We’ve all watched thousands of films and probably tens of thousands of hours of TV, but few of us have really taken the time to think about how they are put together and why they move us.
In this section and its subsections we will explore the basic context, logic, punctuation, grammar and close reading of moving image texts.
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The close reading of written stories and poems is common in schools, but the close reading of screen narratives is not, despite their universal popularity and ubiquity. Unfortunately, this disenfranchises many young people from education and can leave a dangerous gap in their understanding of culture and society.
Learning the basic punctuation and grammar of screen narratives opens up a whole new world of appreciation and enables young people to understand better what screen narratives really say and mean. However Moving Image Eductation (MIE) is not just about learning the language of film, so that we can decode the communications of the media elite. It is also about developing a new pedagogy that seeks to place children at the centre of the learning experience, taking greater charge of their own education and creative destiny.
Scotland on Screen and Moving Image Education
Most people tend to think that the filmmakers just go out with a camera and start filming what they find, without recognising just how much thought, effort and experience goes into the making of both fictional and factual films in order to communicate very precise meanings.
The aim of the Scotland on Screen resource is to make us think again about the historical films from the Scottish Screen Archive, to ask questions and to analyse, not just what they seem to say about their topic through narration – but what they also say through the audio-visual choices made by the filmmakers in planning, shooting and editing their films.
On one level Scotland on Screen is simply about putting historical texts online so that they can provide us with a rear-view mirror on our society and help us find out where we came from and where we are going as Scots and as members of a global society. But on another it is rich resource for creative and technical study that can help us better understand all forms of narrative and discourse, improving our engagement with, and appreciation of, the Curriculum for Excellence.
The TV age
"A democratic civilization will save itself only if it makes the language of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection, not an invitation to hypnosis" - Umberto Eco
Since the Nineteen Sixties there has been a TV in virtually every home, with most people watching between twenty and forty hours of audiovisual narratives per week. Since the arrival of video games and the internet these figures have declined a little; however, today our research shows that most children in Scotland consume on average 40 hours of screen media every week - making screen media far and away the most dominant form of cultural communication.
Indeed, today the moving image is such a unbiquitous aspect of our lives, whether we are working, watching TV or surfing the web, that it would seem absurd not to teach young people about the basic punctuation and grammar that underpin audiovisual communication (cuts, shots, angles, sound, music) and the way they are used to create meaning, as well as the history of these media.
The digital age
"When these gadgets are in the hands of the public, when anyone can photograph the ones who are dear to them, not just in their immobile form, but with movement, action, familiar gestures and the words out of their mouths, then death will no longer be absolute, final." – French journalist after seeing the first Lumiere film show in 1895
We are very fortunate today in that almost everyone owns a camcorder of some sort whether it is a DV camera, digital stills camera with movie setting, or a mobile phone. Add to this the fact that every personal computer comes with a video-editing package integrated into the operating system, using our mobile phones or surfing the web. whether this be Windows Moviemaker or Apple iMovie, and it becomes clear that the production of screen texts is accessible to us all.
Part of the purpose of this resource is therefore to help young people learn how to appreciate, analyse and create moving images texts. This not only helps improve literacy, it also makes education relevant to their lives. The creation of moving image texts also can be a great aid to personal development in terms of confidence building, teamworking, self-discipline and self-criticism, for whereas essays are traditionally only seen by the teacher, moving image texts can be reviewed and discussed by the whole class.
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