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TV Textual Analysis - Creeber

TV Textual Analysis - Creeber


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Published by Julie Thrasher
Extract from Glen Creeber on how Textual Analysis works with regard to TV
Extract from Glen Creeber on how Textual Analysis works with regard to TV

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Published by: Julie Thrasher on Mar 05, 2009
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CASE STUDY Shot-by-Shot Glen Analysis Creeber

All approaches the textuality of televisionwill rely to on a basicunderstandingof sound and image and the language used to discussthem. This is normally reGrred to as a 'shot-by-shot' analysis that allows all textual approachesto examine television in a succinct and universal manner whatever the particular methodology employed. Unlike Film Studies (for example, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompsont Film Art: An Introduction 11990]),TelevisionStudies hasbeensurprisingly poor at providingstudents with a basic understanding of how to study and discuss the basic components of a television text. Indeed, it is surprising how few introductions to television

(with the possibleexceptionsof Butler [199a], Selby and Cowdery [1995] and Bignell 12004])even cover this sort offundamental analysis.This a greatshame is as,in my view, too many television studentsare leaving universities as skilled semioticiansbut without knowing the difference bef,weena lbng shot and a close-up. Karen Lury (2005) has recently examined the television text by breaking it down into four componentsi.e.'Image','Sound','Time'and.Space'.This is a useful way of looking at the different textual components of television and can provide a good f sourcefor further reading.However, for the pur"por. I

A nal ysi n g Telev is ion of this section I will loosely followJohn Fiske,s clas- a high-angle shot may encourage the viewer to feel sic examination of television through ten major cat_ a sense of power over the action, a low-angle shot egories.According to Fiske,such an analysisshould may produce a sense of intimidation or inferioriry include examining these basic 'codes of television, for the viewer. Equally, an eye-level shot might (1987,4-r3): construct a sense of empathy . . . . . . . . . . . . Camerawork Lighting Editing Sound and music Graphics Mise en scine Casting Setting and costume Make-up Action Dialogue Ideologicalcodes
and equality between the viewer and the action.A shot,/reverse shot may also be useful in these circumstances, a method by which two shots are edited together so as to follow

the dialogue in a conversarion. Different types of lenses or focus can also be used in the construction of a shot.While a standard-lens the same depth of field as you get in real life, the wideangle shot and the telephoto lens can dramatically and proportions alter the senseof depth or point of view (for example, lens can create a greater sense of voyeurism). the telephoto Equally the use of focus in a scene car- create a different style or mood. For example, soft focus may heighten the sense of romance in a scene while deep focus (where everything is equally in focus) is more likely to be used to create a sense of realism. Shallow focus (where parts of the scene are in focus and others are not) may be used to suggest a sense of docu_ mentary realism (where focus is traditionally harder to control) or used to direct a viewer's attention ro a particular object or piece ofaction. Finally, the rype of camera used can influence the. style and feel of a piece of television. For example, a carnera or Steaficam (a camera that is strapped to the body of a cameraman) is often used in documentaries because it is lighter and generally easier to manoeuvre than other types of camera that might operate on a crane, dolly (a wheeled carrrera support) or tracks (known as tracking). However, when employed in drama a hand-held camera might produce a great sense of realism because its shaky, seemingly unrehearsed sryle gives a greater impression that the events on screen are taking place spontaneously. This effect may be extenuated with whip pans i.e. when a carr.era moves so fast that there is a loss of focus. The choice between filrn stock (for example, fine or grainy) may also alter the general look and feel of a piece of television.'While fine film stock momentarily hand-held shot tends to approximate

Fiske'sinventory can act as a good checklist when writing an essayand it is certainly important to understand these categoriesin some detail before embarking on your own analysis. CAMERAWORK To be able to discussthe camerawork that disringu.ishes piece of television is clearly an important a first step in applying textual analysis to the small screen.For example,the size of a shot can clearly influence how a particular sceneor piece ofaction is portrayed.'V/hile a long shot (or extreme long shot) may make the viewer feel distant from the action (this is why it is sometimesused as an establishing shot i.e. a shot that establishes where the action is to take place),a medium shot (sometimes known as a head-and-shoulders shot), close-up (or extreme close-up) can encouragethe viewer,s sense of intimacy with what is raking place on screen.Similarly a point-oGview shot (i.e. when the camerasimulatesthe perspectiveof a particular character)may encouragethe viewert identification with an individual in the story to see it'through their eyes'. The angle of a shot is also important in the way in which it constructsthe acrion.For example,while

Cathy Come Home: Long shot (LS)

Medium shot (MS)

Close-up (CU) or head-and_shoulders shot

Extreme close-up (XCU)

may denote 'quality drama' a documentary feel is to be achieved with a slightly more gralny stock. more likely

The way a certain scene is lit can often add to the mood or the style of a piece of television. To put it crudely, very low lighting can produce , ,o_tr" o, depressing mood while very high lighting can add to a feeling of gaiety or optimism. In g.rr.."l practrce a grear deal ofTV uses three_point lighting when a subject is lit from three sources, one light provides ihe main source, one light fills in the ,h"do*, ,rra one lisht is placed behind the subject. Of course, rn

modern TV this now usually involves more than three lights but the basic principles remain the same, producing an evenly iighted scene.As such, any devi_ ation from this norm generally produces a strikins or unusual efrect. For example, if a subject is iit priira_ rily from below (underlighting) it may ...ate a more sinisrer effect while being lit primarily from behind (backlighting) can creace a-grearer sense of mysrery. lighting The choice berween soft lighting and hard can also make a difference to aicene..Whije

soft lighting can enhance the warmth of a scene,hard lighting tends to procluce the sort of harshness nrore commonly associated with documentary realism. A

A n a lysing Te levisio n


badly lit

sequence with


contrast may also

(eating, talking, ironing, and reading and so on) it relies heavily on sound. Theme tunes, continuity announcements, news readers, voice-over cornmentary sound effects and so on all try to capture our attention in a space where there is much (unlike the darkened arena of a cinema or theatre) to distract us (see Chapter 1). As Rick Alcman puts it, the soundtrack of a television prognmme continually shouts to us:'Hey, you, come out of the kitchen and watch this!' (cited by Seiter, 1992:45).Tttts is not only true in the case of the most obvious musical sequences (think of the pounding drums that signif' the beginning or end of EastEnders p8C,1985*]) but also in less obvious places (think of the loud thumping sound that accompanies the digital clock display as the seconds tick by in 24 lFox,2001-l). While all sound clearly needs to be analysed, perhaps music is often the point where it is most obvious or powerfrrl. Music can transform the moving image, making it more dramatic, moving or exciting. You don't have to be a musicologist to have opinions about the sort of music being used or the reasons why it has been chosen. Flowever, you can be sure that music is rarely accidental as it can so clearly play a crucial role in the overall style and mood that aTV programme is trying to create (see Lury 2005:

enhance the documentary feel of a scene, as documentary-makers usually have to rely on the light that is available to them.'While in documentary a badly lit scene may be unavoidable, in drama it is probably done deliberately so as to produce a greater sense of actuakty (see Chapters 4 and 5).

EDITING (Channel As everyex-participator BigBrother of 4,
1,999-) seems to agree, editing plays an enormous role in the way a viewer may interpret a piece of television. Editing can be done live (or'as live') with multiple carneras or at the stage of post-production. Certainly in the Blg Brother house a post-production editing process not only selects the action that its producers think is important, but it is pieced together in such a way that a story or narrative is constructed, often complete with heroes, villains, love stories and cliff-hangers.'While chronological editing (sometimes referred as continuity cutting editing) characterises

the live coverage of the Blg Brother house, crossbetlveen scenes in the edited highlights can certain participants are not only speed up the action and add suspense but can also manipulate how portrayed. How t'"vo scenes are edited together may also have an effect on viewer perception. For example, a dissolve between shots may produce a seamlessfeel while a jump cut (an abrupt cut between scenes) is sometimes used to emphasise the juxtaposition of scenes. Although more usual in drama, Big Brother (i.e. a scene &om the (a number may also employ flashbacks

57-e4). In terms of terminology,diegetic sound or
music means that it is clearly meant to be coming from a sourcewithin the story or scene. example, For in EastEnders may hear a pop song on the jukeyou box in the pub or from the radio in the cafii. However, when the music or sound arrives apparendy from'nowhere' then it is non-diegetic i.e. the music or sound has no recognisablesource within the narrative world (seeButler, 1994: 204). Of course, sometimesit is the lack of music or sound that is notable,perhapsapparentin a drama that is hoping to capture a greater senseof documentary realism. This may be the reason why a soap opera like EastEnders rarely usesnon-diegetic music,asto do so would risk breaking the form of realismthat it strives so hard to achieve. However. this doesnot mean that diegetic music is not frequently used for effect because clear\ is. it

past that cornments in some way on the action taking place in the present) and even rnontage ofscenes quickly edited together) to create a sense of dramatic action (asin a housemate's'bestmoments'). Montage, for example, is often used inTV and information advertising a and music videos where a greater sense of intensiry needs to be constructed within strictly limited rime.

Because television is a domestic medium and inevitably broadcasts while we are doing other things



Teelwiqte Establishing shot (ES) Long shot (LS) Extreme long shot (XLS) Close-up (Ct) (head-md-shouldersshot) Extreme-close uP (XCLJ) Shot/reverseshot (SRS) High-angle shot (HAS) Low-mgle shot (LAS) Eye-level shot (ELS) Point-of-view shot (POS (usuailysimulating a characterbview of a scene) Wide-angle lens Standrd lens Telephoto lens Soft focus Deep-focus (everything is ir focus) Shallow focus (a sceneonly partially in focus) Three-point lighting (a subject is lit three ways) Low-key lighting (or chiaroscuro) Underiighting (light sourcefrom below) Backlighting (ight sourcefrom behind) Soft lighting Hard lighting Fine film stock Grainy film stock Hand-held camera (Steadicam) \Vhip pan (momentary lack of focus) efited together) Cross-cutting (two scenes Dissolve Jump cut Flashback(a sceneftom the Past) Montage Diegetic music,/sound(from an identifiable source in the narrative) Non-diegetic music/sound (not from an identifiable source in the narrative)

Usually setsthe scene (e.g.a shot of the house where the actlon takesplace) Distancing, removed, neutral (often used in an establishing shot to set the scene) Distant, removed Intimacy, empathy Emotion, drama,a vital moment Creating a dialogue between two people Domination, power, authority 'Weakness, powerlessness Equality, empat\ Individual perspective Dramatic normality Everydayness, Voyeurrsm Romance normality Everydayness, Draws attention -'look at this' Normality griry Sombre,depressing, Sinister Mysterious, enigrnatic Complimentary, warmth Realistic, gritty Natural, everydayness Documentary realism Shaky, documentary realism Documenmry real.ism Ailowing one sceneto coment Continuity Jutaposition Narrative and temporal dePth Action, intensiry drama Realistic Dramatic and emotionai

on the action of mother

Figure 2. A Summary of TelevisionTechniquesand Their Potential Effects. ftom Sefu andCowdery(995:57). Adapted

One aspect of television not mentioned gre t deal ofdetail is its use ofgraphics' (1987) in ^ have always been important to television, Graphics look at any old newsreel and you will see maps, diagrams and tables constantly being employed as a form of illustration. Flowever, in more recent years cotnputerftrarticularly since the introduction of graphics have become generated images [CGI]), by Fiske

increasingly foregrounded in the television image. Indeed, printed words and graphic images increasingly determine the look, style and meaning of a television image..Whether graphic images are responsible for a whole set (as is often the case in modern news programrnes) or are superimposed over the image (sometimes running, for example, along the bottom of the screen), television increasingly uses graphic images and written text to add meaning and style to

A nal ysi n g T elev is ion Like sound and music we may all of its programmes. not alwaysbe aware of graphics being used (how often, for example,do you even notice a channel's but to ignore logo in the corner of the screen?), them in analysisis to leave out a hugely influential element by which meaning is clearly produced.
ignore the inevitable differences that exist between different societies and the sometimes subde differences by which individuals and different audiences determine their own meanings (see Chapter 6).This


is one of the greatest problems with textual analysis, its apparent willingness to predetermine and categorise all rmeaning for all viewets. Nevertheless, it is hoped that such a table simply helps the student to isolate

A11 these elements (and more) of composition a theatre term meaning'staging', everything Corner, 1.999:31). According are Originally generally referred to as the mise en scDtte. it simply refers to that can be seen on the screen (see

and undersand some of the ways in which a particular technique may effect and influence a viewer's reading of the text. Figure 5 can certainly tell us a great deal about the television sound and image..While not trying to determine universal meanings between'technique' and'effect', it does reveal how there is inevitably a strong relationship benveen the rr;vo.For example, it explicitly reveals how realisrn is always as constructed a televisual form as fantasy, and that all forms of programming construct the viewer's point ofview in such a way that meaning (if not predetermined) is clearly being manipulated. It is the job of textual analysis to reveal that process of manipulation, and while it may not always be'accruate'in its assessment that (or empirically verifiable in its results), it can clearly remind us of the potential ways in which manipulation can operate.While it needs to be used with great care, textual analysis provides us with a form and language through which the possible results of that manipulation cussed and debated. can be analysed, dis*

to Jeremy G. Butler, 'mise en scine thss includes all the objects in front of

the camera and their arrangements by the director and his or her minions. In short, mise en scine is the organisation of setting, costuming, lighting a;nd actor (1994:101).It is, therefore, a usefirl term mouement' when trying to describe or locate the overall style or composition of a prograrnrne or a particular sequence. For example, the general mise en scine was dark and gloomy, bright and optimistic and so on.

It can take time and practice to get used to these terms, but Figure 5 may provide a crude but useful sumrnary of some of the major points.This table is inevitably reductive and simplistic.The codes and conventionsoftelevision vary greatly under different To cultural, historical and economic systems. sayA * B : C in terms of television sound and imaqe is to

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