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March 02, 2008

Textual Analysis OCR Moving Image Hub Page

Textual Analysis OCR Moving Image Hub Page

PLEASE NOTE: VERY IMPORTANT

Any information relating to the OCR AS Media Studies Exam  from September 2008 ONLY relates to students who are doing resits from earlier this year. There is now a completely new specification which is based upon TV Drama & Representation.

I Repeat the new specification starting in September 2008 does NOT include Actio-Adventure films

For work on the new specification: TV Drama please follow this link

Introduction

Several colleges and schools have put up information about this exam so I have decided to  create a hub page and copy and paste where there is different information and material.

Hub links  

For more detailed work on the shot please follow this link

For more detailed work on Camera Movement / Mobile Framing please follow the link 

For more details about the use of sound including some YouTube examples follow this link

For discussion and YouTube Extracts about mise en scene please follow this link

For a revision check list of things to remember in a grid form to practise doing textual analysis at home please follow this link  

Breakdown of OCR AS Media Moving Image Section of Textual Analysis 

This section comes from Northallerton College It is mainly taken from OCR's own material describing the exam specifications.  

The purpose of this unit is to assess your media textual analysis skills using a short unseen moving image media extract and to assess your understanding of the concept of representation using two texts.

The unit is assessed by examination in May of the AS year. The exam is 2 hours (including 30 minutes for viewing and making notes on the moving image extract) and you are required to answer two compulsory questions. The unit is marked out of a total of 90, with each question marked out of 45.

There are two sections to this paper:

Section A (45 marks)

An unseen moving image extract, between three to five minutes long, from the Action/Adventure genre. There will be one compulsory question dealing with textual analysis of technical aspects of the languages and conventions of moving image medium.

Section B (45 marks)

One compulsory question on a comparative study of two Situation Comedies which you will have studied in class. The comparison will largley focus upon representation of gender.

UNIT CONTENT

Section A will focus on Action/Adventure Films and will require you to study the technical aspects of moving image language and conventions.The focus of study for Section A is specifically the use of technical aspects of the moving image medium, and its effects on the meaning of the text for audience, rather than the content of the text itself. The technical aspects that you are required to be familiar with for the unseen extract are:

  • Camera Angle, Shot, Movement and Position (Establishing shot; master shot; close-up (and variations); long shot; wide shot; two-shot; high angle; low angle; aerial shot; point of view; pan; crane; tilt; track; dolly; zoom/reverse zoom;framing; composition; hand-held; steadicam)
  • Editing (Sound and vision editing – cut; fade; wipe; edit; FX; dissolve; long take; superimpose; slow motion;synchronous/asynchronous sound)
  • Sound (Soundtrack; theme; tune; incidental music; sound effects; ambient sound; dialogue; voiceover;mode of address/direct address)
  • Special Effects/Graphics (captions; computer generated images (CGI); animation; pyrotechnics; stunts; models; back projection)
  • Mise-en-Scène (Location, set, studio/set design; costume; properties; ambient lighting; artificial lighting; production design period/era; colour design)

Action / Adventure Films

The information below is once again lifted directly from the OCR textbook.

This unit tests analytical skills and assists you in learning how media texts are constructed. For 2003 and 2004 you are required to study action / adventure films.

The focus is on TECHNICAL ANALYSIS, which means that you need to study techniques used to construct texts. (This is done in detail to help you research FORMS & CONVENTIONS).

The test is UNSEEN so you can look at a number of different ways in which forms and conventions are used.

You need to develop the TECHNICAL VOCABULARY to describe texts. This will be necessary to enhance your practical work.

THE EXAM.

An extract of between three and five minutes will be shown. It will be shown FOUR TIMES in 30 minutes. You have a further 45 minutes to write your answer.

It will not matter if you have seen or not seen the extract before.

GENRE. This is a major Media Studies concept. You will show that you have studied the conventions of the Action / Adventure genre.

The CODES employed in a text are defined by the genre. There are also technical codes associated with the genre e.g. loud and fast orchestral music accompanies the action. This music would be out of place in the middle of a soap opera or during a news clip.

TEXTUAL CODES - An Overview.

N.B. Various examiners over the years specify different codes. Current OCR thinking specifies TECHNICAL CODES, as well as CHARACTER CODES and REPRESENTATIONAL CODES.

OCR also mentions SOCIAL CODES and the REPRESENTATIONAL CODES to be found within the Technical Codes mentioned above.

TECHNICAL CODES such as CAMERA CODES, LIGHTING CODES, EDITING CODES and SOUND or MUSIC CODES create EXPECTATIONS, and signal the GENRE of a TV programme or film. For example, the lighting of characters face is a code. If the face is lit from the top or below gives the character a harsh or soft expression. High angle shots make the character seem small and vulnerable.

CHARACTER CODES include costume, make-up, gestures and language.
(Film villains inherit many of their codes from days of silent cinema e.g. dark clothing, disability, and villainous gestures). STEREOTYPES are used to build on viewers' previous experience of film and of their own world.

Character Codes are predictable and can be used as a 'shorthand,' to tell a story quickly or they can be broken for dramatic effect (when a 'goody' turns out to be 'baddy').

REPRESENTATIONAL CODES

There are REPRESENTATIONAL CODES such as the DIALOGUE and the NARRATIVE employed in a text. They establish whether it is a current affairs programme, a comedy, or another genre.

We are constantly confronted with genre in this way through both TV and film, and we are able to respond appropriately as they fit in with our own experience, ideology and knowledge of the world.

Even if we do not understand a foreign programme we can still 'read' the signs and codes and understand the type of programme it might be.

SPECIFIC ANALYSIS

After studying genre conventions and basic codes, you must look at texts to see how technical codes are used to ESTABLISH the GENRE.

The examination will ask you to comment upon how the text communicates with / manipulates / engages the audience through the use of technical codes.

As a conclusion for each question about the technical codes you will be asked to comment upon the rationale behind this approach and reflect upon its success. This is intended to ensure that you do not simply describe the technical codes employed without considering their function.

You must go beyond describing what you see and hear and explain why and how the texts are constructed in the way that they are.

It is not possible in 45 minutes to discuss everything, but you can make an informed decision about which are the most significant codes.

The list of codes which follows, is NOT a definitive list - some may turn out to be irrelevant.

By observing a selection of action / adventure movies you may discover other codes which may apply.

SIX TECHNICAL AREAS (Treat every filmic discipline as codes to be read and understood by an audience which 'reads' the messages in the text.

  1. Camera techniques framing and angle
  2. Camera techniques - movement
  3. Editing
  4. Manipulating time
  5. Sound
  6. Graphics / special effects

1. Camera techniques framing and angle

e.g. Long shots - show large subjects and their surroundings

Extreme long shots - sometimes used as establishing shots. They emphasise background and reduce importance of the subject. Can be used as MARKERS between scenes - tension often builds from this point.
Establishing shots define the location and give audience a perspective on the action to come. They are often essential to initially defining the genre.

Master shots - are similar to establishing shots and are used at the beginning of sequences.

Medium long shots - often frame a standing actor. Lower frame line will cut off actor's feet.

Mid-shots - emphasise both the subject and its setting in roughly equal measure. Emphasises body language from head, chest and hands.

Close-up - shows a fairly small part of the scene. It abstracts the subject from its context. See also Medium close-up (head and shoulders), big close-up or extreme close-up (forehead to chin).
Close-ups focus on emotions or reactions, and are sometimes used in chat shows to show people in a state of emotional excitement, grief or joy.

BCU's are intense, MCU's less so; the camera maintaining a sense of distance.

Angle of Shot - conventionally subjects are framed at eye-level. Divergence from eye-level tends to have a specific meaning. High angles can make the viewer more powerful than the people on screen, or can suggest an air of detachment. A low-angle shot places the camera below the subject, exaggerating his / her importance.

Point-of-view shot (POV) - a shot made from a camera position close to the line of sight of a subject, to imply the camera is 'looking with their eyes'. Can be used to imply defencelessness in action film.

2. Camera techniques - movement

Zoom - when zooming in the camera does not move; the lens is focused down from a long shot to a close-up whilst recording. The subject grows in the frame, and attention is concentrated on details previously invisible as the shot tightens. It may be used to surprise the viewer. Reverse zoom reveals more of the scene (perhaps where a character is, or to whom he or she is speaking) as the shot widens. Zooming is unusual because of the disorientating effects.

Tracking (dollying) - when tracking, the camera itself is moved smoothly towards or away from the subject while the focus remains constant. Tracking in (like zooming) draws the audience into a closer relationship with the subject: moving away tends to create emotional distance.

Tracking back tends to divert attention to the edges of the screen. The speed of tracking may affect the viewer's mood. Fast tracking (especially when tracking in) is exciting; tracking back eases tension.

Tracking in can force the audience to focus on something such as the expression of a character. During chase scenes the camera will often 'track' with the action to emphasise the sense of speed.

Pan - the camera moves from right to left or left to right to follow a moving subject. A space is left in front of the subject to ensure that the pan 'leads' rather than 'trails'.
A pan usually begins and ends with a few seconds of still picture to give a greater impact. The speed of a pan across a subject creates a particular mood as well as establishing the viewer's relationship with the subject.

Whip-pan - a very fast pan causing the subject to blur.

Hand-held camera - a hand-held camera can produce a jerky, bouncy, unsteady image, which may create a sense of immediacy or chaos. A hand-held camera can be used to build up tension with unsteady images.

Steadicam - a hand-held camera worn as a kind of harness. It uses a gyroscope system to ensure the camera remains perfectly level and smooth as the camera moves. For example, a steadicam was used at the beginning of Gladiator to film the battle scenes, so the camera could be within the action to engage the audience more directly. The effect was first used in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

3. Editing techniques & 4. Manipulating Time

Cut - a change of shot from one viewpoint or location to another. This may be done to change the scene, vary the point of view, elide time or lead the audience's thoughts, for example at the opening of Gladiator where the CU on the hand trailing through the grass in the sunshine cuts to a MCU of Maximus waiting to begin the battle. The audience immediately makes the assumption that the hand and the character are connected.

There is always justification for a cut. Where a 'transition' itself is important it can be highlighted, for example, by using a fade to black to suggest a passing of time or a change of scene.

Reaction shot - any shot (often also a cutaway), in which a subject reacts to a previous shot.

Invisible editing - the vast majority of narrative films are now edited in this way. The cuts are intended to be unobtrusive except for special dramatic shots. It supports rather than dominates the narrative: the plot and the characters are the focus. The technique gives the impression that the edits are motivated by the events in the 'reality' on screen.

Mise-en-scene - meaning is communicated though the relationship of things visible within a single shot. Composition is therefore extremely important. All features of the background, costume, proxemics (or spacing, relationship of objects to others), lighting, style of production and framing are significant.

Setting - can be location or studio, realistic or stylised. Aspects of the setting or props in the text may take on symbolic meanings such as the red and blue pill in The Matrix.

Costume and make-up - these follow on from and develop these concepts. Towards the beginning of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the elaborate costumes into which Jen is forced serve both to emphasise the importance other family and position (indicating the reason why she should not misbehave), but also to reveal the restrictions and limitations of her world (showing why she feels stifled and longs to break free).

Costumes in The Matrix are futuristic and aggressive, with frequent use of sunglasses for effect and impact. This heightens the atmosphere of the film and imparts depth to the characters.

5. Sound

Music or sound, that belongs within the frame or can be considered to be a natural part of the narrative, is called DIEGETIC music. The source of the sound is often, but not always visible on screen. When the sound (usually music) is used without being part of the action (such as whenever Neo is pushed between the matrix and reality in The Matrix, it is defined as NON-DIEGETIC.

Music is a key SOUND CODE. The type of music in a text can convey a great deal of information about the mood and tone of the text. Tension can be established, emotions communicated and the music can be used as a comment on the action, to set the context for the next sequence or to provide closure, such as the beginning and end of a round in a quiz show or the entry of a new guest on a TC chat show. Music can be very powerful in shaping the form of the text. The rhythm of the music can dictate the rhythm of the cuts, such as the way the drum controls the cuts in the fight sequences in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or can be used to establish tension. Silence can be used to create tension.

Voice-Over / Narration are used mainly in TV. Commentary can be used to mediate the audience's interpretation of visuals e.g. in Mad Max II.

Sound can be used as a bridge, to maintain continuity in a sequence by running a soundtrack under a series of images to link them. This can be useful in chase sequences for example to both create tension and to link the parallel stories of chaser and victim. The music in The Matrix acts as an underscore in this way on several occasions.

6. Special Effects and graphics

Titles are central to the opening of a text and may be interspersed at different points during the text to act as information (such as an overlay giving information about time and place) or as markers to define the action (the context information at the beginning of a film such as at the beginning of Gladiator) or to provide visual interest and reflection, or vital information such as use of subtitles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The style of text on screen can be deconstructed just as with a print text and choice of font, colour, size and so forth will all be directly related to the text.

Graphics can be used in many ways. Where used, they can be analysed as a part of the mise-en-scene of a piece and should not detract from the text.

Still images can be superimposed on each other on screen to create an effect - superimposed images ate merged to some degree as opposed to overlaid images, which hide whatever is behind them on the screen.

CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is now common in both film and TV and yet increasingly hard to identify. Identifying the scenery seen through the back window of a moving car as a back projection is easy - it is not so straightforward with more sophisticated techniques and equipment.

Most action / adventure movies make great use of special effects. Some of the final scenes in Gladiator had to be constructed using CGI following actor Oliver Reed's death. The Coliseum and the vast vistas of Rome were almost all created using CGI. (Compare these with those of Ben Hur or The Fall of the Roman Empire.

Action is frequently shot against a 'blue screen' or a 'green screen' so that the appropriate background can be constructed using CGI and the two merged to make the scene. The use of the 'blue screen' or 'green screen' means that this simple colour is easily to identify and 'key out' of the scene using a computer. It is, however, important that actors or presenters do not wear clothes of the same or similar colours or they can seem to disappear off screen.

CAMERAWORK & CINEMATOGRAPHY in ACTION / ADVENTURE FILM

A substantial number of Hollywood films are action / adventure films. The term is often used to define a single genre, since it can often be difficult to differentiate between the two. Films that might be included within this genre include Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone as well as the James Bond films.

Action / Adventure films are exciting stories in exotic locations. The plot will be action driven with danger and excitement throughout.

The audience may experience conquests, explorations, battles, discovery, creation of empires, and situations which threaten to destroy the main characters.

Adventure films were intended to appeal mainly to men, creating major heroic stars through the years such as Arnold Schwartzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

These courageous, patriotic or altruistic heroes often fought for their beliefs, struggled for freedom and overcame injustice.

More modern films have been balanced with female stars as well. From this came movies such as 'Speed', 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' etc.

Within the genre can be included traditional 'swashbucklers' and epics, disaster films, or searches for the unknown.

They may include stories of historical heroes, kings, battles, rebellion or piracy.

The action / adventure film first became popular with weekly Saturday serials, running in instalments that often had 'cliff-hanging' endings to entice viewers to return to the next show. (Heroine Pearl White in the silent era's The Perils of Pauline (1914); was the first major super-star of these serials.

Later examples included successful cheap or 'B' movies; 'Flash Gordon', 'Buck Rogers' and 'Captain Marvel'.

Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', (1981), the first of a very successful trilogy, was a tribute to these Saturday morning matinees with comic-book archaeologist hero Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) battling the Nazis while searching for the sacred Ark of the Covenant. 'Romancing the Stone' and 'The Jewel of the Nile' were similarly successful.

The first full-length adventure films were the swashbucklers which included many 'stock elements' such as lavish sets, costumes and weapons of the past. They were often built action scenes of sea battles, castle duels, sword and cutlass fighting e.g. Errol Flynn as Captain Blood, (1935), Robin Hood (1938) and the Sea Hawk (1940). Also notable from this era, Burt Lancaster as 'The Crimson Pirate' (1952).

Action / adventure Films have a tremendous impact, continuous high energy, lots of stunts, possibly extended chase scenes, rescues, battles, fights, escapes, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous heroes - all designed for pure audience escapism with the action / adventure sequences at the centre of the film.

The cinematography and sound is directly structured to sustain this level of activity throughout.

Within the genre, these days, there can be said to be many genre hybrids: sci-fi, thrillers, crime-drama, kung-fu, westerns and war.

Always however, they have a resourceful hero / heroine, struggling against incredible odds, or an evil villain, and or trapped in various modes of transportation (bus, ship, train, plane etc), with resolution achieved at the end of the movie, after two crisis points along the way.

Action / adventure films have traditionally been aimed at male audiences, aged 13 to mid-30s, although modern action / adventure films have features strong female characters to attract a wider audience.

Among the most well-known and well defined modern day action / adventure hero is James Bond. Beginning in the 60s, the slick Bond 'formula' appealed to large audiences with their exotic locations, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, high-tech gadgets, fast-action suspense, impossible stunts and stunning women.

The action hero battled unlikely and incredible criminals, usually without even staining his dinner suit.

The action / adventure-film genre has been among the most successful genre in recent years. Raw, indestructible, powerful and muscular heroes of modern, ultra-violent action / adventure films are often very unlike the swashbuckling heroes of the past.

Each decade has tended to define its own heroes for the genre and this has defined the style of action / adventure films. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a career out of starring in action films in the 80s and 90s, most notably in the action / adventure films Conan the Barbarian (1982), Commando (1986), Raw Deal (1986), Predator (1987), Red Heat (1988), and True Lies (1994), and also the hybrid sci-fi/action/adventure films.
His more recent films have been less successful - perhaps because he has attempted to move beyond the action / adventure genre?

To analyse the technical codes for the action / adventure genre is essentially the same as to analyse the technical codes for most mainstream Hollywood output.

There are stock conventions used in action / adventure films but these should be familiar to you from many films that you have seen. The process of analysing will be more straightforward since you will have a more secure frame of reference than if you were researching a less popularist genre.

Suggested Activities

  1. You are casting a new action / adventure movie similar to The Terminator. Draw up a character description for your lead character assuming he will be a conventional hero. Define at least FIVE CONVENTIONS of the ROLE e.g. (tall, dark, handsome, like Mr Mannix!?!). Consider the implications of casting a non-conventional hero.
  2. Select two short sequences of not more than five minutes long. Using the skills that you have studied on textual analysis earlier in this chapter explain how the sequences reflect the codes and conventions of action / adventure movies.

YOU MUST FOLLOW UP THIS PAGE BY READING PAGES ON:-

The Art of Film (Bordwell & Thomson)
Codes Summary

Resources

Handling the Exam Advice 

The most recent examiners report gave the following advice

• Make useful detailed notes on the extract
• Identify moving image language techniques accurately
• Select appropriate examples from the extract to discuss – you do not have to cover the
whole extract or every example
• Analyse why/how these aspects are used to create meaning for the spectator, deconstruct
what you see and hear, explain function, purpose and effect
• Refer closely to the set extract – no generalised analysis of action adventure films nor
reference to what you might know about the rest of the film
• Cover all five aspects – do not miss one out
• Avoid just describing what happens – do not just give a descriptive chronological
commentary – analyse and interpret.


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