ESSAY 3 - ESSAY #3: The Invention of Film Technology and...

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ESSAY #3: The Invention of Film Technology and Language Copyright Frank Scheide, 2003 ESSAY OBJECTIVES: Examine the early history of motion picture technology and determine how its inventors established the basic tenets of “film language”. 1. The Importance of a Medium’s Formal Properties to the Identity of its Language To be a competent film consumer, a viewer needs to know how to interpret the information that the filmmaker is communicating. This communication takes place because both transmitter and receiver have access to a shared “language” that is being expressed using the formal properties of the motion picture medium. As noted at the beginning of the previous essay, every medium of communication is composed of certain properties that influence the nature of the language it utilizes. Anyone concerned with understanding this language must have some knowledge of these formal properties peculiar to that medium. In our earlier discussion in Essay #2, it was pointed out that the formal properties of sculpture enables it to be used for types of expression different from those found in music and writing. Sculpture, as a medium of communication, shares similarities with film, theater, and dance that enable all four media to create visual effects based on the posed figure. Despite their similarities, differences in the formal properties of these media prevent them from depicting posed figures in exactly the same way. We noted that posed figures in film appear as two-dimensional entities while they exist as living people in dance and theater. Sculpted poses are made of some inert material such as wood or stone rather than of flesh and blood. The more we concentrate upon the formal properties of the given media the better we can appreciate how each medium is capable of expressing itself. Knowledge of any medium, and the nature of its language, requires an awareness of the unique formal properties it uses for communication. The four principal components or formal properties of film are: mise-en-scene or composition of image, camerawork, editing , and sound. Today’s filmmaker uses all of these components when communicating with the viewer. This was not always the case. Film communication has become so accessible that we may not even realize how we are responding to these components and the information being expressed. The more aware one is of how the medium is being used, the better our understanding of the information being communicated. We have not always had access to film language. Since the motion picture as we generally know it did not exist prior to 1895, filmmakers have had to develop this film language in relatively recent times. We will examine each of the four formal properties of the motion picture in greater detail in future essays. A fuller understanding of these four components, and the language they convey, can enable us to become better film consumers. In the meantime we will consider how the early movie pioneers discovered these properties and established the
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foundation for the development of a film language. This investigation requires some
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ESSAY 3 - ESSAY #3: The Invention of Film Technology and...

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