Notes for the Second Lecture.

These should not be taken as "complete, but rather a way to reind you of things we spoke about

In communications theory a message is sent from a "sender" to a "receiver" through a "channel" in a "code".

In everyday speech, the "sende" is the speaker, the "receiver" is the hearer; the channel is vocal-auditory and the code is the language used.

Each code has a number of variables in it and the choice of variable becomes potentially significant. Consider Paul Revere and his historic ride to announce by what route the British were coming:

"One if by land; two if by sea"
It could just as easily have been:
"A red light by land a green light by sea"br> It could NOT be "One if by land and one if by sea" - no contrast. In film the sender is the film maker, the receiver is the audience, the channel is visual (and auditory) and the "code" is "the language of film.

For film there are many aspects to the "language" Each area of domain contains a set of variables

The idea of "variables" in communication theory

Messages are encoded by choice of variable


Silent films struggle to discover just what motion pictures can do
Films and theater are very similar but also very different.
Stage: Fixed viewer, action on stage
Film: Possible to have fixed object with moving "viewer" (camera) or both camera and object in motion.

a. Early films much like filming stage play
b. Later camera comes into its own - all photography variables a. Soft focus (slight blur or crystal clear)
b. Depth of field (deep or shallow focus)
c. Type of lens (wide angle to telephoto)
d. Lighting (also involved in stage acting and still photography) i. Source lighting vs. creative lighting. (James Wong Howe "Source lighting is for sissies") (Ken Kelsch "It takes a lot of light to make a room look dark")
c. Camera placement:
a. Still photos vs.motion pictures (spectator is fixed, camera is not; scenery tends to lock in the place of the action in theater, less so in film) i. Camera placement and "shots"
1. For Griffith
a. Long shot at start of scene
b. Medium shot (from about the knee to the top 0f the head)
3. Close up - a face, a hand stroking a cat - a pot boiling


Camera position Close shots, full shots, (Why would audience want to see half an actor?)

Extreme Wide Shot (ELS) People nearly invisible
Long Shot (LS) / Wide Shot (WS) similar but people clear
Full Shot (FS) Person fills the frame - emphasis on background
Medium Long Shot (MLS) / Medium Wide Shot (MWS) knees up
Cowboy Shot mid thigh up. Where gun is in holster is
Medium Shot (MS) waist through torso
Medium Close Up (MCU) chest up
Close Up (CU) face only
Extreme Close Up (ECU) part of the face, small objects or parts
Establishing Shot Shows where the action of the scene will take place often follows an aerial shot

OTHER KINDS OF Camera work and editing A. Pans
B. Tilts
C. Cuts (problems with continuity errors
a. Irising
b. Fades (in and out)
c. Dissolves
D. Tracking shots (phantom rides) vs. panning
For each scene, some variables in these "domains" has to be selected - and for a reason.

Special effect (in and out of the camera) Early examples are

1. Edison in the Execution of Mary Queen of Scots with a cut that is made to look like one shot
2. Demolition of a wall (run backwards)
3. Melies' films (e.g. Le Voyage dans la Luna (Trip to the Moon)
Other possible "variables" 3. Dickson’s sound experiment
4. Actors (how much interaction between actor and director i. Hitchcock told Leigh and Perkins in filming Psycho, "I will tell you what I need you to do in each shot. You are competent professional actors. Aside from what I need do what you want" (I suspect with his approval. Directors may often ask actors why they just did something and then either say "Don’t" or "leave it in"
ii. Something may be good but work against the director’s concept
iii. Something may delay the overall action or disrupt the structure of the film (dueling in Without a Clue; "spider pit" in the original King Kong
iv. Entrances and exits - first appearances in the film
Cuts. Once films begin to make cuts within the same scene, there is always the problem of the dreaded continuity error. Because films are shot out of sequence or edited out of sequence it is possible for Vmagical" things to happen. Pencils come and go phones move from one side of the table to another. A somewhat famous one occurs in the Tim Burton Batman (1989) in which the Joker and friends put paint all over a museum. The handprints made with paint, set appear and disappear in alternate shots as one set of shots without the handprints, gets intercut with a set of shots with the handprints. Finding continuity errors is a favorite pastime of some film goers.


Le Jardinier et le petit espiegle(The Gardener and the Little Scamp) (Louis Lumiere) (1895 1 minute) (First "plotted"film and perhaps firsst narrative "comedy" (joke)
The demolition of a wall (Louis Lumiere) 1896 (first film to be run backwards)
Diskson’s Sound experiment (Edison/Dixon) (1894 1 minute) (first synchronized sound film)
The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter)(1903 11 minutes) (editing, use of outdoor shots, etc.)
Sherlock Junior Buster Keaton (1924 45 minutes) (Climax (?) of this kind of "(stop camera and make a change and restart camera"( edit)
Scene vs. shot.

Ellipsis: the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues:

Great Train Robbery 1903 (Porter) 11 minutes

The Great Train Robbery added a new wrinkle to editing. It no longer followed a sequence of events but cut into it. While the film proceeds in a fairly typiclal way - Train ribbers come into the office, go and take the train, blow up the money box; shoot the guarf; rob the people, take off in the train.... all of this is following the robbers in perfectly good temporal order. when suddenly the film moves back to the offie where the lttle girl revives and releaases the unconscious agent. Then the film cuts to a group of cowwboys and women dancing. A "tenderfoot" is made to dance while the cowboys shoot as his feet. The agent suddenly rushes in and apparently announces the train has been robbed. The cowboys leeeave in pursuit. The film then cuts back to the robbers ecaping in the woods.

These cuts in the middle of things to other places wihtout some connection was new. When there was a causal connection it might be expected the audience would follow. In Life of an American Fireman cuts jumped distances, but were "causal" A hand pulls a fire alarm and the cut is to the firemen jumping out ofbed in the fire house and sliding down the pole. In the recut version, the images switch from inside the house to outside the house ging a continuity of action from 2 viewpoits. In The Great Train Robbery Use of color possibly to indicate sudden noises or sounds – occurs with dance music, explosions and gun shots.

In Sherlock Jr. (1924) some 21 years after The Great Train Ribbery film has undergone many is doubtless the epitome of special effects of the kind where some sort of transformation happens. In Melies, it is the person or object that comes abd goes but in Sherlock Jr. the person stays and the world around him changes, The characters in The Great Train Robbery are not really 2 dimension they are virtually without dimension. In Sherlock Jr. they have personalities. Sherlock Jr. also raises some questions about the relationship between life and film and is in this respect reflexive. That is it is a film that looks at film (among other things).

While all the technology is changing in the film business other aspects of the business are changing too.

We said at the outset of the course that there were many aspects to the history of film which interact with one another:

(a) The history of the technology and the understanding of the physics and biology involved that let people see still images as moving.
(b) The history of the aesthetics of film making - how and when it developed its own language and grammar (editing, fim making techniques)
(c) The history of the people in the "movie" business - performers, technicians, producers, directors, distributors. This often involves patents, legal squabbles, the development of the "star system"
(d) The history of criticism and its relationship to a theory of aesthetics.
(e) The history of the motion pictures as a phenomenon. /menu> There are basically three parts to film industry as such: a. The production or making of the films
b. The distribution of the films
c. The exhibition of the films


Early Days, Edison,
Melies (first to use a dissolve) Vertical integrations of production, distribution and exhibition
Charles Pathe 1894) (had 3 brothers formed Pathe Freres Also vertically integrated,
Louis Gaumont
Biograph (actually The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company)
Now while all of this is going on in the production end of the business, things the movie BUSINESS is also happening in the distribution and exhibition of the films
(1) Some people rather early became involved in the motion picture business, largely Jews from Germany, Russia and Poland. Like many other immigrants they went into businesses that were not already “structured” in c corporate manner, to which admission would be difficult. So many when into small individual business with storefront shops. Remember early businesses were “peep hole” shows not projected images and so these amusement business were well suited for people arriving in the country.
(2) Peep shows developed into films, and amusement parlors into Nickelodeons theaters charging 5 cents). The theaters got nicer looking and finally they began producing their own films
(3) Because of a number of reasons, the production end - the actually making of the films had moved to the West Coast (California) – lots of land that real estate agents were delighted to sell since there was a lot of land and not very valuable so large tracts could be bought cheaply; the weather was good – lots of sun; the terrain was good for outdoor shoots
(4) Movie companies bought large tracts of land for studios that became the major ones: Paramount, MGM, First National. Most of these if not all, were conglomerations of other studios bought up by larger ones
The Early Major Studios A. PARMOUNT i. Famous Players in Famous plays (1912) Zucker and Frohman Brothers That same year they released a French film about Queen Elizabeth. Their first actual production was The Count of Monte Cristo in 1912 but released in 1913 directed by Edwin Porter
ii. In 1915 it established a Studio where the first film starred Mary Pickford
iii. In 1916 it merged with Jesse Lasky’s Feature Play Company
iv. Zukor establish three levels of films initially - A pictures, stage stars, stage properties art films; B pictures with established screen players like Mary Pickford; and C pictures – quickies made cheaply. The public liked the B pictures better than the A ones
v. Zukor bought up many smaller studios so he had all three aspects of the business somewhat under his control. He instituted “blockbooking’ a process where movie theaters would have to agree to take 532 weeks of pictures from his studio and show them, if they were to get the big star pictures. This led to Zukor buying up theaters since it was better than block booking!
B. MGM Marcus Loew had a theater chain (Loew’s theatres) and wanted more profit from the movies he showed in his chain. In 1924 he bought a company called Metro Picture Company and merged it with another called The Goldwin Picture Company. Then he brought in a third person Louis B. Mayer another theater owner turned producer, put him in charge of production at what became MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) . brought with him as assistant Irving Thalberg to supervise the shooting of the pictures. Mayer was in charge of production, (not distribution) and Thalberg supervised the shooting of the pictures. MGM had classy genteel theaters that showed films with the same qualities (usually Don’t forget Freaks). They took over Culver City and began to distribute their films, They controlled all three aspects. THis was something Gaumont films and Pathe had done many years earlier
C. Theater owners were unhappy with the block booking and decided to overcome the system by contrating with artists to make pictures for them, so a number of theater owners joined together as First National Exhibitors Circuit led by W.W. Hodkinson (formerly with Paramount) and J D. Williams contracted to make films with the stars directly and approached Chaplin and Harry Langdon to make pictures for them directly. It worked well for the stars who got independence and backing and the owners got properties that would sell First National was a major film company in the early days .
C. UNITED ARTISTS People from each level were moving into the other levels, so it wasn’t strange to discover that performers themselves should become producers and work for themselves. So United Artists was born in 1919 when D.W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Doulas Fairbanks joined together and each would produce their own films. Griffiths’ first UA film was Broken Blossoms. Each would produce their own films, which would then be distributed by UA. UA would eventually merge with MGM D. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS CARL LAMMLE went from the nickelodeon business in 1906 to film distribution, then into production. Founded in 1908, it was called IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company). It merged with some smaller companies and became the Universal Film Company in 1912 and established and opened Universal City in 1915 Universal made the famous Lon Chaney version of Phantom of the Opera in 1925. They would go on to become famous for their monster films of the 30’s E.FOX STUDIOS William Fox also moved from distribution (begun in 1904) to production (1915) There was a name change from “Box Office Attractions” to “Fox Film Corporation” It was a company known for “quality productions” and produced Sunrise the only film ever awarded an Academy Award for “artistic quality of production” It was also known for its newsreels and early sound films. It merged in 1935 with Darryl Zanuck’s 20th Century Productions to become 20th Century Fox F. WARNER BROTHERS The 4 Warner Brothers also started with a nickelodeon(1905) and produced their first film in 1925.A minor company until 1927 when it released The Jazz Singer. At that point everything changed and Warner’s took over First National G. COLUMBIA STUDIOS The last of the majors was formed by 2 Cohn Brothers, Harry and Jack, and Joe Brandt. They named their enterprise Columbia Pictures in 1924. They are probably most well known for their director Frank Capra which had more to do with the reputation than anything technical like sound.
One of the differences of opinion that exosted between some of thee studios and the independents was the concept of the "performer" as "star". The normal technique was to use the character's name in the crediits "Little Maggie's ....." with the implication that the person was actually "Maggie". The studios as opposed to the independents wanteed to keep the actuaal stars anonymous because they feared it would raise their salaries and hence the cost of productiom. They were right. The independents, however, felt that the star's names would attract more people and hence there would be a greater profit even if the film costs more. They were also right, and won the battle. Some stars were asking million dollar contracts and studios were fighting to sign them