Approaches to analysing audio-visual contents
Written by Rok Govednik, Vizo Institute
When we are at the beginning of our professional career in film (or making any audio-visual contents), it is of utmost importance to be able to evaluate film works created by other filmmakers. In doing so, we simultaneously or precisely because of this, form our own tastes, affinities in our own film expression and attitudes towards film reality more broadly. So let’s get to know some of the key questions that are worth asking ourselves with every film (or series, etc.). Let them be cues for you to talk to friends you went to the cinema with, your classmates, your teachers or, above all, to ask yourself. It sounds funny, but it is important that you find the energy and that you have fun in the process. In this way, you will develop articulation in your taste in film, your own preferences and you will discover the wonderful world of cinema.
What was the film trying to communicate?
It is important to be able to discern the meanings that are secretly revealed, or very explicitly, in film frames. Be aware, therefore, that some layers of a film or a series, are more easily perceived and understood, while others are hidden behind the symbolic representations of the film images.
The question “What is happening in the film?” can be the starting point, and most of the time we start thinking about the story. It is important, if you watch the film with people who have more life experience than you, to hear their opinions too, because they perceive certain metaphors and symbols more easily. Films provide wonderful social and cultural meeting points, so make the most of them.
How is the film communicating?
You are asking about specific filmic means of expression, about how the narrative has been constructed cinematically. What approaches attracted us or stood out in this film? Here you can think about the film frame, camera movement, editing, sound, film space and time, special effects, film projection and distribution, acting, directing, set design, costume design and, last but not least, the screenplay.
As you ask yourself this question more and more often (and watch more and more audio-visual content), your capacity and ability to unpack the approaches and the different styles of filmmaking will grow.
What do I think about this?
This question will help you express what is your attitude towards the work, the content, filmmaking or the filmmakers themselves. You will develop film sensitivity and empathy. Ultimately, you will develop a taste for cinema that will attract you more and more towards certain films and film forms.
Let’s hear films
Written by Katja Likar, Vizo Institute
We are visual creatures. Gazing at the horizon at sunset, looking for hours at a picture of our loved one, noticing beautiful architectural details in a city that we are visiting are considered quite ordinary activities. But.. what does it happen when it comes to auditive information?
It is strange, for most of us sound is just something that surrounds us in our everyday life but we rarely, if ever, analyse it. Stop for a moment and wherever you are, out of pure enjoyment focus to the rhythmic sound of the hundreds of footsteps on a busy street or to the magic sound of the autumn leaves swirling in the wind and than to notice also all the other many subtle or loud sounds of that specific place where you are.
Well, in reality even though we rarely stop to listen to our surroundings we are quite good at perceiving sound. After all hearing is one of the first senses we grasp after we are born and it is tightly linked with identifying and processing emotions. If we think about it, especially when it comes to speech we are masters at noticing subtle changes of tone.
Dialogue is, in most films, the essential part of sound, but we must not forget that there are also other sounds that are quite important for the story, like the sounds of the ambience that gives us the information about the place and sometimes also about the general state of mind, the sound effects or foleys that are connected to some kind of action (like for example a door closing, walking in a quite but dangerous alley or shooting with a rifle) and yet again, they can be utilised to express much more, and last but not least, music that carries us into a specific mood or emotion. All these sounds are carefully constructed and blended together in postproduction. When making the sound of a film we tend to create or to reinforce an illusion: be it of an action, of a space, of the presence of people or of a specific feeling… and well, good sound has also the power to give rhythm and flow to a film. In fact it is commonly said that a film can get away with poor visuals but not with bad sound. It is almost like our brain becomes instantly alerted when something sounds off and it usually catapults us right out of that cinematic reality, in which we would otherwise be immersed into.
Films tend to play with our perception and very often it is more effective or even required to drive the focus to a certain feeling or to construct a fantasy world rather than just mimic the reality. Sounds must sound real, even though we have to stress that sometimes realism in films is not desired at all. If we stop to analyse it, there are some interesting peculiarities: for example, apart from the fact that a lot of sounds in a film are somewhat exaggerated and the fact that in films, unlike in real life, we are not surprised at all to hear music while a beautiful girl is walking down the street, we should also know that the rules of physics in filmic realities are not quite the same as those in real life. In real life we hear a distant sound with some delay, whereas in a film total synchronicity of sound is almost a necessity or it quickly becomes too confusing for the spectator to detect the source of a specific sound.
So, if the idea of pursuing a career in sound for film attracts you, just know that it requires some technical skills, a lot of playfulness and creativity, some knowledge of acoustics and psychoacoustics and a sharp ear… but, you are right, it can be quite magic. And everybody has started simply by being a good listener.
Specific means of film expression
Written by Rok Govednik, Vizo Institute
As any art, also film has its own means of expressions, that separate it from other art disciplines.
Is the broadest and most important mean of expression. In the director’s terminology is called ‘shot’ and even if its analysis would have to take a broad group of elements it is the shortest segment of the recording.
- Camera movement
With the movement of the camera we determine the rhythm of the film, make things visible or hide them (cadre caché).
Sound editing can completely artificially establish new film dimensions and feelings of a film narrative (genre), it can determine the rhythm, heighten the tension or create a state of calm.
The work of editing crucially ‘brings the film to life’, because without it, we would only be watching a sequence of shots from filming that would form no meaning.
- Film space, time and rhythm
Film space and time are also called ‘film geography’. Cinematic reality and cinematic experience are built on these two values of the film, and are made possible by film editing.
- Special effects
These are mostly part of the post-production work. Special effects articulate the kinesthetics, the narrative tension of the story, the rhythm of the film; that is why they are strongly tied to the genres of horror, fantasy and action films.
- Film projection
Generally, it is necessary to think about film projection before the start of production. On a technical level, we are talking about the size of the film projection, the image format, the quality of the image and sound, the comfort of viewing, etc.
Reaching target groups is part of marketing and market planning, so we can say that this mean of film expression is mostly oriented towards the business aspect of film. When we distribute a film, we think about what kind of trailer and poster to prepare, which information from the shooting of the film to reveal, which film festival send the film to, where to organise the world premiere of the film, etc.
What is it ‘filmic’ about a film?
Introduction to the means of film expression
Written by Rok Govednik, Vizo Institut
The purpose of this article is to highlight the key elements that determine the ‘filmic’ in a film. At the same time, it is important to draw the attention to the creative work of the multitude of film workers who, with their joint efforts, make films possible. After every film, you can applaud them while you watch the film credits that appear at the end of the film. Maybe someday you will be one of them too.
In addition to the specific means of film expression, the film also has non-specific means of expression such as directing, acting, script, set design, costume design, mask, music, etc. These are non-specific to the film because we know them from other art disciplines already.
We must know that there is a strongly established articulation about ‘film language’, i.e. about what the film builds and what it expresses. When we talk about ‘filmic language’, we really mean specific elements or structures that highlight the film. A film that does not ‘address’ us is a film that has no value according to the criterion of a personal system of values and aesthetics. When it comes to the reception of the film, we often speak also through contexts, symbols and connotations. Thus, we can see that this ‘expressiveness’ is somewhat linked to literary criticism, and above all to linguistic tradition, semiotics and structuralism, to which the film was most seriously exposed (later also to post-structuralism and psychoanalysis).
The aforementioned theoretical treatment gives the film a much-needed relevance, especially now, at a time when the film quickly gets lost in a pile of perishable and ephemeral content, be it only because of its simple form of enjoyment. All this power that comes from the background of film theory and history, points to a clear set of means that determine the film. You can read more about the Specific means of film expression here (hyperlink).
Promoting the project among the academic staff of The Engineering and Pedagogy Faculty in Sliven.
Presenting the project to the principal and head teachers of English Language School – Burgas
Very fruitful partner meeting has been held in Vienna