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Intro to Media Analysis - The Shot

First 'Language of Film' Lecture for Introduction to Media Analysis

Catriona Miller

on 24 November 2017

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Transcript of Intro to Media Analysis - The Shot

Nosferatu (F W Murnau, 1922)
Film is a celluloid acetate, coated in a chemical emulsion that is sensitive to light and capable of receiving and retaining images.
What is Film?
Intro to Media Analysis
The Shot

(tx 2013-ongoing, NBC)
American Cinematographer to be found at
The professional cinematographer's journal, full of useful information. Search their archives for articles on specific films.

Monaco, James (2009)
How to Read a Film, Oxford University Press
As well as
Film Art
by Bordwell and Thompson, you may find the following helpful:
What is a...
A shot is a single piece of film from the time the camera begins running to the time it stops.

It might change in composition if the camera moves, but a shot does NOT contain any edits.
A scene is a unified action, often at a single time or space. A single shot could be a scene, but more usually a scene is a series of shots.

The can be (but doesn't have to be) a editing within a scene.
A sequence is a group of scenes comprising an entire dramatic segment of a film, with a recognisable start and finish, which are usually related to time or place or both.
And even though there are more cinematographers moving to digital technology... in fact many of the artistic decisions remain the same.
Speed of Motion
Perspective Relations
In practice, very often the perspective is determined by the choice of camera lens. There are a large number of lenses, but we can break it down into 3 main types.
Depth of Focus (or Field)
Size and Shape of the Frame
On and Off Screen Space
Angle and Height
"Meaning and effect always stem from the total film, form its operation as a system. The context of the film will determine the function of the framing..." (Bordwell & Thompson, 2004: p.171)
Film stock comes in standard sizes such as 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm.
70mm gives a very detailed picture. In digital terms you can think about the definition of the picture.
Film stock also comes with variations in its sensitivity to light. 'Slow stock' is slow to capture light (and image) and therefore needs a lot of light to work. 'Fast stock' is quick to capture light (and image) and can therefore be used in low light conditions. (Each make of digital camera has its own strengths and weaknesses that work in a similar way.)
Parts of
Barry Lyndon
(Stanley Kubrick, 1975) were literally shot by candlelight.
Film stock comes with variations in its sensitivities to the colour spectrum.
Important that the cinematographer works closely with the production designer on this.
(Dir: Ron Fricke, 2011) in fact used 72mm film.
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006 used distinctive colour palettes to differentiate between the fantasy and reality scenes.
Film stock comes with a 'correct' exposure' and printing time etc. but this can be (up to a point) be manipulated during developing and printing. Only up to a point though, so the choice of correct film to start with is important. (Post production for digital can also affect the final image, but again only up to a point.)
(Ridley Scott, 2000) the exterior battle scene was shot on stock which was specifically made for shooting under
lighting. Using this type of film in daylight conditions created a dark blue cast on the exposed stock.
The stardard speed of projection is 24 frames a second... because at that speed human eye perceives continuous movement (rather than a series of static frames).
Shooting fewer frames per second (and then showing it at 24fps) causes the action to look speeded up.
Shooting more frames per second (and then showing it at 24fps) causes the action to look slowed down.
Nosferatu (F W Murnau, 1922)
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
The frame has real boundaries but there is no limit to the depth.
Star Wars
(George Lucas, 1977) the oblique angle of the texts leads us into space.
Fish eye lens
This depth to the screen is governed by what is in focus. Generally there are three planes. Background, midground and foreground. In most films, typically, only one or two planes are in focus at any one time. The director will often 'pull focus' from one to the other in order to direct the audience's attention.
Citizen Kane
(Orson Welles, 1941) is famous for what is called DEEP FOCUS where all three planes are simultaneously in focus.
"...in a film, the frame is not simply a neutral border; it produces a certain vantage point. In cinema, the frame is important because it actively defines the image for us." (Bordwell & Thompson, 2004: p.162)
The frame we've become used to in the cinema is a rectangular one though over the years the aspect ratio has varied.
The frame defines what we see and what we don't. "The film image is bounded, limited... From an implicitly infinite world, the frame selects a slice to show us..." (Bordwell & Thompson, 2004: p.167)
(But we'll come back to this when considering editing and sound.)
The frame produces a position from which the image is viewed.
A high height, angled down.
A low height, angled up.
The distance of the camera from the object it is filming, typically measured in terms of the human figure.
Wide Shot - whole body
Mid-Shot - waist up
(NBC, 2013-ongoing)
A wide shot of the office, then medium close ups as they talk. Camera is more or less at the same height as the characters.
(John Boorman, 1981)
Again moves from wide shots to close ups as the two knights talk. Notice one shot that has all 3 planes in focus.
The Man Who Fell to Earth
(Nic Roeg, 1976)
Lots going on here - uses extreme wide shots, zooms, and perspective relations to alienate the figure of Bowie (the alien) within the landscape and setting.
(Showtime, 2006-2013)
Angle is being used more expressively here - offering a canted frame. Dexter (Michael C Hall) is excited to meet the man he thinks knows his secrets. The frame shifts off square... then rights itself as he realised it isn't the guy! Also a subtle use of speed of motion (and some bad language!)
The Reflecting Skin (Philip Ridley, 1990)
Limited colour palette; makes use of wide shots to establish location; there are point of view height and angles; perspective is used; even a frame within a frame as the woman looks through the car window towards the end. (The boy knows the men are killers but doesn't tell the woman.)
Today we'll consider:
Speed of Motion
Depth of Field
Extreme Close Up - only a portion of the face
Close up - face
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