FILM LITERACY                     ANALYZING FILM TECHNIQUES              Monika  Brown     2004


 A.  identify elements or parts and relate them                             [literature/writing analog]           

         frame (single still photograph)                                        single word                       

              shot (uninterrupted series of frames)                                          sentence, paragraph, stanza        

              scene (series of related shots, 1 location)                        scene, section               

              sequence (related scenes, to climax/end, new start)          chapter, long section      


 B. analyze single shot(s) (like photo) or repeated or contrasting techniques of creating shots

      how much serves illusion of realism; how much is distortion that calls attention to itself; with what effect


function:   establishing shot:  opening long shot, gives an overview of the locale of a film or sequence

(editing)    point of view shot:  shows the scene as seen by actor/from a character's/actor's point of view

                  reaction shot: shows a character's face reacting to what is going on (usually close-up)

                  shot/reverse shot: goes back & forth between characters; often has eyeline match to link their gazes

                  bridging shot: brief shot to allow transition between shots     


composition/mise en scene and framing

     1. distance/area                     long shot--objective, comic            medium shot          close up (subjective, tragic)

     2. arrangement in frame        open frame--natural                        balanced               confining or artificial frame

     3. figures                               figures small--insignificant            natural, arranged        figures fill space (trapped)

     4. space, density of detail      spare, few objects/people                                          much detail

     5. location of figures              top (power), left (entering)             center                bottom/sides(weak),right (leaving)

                                                    not shown while talking               close while talk     separate shots when talk (distant)

     6. visual layout [like painting]: geometric/lines vs curves; triangles, verticals, horizontals, diagonals, offscreen space

     7. light: brightness                 bright (real, true, safe)                     medium                   dark, shadow, filter (mystery)

          light source(s)                     above (spiritual, weak)                  front/above        below (sinister)

     8.  color, tone                       black & white, soft color                   normal color      distorted color; harsh color

                                                warm (yellow,orange); soft                                                     cool (blue,green)


cinematography (black and white, or color)

camera: camera angle               bird’s eye (detached)

                                               aerial, tilt down (vulnerable)         eye level              tilt up (dominant)

     focus                                   shallow focus                        normal             deep focus (layers); rack/shift       

          lens                                    wide angle                             medium angle     telephoto; fisheye (distorts, weird)


    movement & speed                   slow motion                              normal speed       fast motion

      1. figures move                      toward audience                           sideways             away from audience

<>      2. camera movement               upward(aspire); diagonal(OK)                                   downward(danger),pendulum(dull)

                  tracking/dolly shot
: camera follows or anticipates a figure     crane  follows from above

                  zoom: lens brings close at even rate                                      pan: camera moves across, as for panorama


sounds & silences                                   supplement image/voiceover          related to images        contrast with images

music diegetic, nondiegetic                         establish genre, emotional impact                                     dramatic effect                 

           Mickeymousing,  motifs, overtures   show setting & social class; foreshadow                          counterpoint, irony



C. analyze pacing, editing, and sequences: how shots and scenes join or connect  (end one, start next)


  rhythm/pacing of shots/scenes: fast (most short), normal (varied length), slow (most long)?

  continuity editing–“invisible” transitions for smooth sequence, by shot/reverse shot, eyeline match, pov/reaction shot

  disjunctive editing–experimental, disorienting 


  varieties of editing: what editing choices draw attention?

       cut: direct shift from one shot or image to another (most common)

             classic cuts, within a scene:  back and forth of medium shots (from master shot) and close-ups

               cross-cut or parallel cut (back & forth between different scenes), to show simultaneous actions & relations

               jump-cut:  rapid cutting: to condense time, to shift to later stages of action

               montage: rapid cutting among short shots, to show time passing, atmosphere, metaphors/symbols                        

               fade out/fade in: to & from blank/black screen (like a curtain) to show passage of time, shift of pace 

       dissolve:  one shot stays as next emerges from it (superimposition) to suggest relationship/continuity

       wipe: one shot moves away as next appears, or flip wipe or iris (pupil opens/closes)