February 21 : Cinema Language

To Do This Week

DUE Visual Narrative

Watch: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – the short film is available for $1.99 on Prime, Google Play, YouTube etc.

Read: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce

Blog prompt:
After watching the film adaptation of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and then reading the short story by Ambrose Bierce, write a blog post about the differences between the two works. What was removed or changed in the film version and why?  What techniques in film language – pacing, editing, shot composition – successfully translate the effects in the short story?



One-on-one Zoom meeting 5%

Visual Narratives

Grades by Wed night…

film, video, moving image, cinema
frame, shot, sequence


  • 180 degree rule and screen direction
  • match on action
  • shot reverse shot
  • POV shot
  • parallel action (driven by narrative)
  • graphic match


  • images juxtaposed based on something other than direct spatial/temporal continuity
  • cutting based on time or counted frames in shot
  • cutting based on shared theme of each shot
  • summary of events over extended time
  • subjective experience/thought/dream


Discuss Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge…
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce

Continuity revealing information / building suspense


Chaos Cinema (post-continuity)

Montage – rhythm, metaphor, associational thinking, dream, intellectual argument

Discontinuous – fragmented, montage, jumpcuts, rhythmic cuts (on sound)


Continuity + Spatial Montage


Exact Repetition
short-term memory =  under 20 seconds

Narrative loops – beginning > middle > end

Fractured narrative loops – Adam Goldberg Vines











Montage loops  – variable duration of each shot

Loops in new media – movement and interactivity

FilmText, by Mark Amerika

Zoe Beloff


Simultaneous Loops

Interactive Cinema, by Uda Atsuko http://www.iamas.ac.jp/~makura/index_old.html

Sequential Loops

Interactive Cinema, by Uda Atsuko http://www.iamas.ac.jp/~makura/index_old.html


Nested Loops

an asynchronous assemblage of nested loops offers a picture of fractal time;

simultaneous temporalities of different scales, rhythms and durations.

Adobe Premiere > Youtube tutorial

In-Class loop activity: 

In small groups, come up with three ideas for narrative loops (10-20 seconds) in each category below.

Shoot and edit together each loop using a phone camera (set at 720p) and then edit as a group with Adobe Premiere. Repeat the clips at least three times to show the loop at work.

Export the loops to .H264 format with a preset for 720p for YouTube or Vimeo. Upload to one of these and post the url into a blog post. 

  1. Continuity loop – Follow an action with a beginning, middle and end. The shots should follow rules of continuity: match on action, POV, screen direction, cut in
  2. Montage loop – Create a dream sequence loop. The shots should be mostly discontinuous clips. Play with contrasts of distance, color, shape between each shot.
  3. Montage and Continuity – combine the two editing techniques into a mini story.


Work on Visual Narratives


Visual Narrative Assignment 10%
DUE Feb 21 (next week)

We have discussed many strategies/approaches to visual narration and how story time – events and incidents, actions and reactions – can be made visible and relational in pictorial space through…

  • single frame composition
  • scroll navigation
  • nonlinear navigation
  • panel-to-panel relationships
  • cinematic sequence
  • spatial (simultaneous) montage

In this assignment, you are to use images to tell a story. The images may include symbols, shapes, colors, drawings, graphics, photos and/or video. Your images may be accompanied by text (narration or dialogue), but images and their spatial relationships should drive the narrative, not the text.  In other words, try not to make illustrations for a pre-written script. Instead, investigate new ways to organize images–on the single page and from page to page– in order to get across your particular visual story. Remember,  the pictorial frame and the user’s navigation of the frame(s) are elements of visual storytelling.

Please don’t worry too much about the quality of images. Use your pencil, phone camera, AI image-generation, public domain image downloads. Play with Photoshop or Illustrator. Use Google Slides or just load the images and captions into a blog post. Remember that you can take any of these short assignments and complete them as your final project.

Ideas for the Visual Narrative assignment:

  • an animated story
  • a short comic
  • a “collage” story book like the surrealist Max Ernst
  • a photo story

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