2 - Digital Media Productions

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Looking at Movies
Fourth Edition
Richard Barsam  Dave Monahan
CHAPTER TWO
Principles of
Film Form
Film Form
• Movies are highly organized, and deliberately
assembled and sculpted by filmmakers.
• The synthesis of elemental systems – mise-en-scène,
sound, narrative, editing, and others – constitutes a
movie’s overall form.
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Elemental Systems
• Mise-en-scène – The visual design elements of a movie
• Sound – Dialogue, music, ambience, and effect tracks
• Narrative – Story structured into acts that establish,
develop, and resolve character conflicts
• Editing – The juxtaposition of individual shots to create
a sequence
• Shots – The product of one uninterrupted run of the
camera
• Sequences – A series of shots unified by theme or
purpose
• Scenes – Complete units of plot action
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Form and Content
• Content – the subject of an artwork (what it is about)
• Form – means by which the subject is expressed and
experienced (the how it is presented)
• Works of art need both content and form
• They are interrelated, interdependent, and interactive
• In movies, form is cinematic language
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Form and Expectations
• The narrative form is a formal arrangement of events
that make up the story in a film. Certain events produce
likely actions or outcomes.
• Our expectations provoke us to ask predictive
questions about the film’s outcome.
• Other film elements work with the formal elements to
generate patterns.
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MacGuffin
• MacGuffin – an object, document, or secret within a
story that is of vital importance to the characters, and
thus motivates their actions and the conflict, but that
turns out to be less significant to the overall narrative
than we might at first expect
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Narrative Patterns
• We instinctively search for patterns and progressions in
all art forms
• Patterns provide an element of structure
• Our natural interpretation of parallel editing patterns is
that the two things are happening at the same time
• Patterns ground us in the familiar and acquaint us with
the unfamiliar
• Repeating narrative patterns emphasizes their content
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Nonnarrative Patterns
•
•
•
•
Convey a character’s state of mind
Create relationships
Communicate narrative meaning
Shot patterns / Sound motifs / Repetition of a familiar
image
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Fundamentals of Film Form
• Movies depend on light
• Movies provide an illusion of movement
• Movies manipulate space and time in unique ways
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Fundamentals of Film Form: Light
• Light is the essential element in the creation and
consumption of motion pictures
• Light – a source of illumination and a key formal
element manipulated to create mood, reveal character,
and convey meaning
• Lighting – crafted interplay between motion-picture
light and shadow
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Light Qualities
• Focus attention on significant details
• Enhance the texture, depth, emotions, and mood of a
shot
• Provide patterns of meaning
• Symbolically compliment or contradict the other
formal elements of a movie
• Affect the way we think about a character
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Fundamentals of Film Form:
Illusion of Movement
• Persistence of vision – the process by which the human
brain retains an image for a fraction of a second longer
than the eye records it (apparent motion)
• Phi phenomenon – the illusion of movement created by
events that succeed each other rapidly
• Critical flicker fusion – occurs when a single light
flickers on and off with such speed that the individual
pulses of light fuse together to give the illusion of
continuous light
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Fundamentals of Film Form:
Manipulation of Space and Time
• Movies are a spatial and temporal art form
• On the movie screen, space and time are relative to
each other, and we can’t separate them or perceive one
without the other
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Theories of Space and Time
• Erwin Panofsky – “Dynamization of Space” /
“Spacialization of Time”
• Co-expressibility – the viewer’s relationship with
flexible onscreen space versus the fixed space of a
staged performance
• Mediation – the process by which a formal element,
whether human or technological, transfers something
from one place to another
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Manipulating Time Through Editing
• The manipulation of time (as well as space) is a
function of editing
• Parallel structure – by using crosscutting and parallel
editing multiple actions appear to be occurring at the
same instant
• Condensing time
• Rearranging time by organizing story events in
nonchronological order
• Expanding time by fragmenting the preceding moment
overlap editing, or the freeze-frame
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Realism and Antirealism
• Realism – a tendency to view or represent things as
they really are
• Realistic films attempt to immerse us in a world that is
convincingly depicted on its own terms
• Antirealism – an interest in or concern for the abstract,
speculative, or fantastic
• Movies can be both realistic and antirealistic,
especially in science fiction, action, and thrillers
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Verisimilitude
• A convincing appearance of truth
• Convinces you that you are “really there” by being
internally consistent
• Affected by time and cultures as audiences’
expectations of reality change
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Cinematic Language
• The accepted systems, methods, or conventions by
which the movies communicate with the viewer
• Conventions are flexible (example: dissolves)
• Viewers identify with the camera’s lens
• Cinematic conventions and individual experiences
shape the “reality” depicted by films.
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Review
1. Which is the best description of the difference between
content and form?
a. Content is the subject of an artwork, and form is the
means through which that subject is expressed.
b. Content is the meaning of the movie, and form is what
happens in the story.
c. Content refers to a movie’s look, and form refers to its
genre.
d. Content refers to individual scenes or shots, and form
refers to the movie as a whole.
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Review
2. The manipulation of time and space is a function of what
filmic element?
a. Processing
b. Fusing
c. Postproduction
d. Editing
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Review
3. The analysis and shot breakdown in this chapter of the “icebreak” scene from D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East (1920)
reveals what formal pattern?
a. Repeated close-ups to emphasize Lillian Gish’s beauty
b. The technique of parallel editing
c. The contrasting of light and dark
d. Repeated long shots to establish setting
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Review
4. The process by which the human brain retains an image for
a fraction of a second longer than the eye records it is
called:
a. Apparent motion
b. The phi phenomenon
c. Critical flicker fusion
d. Persistence of vision
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Review
5. Between 1895 and 1905, what two directions were
established for film?
a. Naturalism and melodrama
b. Tragedy and comedy
c. Realism and antirealism
d. Naturalism and fantasy
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Review
6. “A convincing appearance of truth” best defines:
a. verisimilitude
b. naturalism
c. fantasy
d. suspension of disbelief
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Review
7. The viewer’s perception of cinematic space is determined
by:
a. lighting
b. the camera’s lens
c. acting
d. the number of shots within a scene or sequence
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