Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Response to Marika Lüders, Lin Prøitz, and Terje Rasmussen’s “Emerging Personal Media Genres”

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The main focus of the reading “Emerging Personal Media Genres” by Marika Lüders, Lin Prøitz, and Terje Rasmussen is to illustrate how genres should be understood and applied in terms of modern day social media, particularly with the recent rise in blogs and selfies (947). Genres are important to understand because they provide insight as to what to expect from the media, while also giving a general framework for analyzing said genre and media.

Genres are “an interdisciplinary concept with analytical potential as it connects texts and social organization. It helps to clarify relationships between texts and media, as well as between texts and society” (948). This means that understanding how they function in relation to the writers and the readers is especially important because that essentially explains how and why that particular genre operates and succeeds in the way that it does. Take selfies for example. The person posting the picture and corresponding text has a specific idea or message in mind when posting the picture. Those on the receiving end may take away the intended message, or may form their own opinion of the post. Connecting these two mindsets and determining how they work together to form this emerging genre in social media can help us to better understand why people post the things that they do and why people react to these posts the way that they do. This is known as expectations and conventions (953), and it is a key element of understanding this genre.

Another key element of this genre is time. When factored in with expectations and conventions, this is another component within this genre that helps to explain why people act and react in the ways that they do (954). With media such as blogs and text messages, time is very important due to nature of material. Online journals and blogs, for example, might document the author’s daily activities or ideas one day at a time. Text messages, on the other hand, are meant to be quick and easily responded to. This draws back to the idea of time working in tandem with expectations and conventions to set the framework for this genre.

So is the desire for communication what drives this genre? Or is it the user’s desire to create an image or social presence for him or herself? I personally think that it is a combination of both. When I post on social media, for example, it is because I have something that I want to share. But there are times that I will stop myself from posting things because I wonder if those viewing it will have a negative response. This stifles communication and goes to show that I have a certain idea of what I want my social media presence to be. Similarly, there are times that I alter things that I want to post in an attempt to somehow change my initial message or how I want it to be received. There are also times that I will think of something that I want to say, but decide to wait until a better or more appropriate time to say it. Again, these traits support my thought that both communication and the user’s personal social media presence image are important in forming and explaining genre.

A Response to Henry Lowood’s “High-Performance Play: The Making of Machinima”

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“The early history of Machinima illustrates a number of themes in the appropriation of game technology to create a new narrative, even artistic medium. (Lowood 38).”

This article highlighted the ways in which Machinima was developed, improved, and sustained among the gaming community. Machinima, according to Lowood, is animated films created using first person shooter video games. It exemplifies the idea that “the dissemination of accessible tools – even if they are not necessarily easy-to-use – creates opportunities for the emergence of unexpected content in a postmodern environment that places playful experiments and throwaway pieces alongside startling and original instances of creative expression (Lowood 26).” But what does this mean? It means that the tools that are embedded in video games have had some unintended uses that have allowed users to showcase how they feel about, view, or play the game. By filming their realtime actions, the gamers are able to accurately portray their exact vision within the game to others. These visions can greatly differ between users, which adds to the creative expression aspect of Machinima.

Machinima is a film-like medium in many ways. Those creating Machinima are able to change the camera angle in which the film is shot, just like in traditional frame-based methods. However, they are shot in real time and the camera angle can be altered at any moment without affecting or having to go back and reshoot what is happening, so Machinima does have an advantage in that way (Lowood 33). Machinima is also a film-like medium because it pays attention to the sequence, the audio and visual in relation to each other, the mise-en-scène, and many more of the aspects associated with film. While the variation between Machinima is technically limited, there can be great variation between them due to the freedom that each user has during creation.

For my example of Machinima, I found a clip title “Los Santos Psycho,” which is a remake of the introduction to the movie American Psycho made using Grand Theft Auto 5. In this clip, some of the key elements of Machinima are easily identifiable. First, the changing camera angle and the attention that is paid to it by the creator. The different scenes, camera angles, and shots used in Los Santos Psycho also closely mimic those in American Psycho, although there are some slight parodic twists. Another element present is the attention paid to the movement and mannerisms of the virtual actor. The narration and movements of the character in the film are very similar to that of the narration in the movie, and in watching this clip side-by-side with the original, the creator’s intentions are clear, easily visible, and understood.

This is just one of countless examples of Machinima, but I thought that this one did a good job of displaying just how close attention to detail and creation a user can have in order to accurately depict and display what they have in mind. Perhaps one day Machinima will be the “original” film, and real life actors will be the ones doing the remaking.

A Response to Paul Wells’ “Animation: Genre and Authorship, Chapter 2: The Animation Process”

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Paul Wells’ “Animation: Genre and Authorship, Chapter 2: The Animation Process” brings to light both the history of animation and the differences between the different types of animation that have been created. In many ways, these modern day types of animation are similar to each other, in terms of how their design processes are carried out. But in other ways, they are different, mainly due to the rise of the CGI era. Artists are now able to broaden their horizons when designing animations because there are more resources available to them than just paper, a pencil, and a camera.

No matter the animation, however, there seems to be no limit as to what the characters within it can do. The affordances of characters within animations are essentially whatever the author decides, because there are no rules of reality that apply to them. The only time this really changes is when the production company has a say in the matter. Disney, for example, uses an aesthetic template for all of their animations, and in doing so takes away from some of the creativity of the artists (Wells 20). Artists are then forced to incorporate their personal visions and ideas in ways other than the characters, such as the background.

Affordances for the animation itself are seemingly endless, too. The author is able to sequence the film in whatever way they see fit, and can even alter the story line if it isn’t working as planned. These affordances are ones that I think will be very useful when creating our film for class. Because we are the authors of the film, and no one knows the message we are trying to get across other than us, we are able to tweak and edit the sequence, as well as the story line if necessary, in order to create a film that effectively conveys the idea we want to get across.

A Response to Barry Hampe’s “Visual Evidence”

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“A documentary is existential. It has to stand on its own. You can’t go along with the print and explain to the audience what you meant to show or shoot, or what a particular scene is supposed to mean. You simply have to shoot the best analog of the actual situation that you can manage and then edit the footage into a single, coherent print that will clearly communicate your intentions to the people who will see it. Sound-narration, dialogue, interviews, and music-may help the audience to interpret the documentary. But it won’t take the place of solid evidence in the form of concrete visual images (52).”

This is the key takeaway I got from reading “Visual Evidence” by Barry Hampe. In this reading, Hampe discusses how the visual aspects of documentaries are the most important in communicating an idea, a point, or a message. While narration is important, what the viewer sees is what truly shapes the documentary. He gave many examples of ways that he framed what he was filming in order to convey a distinct message, as well as ways that he edited the film so that only certain sequences were shown. In both of theses ways, he was able to shape the documentary to display exactly what he wanted to get across. Because documentaries do usually take a particular stance or mindset regarding what they are about, these factors are important to consider when filming and editing to make a finished product.

The documentary I watched for class was The House I Live In. In this documentary, the narrator is explaining why the War on Drugs has been a failure within the U.S., and does so by interviewing anthropologists, government officials, law enforcement, drug dealers and users, and convicted felons. Each of these interviews were conducted in-scene, which added to the visual evidence for viewers. Being able to see each of these interviewees in their respective settings (i.e. Anthropologists in their college office, police officers in their squad car, convicted felons in prions) it added to the effect and the realness of the documentary. Additionally, the sequence in which the shots were presented was important in shaping the documentary as a whole. First, we are introduced to the slums in which those arrested for drug related charges live. Then, the background to the War on Drugs and how these slums were created was explained and shown. And finally, we go back to those slums and to the prisons and talk to the people who have been directly affected by the War on Drugs. This order of presenting information proved very effective, because it draws the viewer in with the first scenes, then takes a stance while the viewer feels an emotional connection, and then combines the emotions and new knowledge of the viewer in the final scenes to tie the documentary together. By interviewing both sides of the argument, viewers are able to see how each side truly feels, and are then able to form their own opinion without fear that they have been presented biased, misrepresented, or untrue information. These examples of visual evidence were key in making this documentary, and helped to make it the success that it was. See the trailer for this documentary here:

A Response to Timothy Corrigan’s “Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing”

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In “Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,” Timothy Corrigan explains many different vocabulary terms and ideas relating to film and film-making that he believes are crucial for a viewer to have an informed opinion of what they are seeing. It is not so much the concrete definition of the terms that he thinks are important to know, but rather how the terms relate to film and how they are used within it. As Corrigan says on page 36, “Every discipline has its own special language or use of words that allows it to discuss its subject with precision and subtlety.” This applies to film in that an understanding of the different uses of these terms within a film can completely change the mood of the film, or the way in which the viewer is supposed to interpret it. There are a few key terms that Corrigan feels are essential for the base knowledge in analyzing film.

Theme – What is the film about?
Narrative – 3 parts: a) The actual storyline; b) The plot; c) The narration (perspective from which the narrative is told)
Characters – Are they main or minor? How do they relate to one another?
Point of View – Does the point of view from which the movie is being explained affect how you interpret the movie? Would another point of view change the movie?
Mise-en-Scène – Everything that is visible on scene (gestures, positioning, lighting, costumes, etc.). How do these objects, and their relation to each other, affect your interpretation of the film?
Realism – How does the story match up with the actual world? Is it supposed to?
The Shot – How do the actions presented, and the order they are presented, affect how you see the film? Is there a reason the camera focuses on specific characters, images, or places during a scene?
Moral – What is the specific morality associated with the story? (i.e. Does good defeat evil?)
Editing – Was the scene edited to convey a specific message? Was in used in the correct context, or out of context, to prove a point? This is especially important to consider when viewing film, because it completely shapes what we see, as well as when and how we see it.
Sound – What sounds were used, and were they used to enhance the visuals? Does the sequence in which the sound was presented affect the film? Does the sound match what is going on in the scene, or does it distract from it?

All of these terms, according to Corrigan, are important in understanding and analyzing film. By viewing each of these terms within a film in isolation, it is easier to draw a deeper understanding and meaning from the decisions made in making the film, and the message that was trying to be portrayed. In the last dance scene in Black Swan, for instance, there is a very intense moment with the main character. In this scene, the camera switches back and forth between the dancer’s face and her mother’s face, both of which are crying. Very dramatic classical music plays in the background, with no words exchanged between the two women. Then, the music stops as the pained dancer falls from her podium to end the dance. The way that the camera uses close-up images of both women, in conjunction with the bellowing, suspenseful music in the background, creates a very intimate, nerve-wracking scene for the audience. Because the entire movie had led up to this dance, it is a very suspenseful moment already, but the way that all of the elements came together during this scene (the dramatic lighting, the music in the background, the focus on the two women only) made this scene that much more heightened, and confirms Corrigan’s idea that a better understanding of these terms leads to a better interpretation of the film. This scene can be seen here at the 1:00 mark: