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Film Codes and Conventions

Revision of codes and conventions with examples.

Kayla McCarthy

on 22 November 2016

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Transcript of Film Codes and Conventions

Media Codes and Conventions
Objects: C
an be used to assist in the suspension of disbelief and as plot progression devices. For example: The ghost-face mask in
(Craven, 1996).
: All colours have connotations depending on their context. For example: White generally symbolises good, where as black is often used for bad/evil.
: Assists in creating characters and era.
For example: The costumes in
Downtown Abbey
to show it is set in the early 1900's.
Body Language
: Vital in developing mood and assisting with character creation. For example: When Ofelia meets Pan for the first time, we can tell she is afraid as she moves away from him and closes her jacket -
see clip.
: Creates a sense of time and place.
For example: In
Scott Pilgrim
(Wright, 2010), the setting is very obviously given to the audience. Most films are more subtle.
Music -
used to assist with the creation of atmosphere. For example, high pitch strings often signal tension or building of suspense.

Dialogue -
is used to convey the narrative. When characters are speaking.

Sound -
is sound that would be expected from the film. If the actor can see, touch or hear it then it is diagetic; such as a door closing.
: are sounds that are added that the audience can hear but the characters in the film cannot; such as a soundtrack.
Audio Codes
: used to create a specific atmosphere. Dark lighting for an ominous feel and light and bright for a cheerful connotation.
Norman and Marion in 'Psycho'
(Hitchcock, 1960).
Chuck and Sarah practice their vows in 'Chuck vs. The Cliffhanger' (McNeill, 2011).
Camera Angles:

High Angle

Eye Level

Low Angle

Technical Codes - CAMELS
All images from lessonbucket.com - Brett Lamb

: when the camera is following the subject.

: When a camera is mounted on a tripod and moves horizontally (left to right).

: When a camera is mounted on a tripod and moves vertically (up and down).

: "A dolly is any sort of moving platform that a camera is mounted on. A ‘dolly in’ is when the camera moves closer to a subject, a ‘dolly out’ is when it moves further away." (Brett Lamb)
Framing -
also known as shot sizes includes the close up, long shot and medium shot. All shot sizes have a specific function. For example: a close up assists with detail and emotion.
For examples, see:


Written codes assist in anchoring meaning to an image.

: assist to narrow the interpretation of an image. They appear in large type at the top of an image and are often written by the copy editor to suit the target audience of the publication.

: appear beneath an image and assist to clarify meaning.

: a title sequence is the way a television show or film presents its major cast, crew and the title, the closing credits repeat and cover
the remaining cast.

Speech bubbles:
used predominantly in comics
to convey the narrative.

words that are describing the sound they make. Such as boom, pow, zip. See
Written Codes
Watch -
The Dark Knight
(Nolan, 2008)
Extras: Sound with Hans Zimmer
Sound whose source is visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film such as: voices of characters ; sounds made by objects in the story; music represented as coming from instruments in the story space ( = source music). Diegetic sound is any sound presented as originated from source within the film's world.
Sound whose source is neither visible on the screen nor has been implied to be present in the action such as: narrator's commentary; sound effects which are added for dramatic effect; mood music. Non-diegetic sound is represented as coming from the a source outside story space.
Example of an extreme close-up
Facial expressions help the audience read the characters' emotions. Look at the actors eyes and what they are telling you. this is a clue to the emotions they are expressing to the audience.

How the actor is standing and the body language used can show the audience the characters feelings or thoughts. Are they standing tall? Are their arms crossed? Another key aspect to remember is that this actor was instructed by the director during the making of this film.

Each actor was hired to play a role based on the ideal body shape needed to portray that particular character. This can involve gaining / losing weight or becoming very fit. A clear example is Christian Bale dropping almost 30kg to play the role of Trevor Reznik in The Machinist (Anderson, 2004), and then gaining 20kg for his role in American Hustle (Russell, 2013).

How an actor uses
their voice can give the audience a quick
insight into their character's background
and culture. It is very common for an
actor to have a voice coach to assist them
in mastering an accent. Have a think
about your favourite actor and how many
roles they have undertaken that required
a different accent. Another part of voice includes the tone / volume of voice. This can communicate emotion with the audience - is the actor whispering or shouting their lines? What impact does this have on the audience and relationships with characters?
Mis en Scene
Mise en Scene is a french term that translates to 'staged'. It refers to everything we see within the frame. This includes: the set, costume, colour, props and overall lighting. It also refers to how these items are places within the frame. Nothing is there by accident.

Mise en Scene can help the audience piece together the story. It sometimes gives us clues as to where the story is going to go, as well as the genre of the film.

This includes scenes in films such as montages - we see a lot of quick shots of something that might have occurred in the story world over months and we the audience see it in a matter of minutes: think Rocky becoming super fit and watching his crazy training.
We, the audience, don't need to see every minute of every character's life. We can piece together the parts that are not shown. Some films take place over weeks and others years. By time being collapsed we the audience can see a two year long story take place in 1.5 hours

This is when time is slowed down. This give the audience a moment to stop and take in what has just happened. This is a common edit technique when something dramatic had just happened. Think of major fight scenes in films. As the punch is blown the film slows down so we the audience can take it all in. In some cases, the punch is then shown from multiple angles, to further engage the audience. This is the editing technique of overlapping editing.

Within the element of editing we need to look at the editing or vision AND sound. To put this basically, editing is completed in post production and it is when the film is put together. Again with this element there are several small elements for us to focus on:

: this is one of the most common edits, cuts from one shot to another. If a sequence has lots and lots of cuts this can be referred to as quick cuts.
this technique is used when the subject is in motion and the camera stays in the same position. A subject is in motion and we the audience see the subject 'jump' forward.
there are a few fades. Fade in: Screen is black/white and slowly the image begins to appear. Fade out: Screen has the image and slowly begins to disappear into black or white.
Similar to a fade but instead of fading to black or white - the screen dissolves from one scene to another.
The screen wipes from one side to another.
The screen has multiple frames in view.
multiple events are occurring at the same time and the edits keep cutting between these multiple scenes.
Camera techniques and qualities refer to how the camera is used to record the narrative. Below is a list of camera techniques used in film.

Camera also includes the format used for filming - 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, IMAX, Black & White, Colour, Video, Animation and Photography.

Camera Movements
Lighting within a film is the responsibility of the cinematographer also known as the Director of Photography (DOP). Lighting is used to create mood and atmosphere.

Here are the common terms of lighting that you will need to refer to:
: Lighting that has warm yellow/orange tones.
: Lighting that has cool green/blue tones.
: When a scene is well lit and casts minimal shadows (if it was bright lighting we wouldn't see anything - sunglasses needed).
: When lighting is low and casts lots of shadows (if it was dark lighting we wouldn't see anything).
: This is the term to use when the lighting looks natural.
: Lighting that creates harsh shadows
: Lighting that is diffused, this can be achieved with soft boxes.
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