Terms for Visual Analysis

produced by students in ENG 298, Spring 2000
from William H. Phillips, Film: An Introduction, Chapter 10

MEANING: The import of a cultural product, its reason for being: what it is trying to communicate. To state the meaning of something is to make an observation or a general statement about its subject.

Explicit Meanings: general observations given by a certain work, within it -- such as subtitles or title cards in silent films.

Implicit Meanings: ideas implied by a cultural product. Different meanings are communicated to people from different cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds.

EVENT: In a narrative, either a happening (such as rain falling) or an action.

SYMBOL: Anything perceptible that has significance or meaning beyond its usual meaning or function.

SCENE: A section of a narrative film that gives the impression of continuous action taking place in one continuous time and space.

FRAME:

  1. (noun) The borders of the projected film screen or TV set or computer monitor.
  2. (verb) To position the camera in such a way that the subject is kept within the borders of the image.

MISE EN SCENE: An image's setting, subject (usually people or characters), and composition (the arrangement of setting and subjects within the frame).

SHOT: An uninterrupted strip of exposed motion-picture film or videotape. A shot presents a subject, perhaps even a blank screen, during an uninterrupted segment of time. Thus, most films are made up of thousands and thousands of shots.

REACTION SHOT: A shot that shows someone or occasionally an animal presumably responding to an event.

POINT-OF-VIEW SHOT: Camera placement at the approximate position of a character or person (or, occasionally, an animal) that gives a similar view to what that creature would see.

FLASHBACK: A shot or a few shots, a brief scene, or a sequence that interrupts a narrative to show earlier events.

EDIT: To select and arrange the processed segments of photographed motion-picture film in order to develop or undercut the meanings of each shot.

SUPERIMPOSITION: Two or more images appearing on top of each other.

FAST CUTTING: Editing characterized by many brief shots, sometimes shots less than a second long.

MONTAGE: A series of shots, often joined by lap dissolves (see below), used to condense time and events.

LAP DISSOLVE: A transition between shots in which one shot begins to fade out as the next shot fades in, overlapping the first shot before replacing it.

MATCH CUT: Transition between two shots in which an object or movement at the end of one shot closely resembles an object or movement at the beginning of the next shot.

CLOSE-UP: An image in which the subject fills most of the frame and shows little of the surroundings.

FREEZE-FRAME: A projected yet unmoving motion-picture image, which therefore looks like a still photograph.

DOLLY: To film while the camera is mounted on a moving dolly or wheeled platform.

TILTING: Effect achieved when a camera on a stationary base pivots vertically, down to up or up to down, during filming.

EYE-LEVEL ANGLE: A camera angle that creates the effect of the audience being on the same level as the subject.

HIGH ANGLE: View of a subject from above, created by positioning the camera above the subject.

HARD LIGHT: Light that has not been diffused or reflected before illuminating the subject. On subjects illuminated by hard light, shadows are sharp-edged and surface details are more noticeable than with soft light.

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