting bright. Conversely, drama or
tragedy should have longer clips, and should be shot in sharp focus with
low lighting and more shadow.
Color is an obvious concern in most cinematography. While music in film
exists primarily as an emotional cue, color also has an effect on emotion,
as filmmakers are aware. The Underworld series of films is shot in mostly
dark blue tones with the obvious emotional consequence, for example.
<The illusion of normal time flow>, continuity, is a subtle, basic and
tricky concern for filmmakers, etc. Most works are shot out of sequence
and must be edited later, so continuity is a nagging concern when visual
works are assembled.
The cinematography of CSI:Miami is pretty adventurous. Tracking shots
(<camera movement along a lateral plane>) through transparencies that
obscure focus are used. Occasionally even a jump cut (<a clip out of
continuity>) occurs. Horatio (an interesting name choice given the
character in Hamlet) walks across a room but his image fades and he seems
to have been transported six feet father than one would expect when it
reappears, for example. Assumedly such shots emphasize the importance of a
specific action and please the viewer with unexpected beauty in the
CG (previously CGI)=<computer generated images> has outstripped current technologies. If an image in motion can be imagined, it can be created,
apparently. CG is so ubiquitous in films that a movie like The Dark Knight
is remarkable because of its minimal use of CG, even for such action
scenes as an eighteen-wheeler front-flipping onto its back at speed.