In Media, we often talk about the “language” of texts and many incorrectly assume we mean that in an English Studies sense.
Of course, we mean how technical aspects (codes) are used in text to suggest narrative, story, mood and meaning.
This page is intended to discuss a wide range of “language” in moving image texts – for example, movies.
High Key Lighting
Bright light with few shadows – can be seen as “happy”
Low Key Lighting
Lower light with shadows, dark tones, contrasts – tension or mystery
Low key and high contrast lighting, film noir
Low Angle Shot
Image taken from below the subject – can make it seem powerful
High Angle Shot
Image taken from above the subject – can make it seem vulnerable
Tilted/Dutch Angle (canted)
Tilted image – can show unease, disorientation, confusion, intoxication
Bird’s Eye View (overhead)
Image taken from directly overhead, unusual point of view, dramatic
Usually shows the entire human figure
Usually shows the waist up
Usually shows the whole face
Image is sharp – focus can be on foreground or background, or entire frame
Camera moves alongside the object it is recording – usually stays same distance from subject, but not always. Easier today with portable cameras.
Similar to tracking except camera moves towards or away from subject
Camera is fixed in position but is turned left or right
Camera is fixed in position, but is tilted up or down
Editing, cuts and transitions – see this useful video as an introduction.
Creates a continuous flow of narrative, clear understanding
Image fades out to a blank screen
Image fades while being replaced by another image fading in
Non-continuous cut which could jump in time or location, can be startling, unsettling, or exhilarating.
Character is gazing at something – next shot perceived as what they see
The image, shapes, colours of one shot match the previous one
Sound that happens in the world of the film, e.g. the characters can hear it
Marty plays the guitar on stage in Back to the Future
Sound that the characters can’t hear – the movie’s soundtrack, narration
Most film soundtracks!
Where the sound we hear suits the mood or tone of the scene
Exciting music during action scene
Where the sound contrasts with the mood or tone of the scene.
Live action sound recreated in the studio using everyday objects.
Within the film, or the soundtrack.
Words spoken by the characters
Computer generated imagery
Green backgrounds which can be digitally replaced in the final film
Detailed painting on glass used to create the illusion of environments
Slow-motion effect where camera seems to rotate around a frozen moment
Slowing down/speeding up movement to create dramatic and stylish effects
Scale models used to represent real objects
|MISE EN SCENE |
Everything in the frame.
Objects used to make the scene more realistic
- Body language
Messages given by the position of the body
Clothing worn by characters, design, colours, choice can be important
- Facial expression
Emotion shown by the performer’s face
Real or specially built locations for filming to take place
Cut, design and colour of hair which could indicate character or time period
Used to enhance features, add ageing, illness etc.
There’s a lot to learn!
But by watching movies and spotting these features, you will become more familiar with how they are used and the filmmakers reasons for using them.
The next step then, would be to start using them in your own film projects!