• The following is a basic list of some of the tools that are used by filmmakers to communicate meaning and message within their work.
  • It is important to remember that film is a collaborative art form, so several people are a part of the process of creating meaning.
  • When one is analyzing technique in a film, it is important to be able to accurately describe what can be seen and heard, and how it is shown to us, the audience.
  • It is also important to note that although the director has control of the overall vision of the film, it is also important to credit other people who were responsible for a particular aspect of a film when one is analyzing it.

Here are the most important aspects of film:

  • Cinematography:

§  Refers to the types of shots and the camera work of the film

§  The cinematographer works in consultation with the director.

§  Shot selection and the types of images shown are sequenced in such a way that communicates meaning, and at the very least, communicates a certain mood.

§  Everything that appears within the frame is usually significant in some way.

§  Here is a list of commonly used techniques:

  • Establishing Shot: this is the first shot of a film, or a scene within a film, and usually involves showing the viewers an extreme wide shot of a particular setting.
  • Extreme Wide Shot: a shot taken from so far away that no subjects are visible.
  • Wide shot: the subject is fully visible from head to toe.
  • Mid-Shot: the subject appears in the frame from the waist up.
  • Medium Close Up: the subject appears in the frame from about the pectorals up
  • Close Up: Shows a part of the subject (usually the head and face), and this takes up the whole frame.
  • Extreme Close up: a detailed view of one particular part of a subject takes up the whole frame (for example, the subject’s ear).
  • Cut Away Shot: when the camera shows us something other than the subject before returning to the subject. It usually communicates contextual information about the scene, such as what a subject is looking at, or something that the subject does not see.
  • Point of View Shot: the camera takes the actual perspective of a subject, and shows us the world through their eyes.
  • Over-the Shoulder Shot: the camera is shown from behind a person looking at the subject.
  • Depth of Focus Shot: the subject is in focus, but the rest of the frame is blurry.
    • Some camera shots are named to describe a particular style of camera movement:
  • Tracking Shot: the camera is mounted on a cart which travels along tracks and moves through a certain space.
  • Arc Shot: a type of tracking shot, only the camera moves in a semi-circle around the subject.
  • Follow Shot: the camera follows the subject through space
  • Panning: Horizontal movement of the camera left or right from a central position. Unlike a Tracking Shot, the camera is stationary.
  • Tilt: Vertical movement of the camera from a central position.
  • Crane Shot: The camera is mounted on a crane and travels in an upward or downward movement.
  • Zoom Shot: the camera is positioned at a distance, and then zooms in using the lens of the camera.

Finally, one must also consider angles when studying cinematography as well:

a.   Bird’s Eye View: the subject is filmed with through camera above them and      looking down on them.

b.   High Angle: the subject is viewed from above with the camera tilted down, and tends to communicate a sense of inferiority.

  1. Low Angle: the subject is filmed from the ground with the camera tilted up, and tends to communicate a sense of superiority.
  2. Eye Level: the most common view, as we see the subjects as we would in real life.

§  Properly identifying a camera shot involves describing the shot type, considering the camera movement, and also the angle, and may involve a combination of these techniques. For example, it is possible to have a Tracking Wide Shot from a Low Angle.

  • Script:

§  The lines that are written in a screenplay or a screenwriter.

§  As with literature, the use of particular lines or particular events in a screenplay communicates meaning and theme.

§  In argumentation, then, it may be useful to draw attention to particular lines or events.

  • Editing:
  • Refers to the way that shots are assembled to tell story in filmmaking.
  • The kinds of transitions or cuts between shots  can contribute to creating tone and mood in a film
  • Here are some editing techniques:
    • Cut: an abrupt jump from one shot to another within a scene or sequence.
    • Fade: a slow transition in which the scene slowly fades into a black screen. It is often used in poignant or dramatic moments.
    • Dissolve: the shot seems to melt into another shot.
    • Jump cut: an abrupt jump from one scene to another unrelated scene, meant to create confusion and emotional tension in the viewer.
  • Music and Sound:
  • The selection of particular music, instrumental or otherwise, contributes to our sense of the message, theme or mood that the director is trying to convey, so it is important to pay attention to the piece of music that is chosen.
  • Music in a film can do many things:
    • It can create an emotional mood or tone.
    • It can be used in ironic ways
  • It can convey information about the character and his/her lifestyle.
  • Other Visual Elements that may Require Consideration
    • Colour:

§  The use of particular colour schemes in shots, setting or costumes can be associated with emotional tone or mood. Pay attention to colour, as it can provide clues about the theme or message that the film is trying to convey.

b. Lighting

§  Lighting also affects tone by emphasizing visibility or the obscurement of objects within a scene.

c. Set and Props.

§  The objects which appear in a setting and the setting itself serve to communicate information to the viewer about character, theme or mood.

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