Reading A Movie

This week, my digital studies class focused on video. The video resources I reviewed this week were by far the most useful to me compared with the previous weeks’ resources. In the past, I received an Associate’s Degree in Multimedia. It was fairly comprehensive. Additionally, I spent more than 10 years doing freelance graphic design and digital art. Yet, my past experience focused very little on video. Of course, I learned several programs and I am competent at video and sound editing. I just never had the intense focus on video as Part I of this course provided.

First, I reviewed Roger Ebert’s article, How to Read A Movie. In this article, I learned about various ideas such as:

  • Camera Angles and Point of View (POV)
  • Character placement (in a frame)
  • Background vs. Foreground

I will explore some of these topics in more detail as I discuss the video resources provided this week.

Kubrick//One-Point Perspective

View this short video below so that you can follow along with the discussion.

This Kubrick compilation shows roughly 10 movies in which Stanley Kubrick used the same camera angle for all of the shots. The camera angle focuses down a long hallway or corridor. Sometimes there is a door or opening at the far end of the hallway. Sometimes the hallway is literal and sometimes it is just a figurative long and narrow space. This one shot presents several different emotions: fear, anticipation, or power. Overall, it seems to be a transition from one scene to the next, one feeling to the next, or one experience to the next. Honestly, I’m amazed at how often creators use one angle, one sound effect, one theme, etc. consistently throughout the life of their work.

The Shining//Zooms

Watch the video below to follow along.

Everyone know the famous “Here’s Johnny” scene from The Shining. But have you ever questioned why this scene is so effective? Why is it so scary? One reason is the use of zoom.

Curtesy Photo/Warner Bros.

The Shining movie is one of my favorites. I always that it was shot in a weird way, but never stopped to think about the how or why of it. Just reviewing the short clip above, I realized that zooming in/out is a huge part of the movie. This particular clip is not very effective. It was difficult for me to understand the impact or effect of the zoom because of how this video clip was created. Placing all of these zoom clips into one screen made it very difficult to see what was happening. My brain tried to focus on everything at once, which just caused chaos.

The background music and sound effects made the clip feel suspenseful and scary, but I cannot tell if this was just directed by this editor or if that is in fact the impact of the zoom used in The Shining. I will need to do more research to understand the video effect of zooming in/out. One thing that stood out was that these were all slow zooms. And, when I think back to the movie, it moved very slow. There was a lot of film and zoom shots which built to this climax of haunting/possession. The movie took forever to get there though. So, I think that using the zoom so much definitely impacts the pacing of the movie. This could be purposeful or accidental. I’m not sure.

Tarantino//From Below

Watch the video below. What do you think about the low angle used in this clip?

This video clip features the low angle. The low angle is when the camera looks up at someone or something. It creates a feeling of domination. Whoever is above the camera angle seems dominant even if there are multiple people. Sometimes this effect, as portrayed in the above clip, presented the viewer as part of the movie scene. It appeared that whatever action the dominant character did was actually being done to the viewer. It was difficult to tell if the dominant characters were good or bad. I felt like all the characters presented here were bad, but that could just be an effect of using the low angle. I wonder if using a low angle makes the viewer perceive the dominant characters as bad even if they are actually good.

Final Thoughts

The examples of video techniques were most useful to learn about various ways to portray a character or idea. I watched these videos with my daughter and it was interesting that she picked up on the same things I did even though she had no background understand about what she was supposed to be seeing. Learning about these different video techniques was so interesting that I watched all of the suggested resources. If you are interested you can see them below:

  1. Examples of Editing Techniques
  2. Example of a Match Cut
  3. Camera Angles and Techniques
  4. Hitchcock Loves Bikinis

My favorite of the above clips for illustrating the impact of video editing is Hitchcock Loves Bikinis. The video is so short but makes the point that video matters, and it can change your whole interpretation of what is happening in a scene. It can also change your understanding of the character of a person.

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