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Semiotics of Film

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Tiffany Tse

on 19 March 2014

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Transcript of Semiotics of Film

CCT213 Semiotics of Film
Modern Day Film Techniques
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project, The Fourth Kind, Grave Encounters, Friday Night Lights, Requiem for a Dream, Saving Private Ryan

Hand-held camera so viewers get to see from the victim's perspective
Viewers are only limited to what is in the camera frame
Close up shots
Low resolution lighting - dim light
Objects appear obscured and unfamiliar
Behind the Scenes
Million Dollar Shot
The Sign
The strict separation between material signifies and assigned meanings/signifieds

1>Image and sound as signifier. Film makers add components (lighting, editing, special effects) to the raw material to make it more appealing.

2> Viewers must assign meaning to the image and its relationship to accompanying sounds.

3> A film signifier means differently to differently viewers. The attached meanings varies from different perspectives.
Polysemy in Product Placement
Name the movie
"The spectator instantly attaches a
, the meaning of a given image, to the
the thing seen or heard." (Nicholas)
Film Throughout History
Triumph of the Will (1935)
- Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
- Film used as a propaganda to promote Hitler
- Recognized as one of the greatest films in history
- Portrayed Hitler as a heroic figure, bringing glory to the nation
- Powerful use of cinematography and music:

Camera movement
use of long focus lenses to created distorted perspectives
aerial photography
Camera Angle
hero shots
centered figure to show power
Lighting and Music
applause and laughter when Hitler arrives

Behind the Scenes: McDonald's Photo Shoot
"In film, each shot functions as a
. And within each shot, there may well be a variety of signs mixed together." (Nichols)

Examples of signs:
music, sound effects
character (gender, clothing, style, brands)
props, accessories
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Camera Angle
Manipulates camera movement to capture the beauty of the ship and Jack's spirit
Director knows that broad daylight will flatter the ship
Scene is not taken place on the ship
CGI/Green Screen has allowed to make these scenes possible
Shape image to pursue a certain purpose
Laughter, actions and lighting

"Viewers recognize something about a character's
social status
from their clothing, expressions, gestures, and actions." (Nichols)
Scenes from
Subliminal, fast flash of brand
Brands and logos act as 'signs' for audiences
Modality markers
Marketers of cool
All films are heavily mediated
What we are watching is never raw
Manipulation through editing, lighting, music, effects, camera angles and movements
Signs are easily decoded for viewers
Only show what they want to be seen
Spectators are passive viewers and do not look critically when media is presented
Images is a representation that enhances our experience
Films are made up of codes (conventions shared by the same culture)
The power of visual image is supreme over any other type of signifier in media events
Film is presented, packaged and digested before viewers have time to reflect on it
"For a film to fulfill an expressive, persuasive, or poetic purpose it must utilize signifiers that convey the desired feelings, tones, and attitudes effectively." (Nichols)

What do these films have in common?
follow trends
-> Films draw from previous knowledge
-> Films are made up of
shared by the
same culture
"Spectators need a comparable
to understand and
what they see." (Nichols)
Blair Witch Project
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