Semiotics of the Moving Image

CLB004 Lecture, Week 5, 2008 Michael Dezuanni

 Semiotics

and moving images  Example - The Incredibles  Tips for Video Production

The Incredibles
 View  How

an except from “The Incredibles”

can we understand, and make use of, the language components of this text? types of literacies are required?

 What

Semiotics and visual language codes
 

Semiotics can be used to analyse all language. Specific applications in relation to visual language relate to:
 Social

and symbolic codes  Technical visual codes  Narrative codes and conventions  Ideological codes related to discourses

John Fiske – Television Culture

An event to be televised (or filmed) is already encoded by social and symbolic codes such as those of:

Level one: “Reality”

Appearance, dress, make-up, environment, behaviour, speech, gesture, expression, sound, etc

John Fiske – Television Culture
 These

are encoded electronically by technical codes such as those of:

 Level

two: “Representation”

Camera shots and composition, angles, editing, music and sound

John Fiske – Television Culture

Which transmit the conventional representational codes, which shape the representations of, for example:

Narrative, conflict, character, action, dialogue, setting, casting etc

 Level

three: “Ideology” [discourse].

Which are organised into coherence and social acceptability by the ideological codes, such as those of:

Individualism, patriarchy, race, class, materialism, capitalism etc

Case Study – “The Incredibles”
 Released

in 2004 by Pixar Animation Studios (part of Disney Corporation). digitally produced.

 Entirely

Shot 1 - Denied

Extreme Close Up - Red “Denied” stamp on policy. Social and symbolic codes:

Following previous section - it is clear Mr Incredible has been denied his life as a superhero. We learn he’s in insurance - which is boring and unfulfilling. Red for “stop” and the result of an aggressive action - stamping.


is a moment of impact in the narrative - a turning point.

Shot 1 - Denied

Extreme Close Up - Red “Denied” stamp on policy. Technical codes

ECU and sound of the stamp coming down - reinforces the impact of the action.

Shot 2 - Mrs Hoganson

Pull out and up to: slightly high angle close up of Mrs H: “You’re denying my claim?” Social and symbolic codes
   

She is very small, weak and “old” looking. She is wearing “granny” clothes. She has a frail sounding voice. Background of grey filing cabinets - official situation, but also depressing.

She needs to be saved.

Shot 2 - Mrs Hoganson

Technical codes
 She’s

looking up - inferior in the situation (it’s a high angle) reinforces that she is small and helpless. a medium close up which helps to reinforce the emotion of the situation.

 It’s

Shot 3 - Mr Incredible (Bob) & Mrs H

Level angle medium shot of Bob with back of Mrs H in foreground. “15 years later” comes up on screen. Social and symbolic codes

 

Office is bland - pastel colours rather than the bright colours of earlier scenes. Bob is slumping, chin in hand. Wearing bland (white-collar) office worker clothes. He is very large - he “over fills”  Mrs H looks frail - she’s the space - he’s too big for it. hunching. He looks worried - not in control.

Shot 3 - Bob & Mrs H
 Bob

is looking down at desk - he can’t look her in the eye. He is ashamed.

 Technical
 He


fills the space - too big for it? His body cannot be properly contained by the space.  Camera angle is level – he’s on the same level as the rest of us – no longer “super”.

Shot 4 - side view of Bob and Mrs Hoganson

Long shot, level angle, of Bob and Mrs H Social and symbolic codes

Bob appears trapped (caged). Head down - bad posture. Workspace is a small cubicle space (not the public sphere). Cluttered with office furniture, phones, computer wires, cabinets. It is dark / dull - no natural light. They appear as part of ”the system”.

Creates a binary with previous scenes. He is unfit and controlled / contained.

Shot 4 - side view of Bob and Mrs Hoganson

Long shot, level angle, of Bob and Mrs H Technical codes

Level angle places us on same level as Bob - we are invited to be in his position. However, we are remote from it - we are observing it from outside - they lack control they are being surveilled?

Shot 5 - Elastigirl (Helen) & baby - “A momentous occasion”

Medium shot of Helen on phone while washing baby in kitchen sink. Social and symbolic codes

She is smiling. “We are officially moved in”. She sounds and looks genuinely happy with her domestic situation - light hearted and care free. Wearing slacks and shirt, with a “sensible” haircut. Binary with Elastigirl’s sexy outfit and attitude. Contrast with Bob’s (depressed) attitude.

Binary created with previous scene unnatural Vs natural.

Shot 5 - Elastigirl (Helen) & baby - “A momentous occasion”
 Medium

shot of Helen on phone while washing baby in kitchen sink and symbolic codes
  

 Social

Interior of house signifies as middle class and suburban. Helen is literally “in the kitchen”, mothering. Baby is very happy.

 Technical


 

Level angle - we are on her level - we identify with her everyday domestic situation. Medium shot reveals peaceful neighborhood. Natural lighting.

Shots 6&8 - Bob on phone
 

Close up of Bob on phone. Social and symbolic codes

Phone is too small for his hand he’s too big for this situation. We realise they have been in the house for 3 years (news is not momentous) - Bob sounds weary and bored. Contrast with Bob

as Mr Incredible.

Technical Codes

Close up reveals Bob’s emotion, state of mind. Does he suspect Helen is not happy?

Shot 12 - Bob peaks around corner
Extreme long shot - Bob peaks around corner  Social and symbolic codes

Long grey corridor with bright fluro lights symbolises corporate mass production. It’s sterile and lifeless.

Technical codes

ELS, with deep perspective reinforces its oppressive nature.

Shot 23 - Mr Huff

Medium shot as Mr Huff (the boss) walks quickly down hallway, pushing past Mrs H, paying no attention to her. (corporate treatment of individuals).

Social and symbolic codes

Show’s his lack of care for the “little people”. He wears dark clothes (corporate, evil?) Camera pans dramatically with Mr Huff as he storms into Bob’s office, yelling at him, reinforcing the dramatic nature of the confrontation.

Technical codes

Shot 24 - Mr Huff

High angle medium shot of Mr Huff as he yells at Bob about his poor work. Social and symbolic codes

Mr Huff looks angry and flustered. He is trying to take control.

Technical codes

Camera angle refuses to support Mr Huff – (high angle).

Shot 25 - Bob

Technical codes

Bob leans over desk and speaks back to Mr Huff, defending client. Shows he has a hint of dignity left (the old Mr Incredible).

Social and symbolic codes

Bob looks defeated (but camera supports him - low angle).

Shot 30 - Bob

Extreme high angle, long shot as Mr Huff storms back down corridor and Bob leans over desk.

Social and symbolic codes
 

Grey interior is oppressive. Bob’s head down, symbolising defeat Extreme angle and long shot emphasise Bob’s isolation and powerlessness.

Technical codes

Focus on editing
 Editing

achieves more than the linking of frames.
 Controls

continuity which aims to hide the edits – to make the unnatural appear natural. us into the narrative – we are “stitched in” to the position of the main character through editing – “forced” to see things from their perspective.

 Draws

Focus on editing
 Editing

achieves more than the linking of frames.
 Reinforces

the mood of the scene through controlling pace. “Faster” edits reinforce action. “Slower” reinforce emotion. Can be used to create new meanings through montage – the joining of two images creates a new meaning not presented in either individual image.

Focus on sound
 Sound

achieves more than adding naturalism:

Non-diagetic sound – eg music and sound effects – creates mood and adds meaning. Can be used symbolically or as a counterpoint against a visual to introduce new meaning. Diagetic sound – eg dialogue - can be used to help the text appear “natural” and un-constructed.

Practical tips for video production
 If

making a video for your self representation:

Use a tripod and frame your shots carefully.  Avoid low light and backlighting.  Avoid noise and try to use an external mic.  Plan your shoot – complete a storyboard or shooting script, so you know every shot you need.  Don’t shoot everything as one continuous shot – plan for many short “takes” to build up your scene.

Practical tips for video production
 Shoot

to edit. Shoot your shots as you know they will need to be edited.  Aim to shoot 3-4 shots per hour, maximum.  Rehearse each shot several times before shooting.  “Count” your shots in: 3,2,1 action…  Don’t zoom and pan or tilt.  Keep the zoom right “out” and move the camera to frame up new shots.