Category Archives: Thoughts and Ideas

Look, Listen, Analyze: The Joker’s Pencil Scene in The Dark Knight

I viewed this classic scene of the Joker in The Dark Knight, looking closely at its visual cinema techniques as well as listening to the deliberate audio choices. Here are my findings and reflection on the effects of these cinematic choices.

Camera Work: The angles of the camera in this scene are fairly consistent throughout. For a majority of the scene, the camera alternates between shots of the Joker talking to the faces of those he is talking to. The characters are shot directly centered in the screen, showcasing their reactions to what the Joker seems to be saying. The lighting is dark and obscures some of the details surrounding the conversation. The camera seems to be making a deliberate choice, forcing the audience to pay attention only to what is being said by the Joker and the other men. At the end of the scene, the camera pans out and shows the Joker leaving at a greater distance than when he was talking. This is one of the few points in the scene where the camera is not focused solely on one character’s face.

Audio Track: Like the visual component, the audio elements of this scene are solely focused upon the conversation at hand. Much of the audio comes from the dialogue between the characters at first, and then it becomes much more focused on the lines given by the Joker. As the scene progresses and the Joker becomes more engrossed in his monologue, suspenseful music begins playing in the background. This background music begins to increase in volume as the scene moves forward, becomes more intense. Along with the music, the speed and volume of the dialogue between the characters grows and increases as the scene progresses to some sort of climax.

All Together: Having the audio and the visual components together gave this scene so much more depth and intensity than before. The building background music combined with the back and forth conversation gave myself as a viewer an emotional sense of suspense and unease. I felt this viewing the audio and visual separately, however it was with greater intensity that I felt the suspense building as the scene progressed.

Many of these elements were discussed as well in Roger Ebert’s article on how to read a movie scene/shot. Seeing that all of the people shot in this scene were villains in the movie, I did not notice much emphasis on left/right character placement. As I said before, many of the characters were shot head on, like a mug shot as put by Ebert. This shot of their fully faces accurately depicts them as the criminal characters they play in the movie. The build of the music in the background and the growing intensity of the dialogue between the characters also helps move the story element along. The scene seems to be rising, approaching a climax as the music builds in the background.

Cinema Techniques

In order to gain a further understanding of some cinematic techniques in film, I viewed three other videos going deeper into some of these specific techniques. The videos will be embedded below with short descriptions on the techniques discussed or shown.

  1. Kubrick // One-Point Perspective– This video shows the art of the one-point perspective in film. The one-point perspective is a cinema technique where the frame is centered around one specific point, creating a balance and symmetry in the shot. By reading some of the comments below the video as well, I appears that the one-point perspective elicits a specific emotional response from its audience. Viewers often feel tension and unease when looking down narrow, symmetrical hallways, or similar shots.
  2. Example of a Match Cut- 2001 A Space Odyssey– A match cut in film is a cut in film between two different objects, characters, etc. The two different objects match “graphically” establishing a consistency and continuity between the two shots. In this video, the bone and the weapon match each other, creating a continuity between the two different shots.
  3. Hitchcock loves Bikinis– In this video, the cinematic technique of cuts is shown. By placing two very different shots in between the two shots of the man looking on and then smiling, the audience will have different perspectives of the character of this man. In this case, the man is sweet for smiling at the woman with her baby, but he then becomes a dirty old man when they replace the shot of the woman with her baby with a shot of a woman in a bikini. Simply by switching up the film cuts, the character of the man drastically changes.

Reflection on The Vignelli Canon

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this booklet, The Vignelli Canon. It presented great insight and thoughtful information to consider as we enter into this week of Graphic Design. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed reading this book so much, and I feel as though I have a new-found passion for Graphic Design. It was so interesting to me, and I feel that from this point forward I will notice many of the elements pointed out by Massimo Vignelli.

Vignelli’s main purpose in producing this pamphlet was to introduce his audience to the basic elements of graphic design. So many people nowadays do not know of the many details involved in creating Design. He listed many including both the tangible and intangible aspects of Design. Some of the most interesting ones he brought up were Semantics, Syntactics and Pragmatics. I found these to be particularly intriguing because I am an English major and connected them to much of how Literature is created and produced. Like a written text, Design must have meaning as well as a cohesive structure and understanding by the audience. Without these things, Vignelli argues for the overall purpose of the piece. Vignelli also discusses the various elements within graphic design from typography to texture or color. I think these will all be important elements to keep in mind as we create our own Design Assignments this week for class. One last point I would like to highlight from the booklet is Vignelli’s approach to ambiguity. Like before, ambiguity in literature represents when something has several meanings, not just vagueness or apathy. Graphic Designs hold a plurality of meanings given context, personal experience and execution. I believe this is an important point to remember for the remainder of the semester as we approach the rest of our assignments. We are creating Designs meant to have meaning, yet those meanings will differ greatly amongst all of us. This is such a powerful human tendency that we need to take advantage of!

Photographing 101- What I Learned this Week

These week we had to use at least 3 different suggestions when photographing/producing images for our visual assignments this week. I pulled all of my tips from the eBook written by David duChemin. I started using these resources first for the Photoblitx challenge.

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For this image I decided to use my new found knowledge in terms of contrast and perspective. I was able to utilize a close/near perspective to capture details of these bottle caps that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, if I hadn’t read about the great importance of perspective in photography. My eyes were definitely opened to new, unique points of view. This was also the most helpful tip I read up on, because like I said before it gave me a whole new view on what to take pictures of and manipulate.

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For this second image, i definitely “got pickier.” I sat around, thinking long and hard about my surroundings in hopes of capturing a unique picture. Also, thinking of new perspective, I figured let’s just go with us. I decided to take a picture of my door, standing on a chair with the camera angled down towards the floors. I feel it captured a really unique image given the perspective and my ability to be picky in selecting what to take a picture of during my photoblitz.

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With this last image, i employed the technique of utilizing the lighting in the area in the best/most effective way. After reading on this technique I was more readily able to notice the unique positioning and proportion of the shadows on the sidewalk as well as the shapes of the light slivers between the shadows.

There are definitely many more techniques to learn and resources to read up on in order to best find and capture moments via a photograph. However, I feel that the resources I learned about and applied this week were very helpful in completing my assignments.

 

Appreciating Past DS106 Stories- “Starry Night”

I reviewed Sean Doud’s assignment, “Starry Night,” with the goal being to animate a classic painting. I think this is a really cool assignment because you’re able to take an already existing work and make it your own through your specific choices, creativity and imagination. It’s cool how Sean used GIMP, a GIF creator, to animate the painting. It’s also unique that he did so by experimenting with the different visual characteristics of the painting such as saturation, hues and brightness levels. I think this is a digital story because of the ways in which it took an already existing, physical work and transformed it digitally. It has a different tone and feeling to it than before, eliciting different responses from viewers.

The Shape of The Great Gatsby

According to Kurt Vonnegut’s theory on the shapes of stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, has a shape which defines the plot structure of the novel. I drew a picture with Vonnegut’s two axis (good/ill fortune and beginning/end). The plot line varies back and forth from good to bad, ultimately ending in a steady downfall to depression, death, all things bad. Here ya go! (Also, I apologize in advance because I am not an artist…..)

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If you cannot read this text, it goes something like this:

*Nick moves to West Egg and sees his cousin, Daisy. He also meets Jay Gatsby for the first time.

*Nick discovers that Daisy’s husband, Tom, is having an affair.

*Nick learns about Daisy and Gatsby’s past and is suddenly pulled into their relationship.

*Gatsby still loves Daisy, and he throws parties to get her attention. He is depressed until…

*Daisy and Gatsby reconnect with Nick’s help and begin an affair!!!

*Tom then becomes suspicious of Gatsby.

*Daisy and Tom fight. Daisy becomes upset and drives away, accidentally hitting Tom’s mistress and killing her.

*Gatsby shot dead in his pool, suspected to have killed Tom’s mistress.

Something I recently viewed on the Internet also made me think about the shapes of stories. Specifically, this is something that represents a digital story. In my Social Issues class at Mary Washington, we viewed a video on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this video, it uses images and video media techniques to tell the “story” of how human rights were essentially born and the ways in which they are followed, or not adhered to, today. It also brings the text of the Declaration to life via images (clip art, real life recordings, snapshots of documents) and sound (narration, interviews, background music, sound effects).

What is “storytelling”?

Like any word, “storytelling” may hold different meanings for different people. Personally, I think of stories as imaginative as well real life events. Telling these “stories” means presenting them to another person in a creative and unique fashion. And really a story can be about anything. It could range from the stereotypical dragons and princesses, to real life stories from the past about family members or friends.

When you introduce the word “digital”, storytelling takes on a very different perspective. The medium through which the story is presented changes. It’s no longer oral conversation or words and pictures on a page, but an electronic, digital representation of the story. However, I think it’s important to note that the story itself does not change. One can still present the same story (plot, characters, etc.), but through a different way of telling the story.