Week Ten: Reading movies


Following up on last week

Many people had interesting project ideas last week. They range from vague to pretty concrete. I recommend checking them out. Note that the list includes previous semesters, so you may wish to ignore anything from before March 2022. We can use this collection of ideas to inspire each other, and find inspiration ourselves. Take ideas from 2 or 3 other people, and think of ways that you could expand upon them or extend them, make something more out of them. Put your ideas in a blog post tagged projectideas2.

Where we’re going from here: This week and next we will be working on video, then we will experiment with remixes and mashups, and then we will work on final projects. The final project will have to relate to our theme in some way, and it will have to incorporate multiple forms of media. You may want to continue to think about what you will do for a final project. You may want to consider how you could use the work in the intervening weeks to build up to a final project. You can collaborate on any projects, although each person has to do their own work and their own write-ups.

Reading movies

This week we’re moving from audio to video. We’ve been looking at related aspects – photography, sound, design – all along, but now we’re going to look at cinematic camerawork, and how it all comes together.

For starters, read Roger Ebert’s How the Read a Movie to get some basics of film analysis.

And watch How Does an Editor Think and Feel?

For me, this raises the question – How much of what we consider good acting is really good editing? When we watch movies, we identify with the actors. They are what we see and hear. We pay attention to story and dialogue. This week, I’m going to ask you to pretty much ignore that part, and pay attention to everything else – the camera, the lighting, the editing. The ways that video tells stories.

The video above comes from Tony Zhou’s great series, Every Frame a Painting in which he analyzes details of film making. The entire series is worth watching and highly recommended, but I’m going to point out these in particular:

Memories of Murder (2003) – Ensemble Staging

Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement

Joel & Ethan Coen – Shot | Reverse Shot

In Praise of Chairs

An interesting point about all of these is that they are about design. It may not be design in the Vignelli sense, but staging, composition and sets are all carefully and deliberately planned out to achieve particular goals, that is to say, designed.

David Fincher – And the Other Way is Wrong

F for Fake (1973) – How to Structure a Video Essay

The Silence of the Lambs – Who Wins the Scene?

The Marvel Symphonic Universe

Note that the focus in these is not on plot or acting, or even if the movies are good or not, but rather on the techniques, like editing, that the directors use to tell stories.

Here is Alfred Hitchcock on the the Kuleshov Effect:

Apply what we’ve learned

Now that we’ve spent some time thinking about how films are made and how we “read” them, let’s apply that new information to a film. Identify some particularly effective scenes from a video related to our theme that you’ve watched. Pick one of them to analyze in a video essay. Use the critical lens of this week’s reading and resources. This means you are going to make a video, using a scene from a movie, and discuss the scene in voice-over narration. You can upload your video essay to Vimeo or Youtube. (Note: Vimeo may be the better choice because their content police are more easygoing.)

Note: Often people pick scenes from favorite movies, and forget to separate what they like about the movie or show from what is happening in the scene and how it is put together. The focus should be on how film-making technique is used, not acting or plot or if the movie is good. It may be easier to analyze something that is not a favorite for the purposes of this assignment.

This assignment is a slight variation on the classic ds106 Video Essay assignment in the Assignment Bank. For this class, you need only analyze one scene, although you’re welcome to do more. In particular, your analysis should reflect what you learned by reading Ebert’s essay and watching the Tony Zhou videos.

iMovie and MS Photos app are good tools for this project, and OpenShot may be a good free alternative, although I haven’t tried it yet. OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) looks like fun too. There are extensions for Firefox and Chrome to help with downloading clips. There is a whole page with advice and information that should help with this assignment, and the ds106 Video Essay assignment has a few tutorials linked to it. The Digital Knowledge Center is also a great resource. They offer tutoring on video editing.

When you’re done, blog your video essay (that means embed the video in your post, and write about the process of making it and what you got out of it.) and tag it videoessay.

Video Assignments: Two options

Choice One

If you are interested in doing something longer in form, you have that option. You are welcome to collaborate if you so choose. Much like with radio, you can choose the format and story..

We should apply what we know about audio production to our video work, as well as design and planning in the writing and production process. You will want to blog about this in your write-ups. Here is how the work should be divided:

Week One: If you’re collaborating, organize into your group as quickly as possible and decide on your approach to your video episode. You may look to the Video assignments in the Assignment Bank for inspiration and ideas for your show, but you don’t have to. In addition to planning this week (deciding on format, choosing a story to tell, writing a script, planning shooting, etc.), produce a short (30-60 seconds)  “trailer” for your show that introduces your concept, story, etc. If you’re working in a group, each member should do a trailer.

Write up all your planning in a series of blog posts tagged videoshowplan and make sure you share your trailer in your weekly post. Each group member needs to blog about their part if it’s a group project.

Week Two: Produce and edit your video episode. Write up your progress along the way in a second series of videoshowproduce blog posts. Make sure you share your final show in your weekly summary.

Choice Two

Complete at least 10 stars of video assignments this week. Note that you are free to bend assignments in any way you choose, or to make new assignments to suit your creative needs. How many of them can you connect to our theme or your project idea? If you choose this option, you will get to complete a second set of video assignments next week.

Daily Creates

Do two this week

Posts of the Week: What is the Best of ds106 this week? Pick the top three posts and enter them in this form.


Keep it up! This is how we maintain our sense of connection and community.

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