Working in teams of two, students will present an analysis of a 2- to 3-minute scene from one of our screen texts, explaining both the structure of the scene and its place within the textat large.
The analysis will take the form of narrated video presentation, about 8 to 10 minutes in length, which includes the sequence itself as well as a formal analysis and commentary. The video will be played in class and followed by discussion.
For an example of this assignment, see Professor Curley’s analysis of Perseus’ first meeting with Ammon in Clash of the Titans (1981). (YouTube) Our textbook, Looking at Movies, will assist you in your formal analyses. For a compendium of Barsam and Monahan’s critical vocabulary, consult the “Critical and Technical Glossary of the Cinema” handout.
Since CC 365 is a media-rich class, it makes sense to have a media-rich assignment. While it is possible to do excellent formal analyses of film in essays and in oral presentations, an analysis predicated on video and audio puts these powerful cinematic tools in your hands.
The goals of this assignment are
- To provide an opportunity to formally analyze a film on our viewing list.
- To promote cinematic literacy in advance of our semester project.
- To hone presentation skills in a medium increasingly common in academic discourse.
- To inspire discussion among peers.
The third objective is particularly important in our digital world, where images are now as important as words, if not more so. Your analysis will still test core communication skills: eloquent speaking, precise writing, and effective deployment of ideas. This assignment adds the strategic application of visuals to the mix.
The use of videos and podcasts in teaching and learning has exploded exponentially in the past decade, due in no small part to the ease with which they can be made and propagated. Creating effective videos will be a standard prerequisite for employment in the not-too-distant future. Better to be ahead of this curve than behind it.
In accordance with the schedule below, pairs will select a sequence from the film in question — a series of shots that somehow reflects central theme(s) or issue(s).
For the sake of brevity, the sequence should be about 2 to 3 minutes in length and relatively self-contained. The sequence might come from anywhere in the film — beginning, middle, or end — so long as it is sufficiently representative of the work at large.
Once a sequence is selected, students should create an 8- to 10-minute video that
- introduces the sequence, both where in the film it appears and why it’s important;
- plays the sequence from beginning to end without commentary;
- replays the sequence, using captions to both number and label the shots with correct cinematic terminology;
- explains, during the replay, how the shots engender meaning and contribute to the narrative of the sequence;
- concludes with thoughts on how the sequence exemplifies the themes of the film as a whole; and
- contains proper citations and attributions.
Although there is flexibility within each individual section, teams should follow this overall structure. Throughout the compilation process, students should share the tasks of writing, recording, and editing; and in the final video they should share the task of narrating.
Citations & attributions
The final section of the video should be a series of lists (or credits) in this order, as necessary.
- Bibliography. An alphabetical list of primary and secondary sources, if any, consulted during the making of the video. Use a standard bibliographic format, such as Chicago style.
- Filmography. An alphabetical list of screen texts used in making the video. Format: [Film Title] ([year in 0000 format]). Directed by [Firstname Lastname]. [Production company].
- Images. Alphabetical lists of screen texts and websites from which still images were taken. List screen texts first, following the same format as the Filmography. For websites, give the simple URL: www.cineblend.com or www.commons.wikimedia.org.
- Music. An alphabetical list of all albums and/or soundtracks used in the video, in this format: “[Track title].” Album Title. Composed by [Firstname Lastname]. Performed by [Firstname Lastname of performer and/or Name of ensemble or orchestra]. [Publishing company].
- Produced and Narrated by [your Firstname Lastname]. Skidmore College Class of [your graduating year in 0000 format].
- Acknowledgments. An alphabetical list of any people or departments that gave you assistance. (No need to say why.)
NOTE. In the formats given above, don’t use the square brackets, but do use italics, parentheses, quotation marks, and other punctuation, as indicated.
NOTE. Some lists might not apply to your video. If you didn’t use primary or secondary sources, don’t cite them. Don’t list music if you didn’t use any. Just because a list is mentioned above, that doesn’t mean you need to have something to list in your video.
After you’ve compiled your video, upload it to the CC 365 Google Drive folder (URL provided by email). Please do this by noon (EST) on the day it is to be shown in class. Prof. Curley will download it to his computer and play it over Zoom.
Choosing a sequence
As noted above, your sequence should reflect the themes of the screen text at large, and its shots should be legible in those terms.
The 2- to 3-minute rule is a strict one. A longer sequence will not only give too much to analyze, but also make for a longer video (which requires more time to create and to watch).
Be wary of sequences with too many brief shots, which will require more effort to unpack. If there are more than 50 shots, consider either abbreviating your sequence (it might be possible to start later in or to end earlier) or choosing a less complicated one. Consult with Prof. Curley if you have questions about this.
Order of work
Use screen capture software to record your sequence from either DVD or a streaming service; make sure you record the audio, too. Record the highest-definition video possible (sometimes streaming involves too much buffering, which can affect screen resolution). Don’t worry about extraneous material before or after your clip: you can edit that out later.
Next, use editing software (which might also be your screen capture software) to assemble your video. Programs such as iMovie, Camtasia, Panopto, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere are best bets, and they also offer free trials. I suggest watching the various promo videos, and then choosing the software that seems most user-friendly and most compatible with your operating systems. Then either download the free version or (in a world without COVID-19) visit one of our media labs.
Most editing software operates on “timeline and track” principles: a horizontal timeline of when you want video clips, voice recordings, images, and text to appear in your presentation; and vertical tracks to allow the various media to overlap (e.g., voice and text at the same time). It’s like a musical score, but much easier to read.
When Prof. Curley made his sample video using Camtasia, these were his overall agenda:
- Tweaking the clip of the sequence so that it was as long as needed. This is the version that plays first, the one without commentary.
- Copying that clip and adding commentary and captions. Captions numbering and describing each shot were made first, then voiceover descriptions of the shots and other in-the-moment commentary. If a voiceover was too long for a shot, the shot was paused as needed. Short voiceovers were improvised; long ones were scripted and read aloud.
- Recording conclusions (working from a script) and adding accompanying still images, which were screen-grabs from the movie.
- Recording the introduction (again, scripted) and adding accompanying stills.
- Finally, providing citations and attributions, and adding a little music to liven things up (but not at the expense of content).
Best (and worst) practices
DO break the assignment up into manageable bits and prepare your video over the course of several days. DON’T try to do it all in one sitting.
DO have an organized, assembly-line approach to the assignment. Make all captions at once, for example, to assure stylistic unity. Record all of your audio at once, but edit it later as a separate task. DON’T get hung up on perfecting each element as you add it (which is one of your instructor’s tragic flaws). Rather, polish all of the pieces in stages once they are in place.
DO keep track of the individual media that make up your project. DON’T move items around during production (meaning, DON’T move them from one folder to another), or there’s a good chance your editing software won’t be able to find it. This advice is particularly true when working in pairs. You will probably need to set up a common cloud space to store your media.
DON’T treat your commentary like academic prose. DO script yourself in longer voiceovers, but keep the prose lively (though not jocular).
DON’T try to say everything there is to say about your clip. DO remember that the ultimate goal is to foster discussion among your peers, so leave room for some observations and discoveries after the video.
DO try to record the best audio you can, keeping in mind that some poor quality audio can be improved through editing. DO (if possible) visit Media Services and try out their audio equipment. DO wear headphones or earbuds as you edit your audio.
DO try to make your video the best it can be, both conceptually and technically, but DON’T put visual or aural flair above solid analysis. There are worlds of difference between effectiveness and perfection, and between competency and expertise.
DO back up your work on the cloud, but DON’T edit it from there. Instead, DO point your editing software to a hard drive (either on your laptop or a portable drive or the desktop of a public computer). The reason: most software requires instant access to the various elements that will comprise your video, and the cloud or even a USB stick vastly inhibits access times and results in severe delays while editing.
DO remember, while you can preview your work-in-progress and see how it plays, what you see on your software timeline is NOT your final video. When everything is in place and edited to perfection, you must still take the final step of compiling or “producing” your work into a standard video format (such as MP4) — a 5 to 10 minute process.
Finally, DO break up the work as evenly as you can, and work together as safely as you can. You all bring different skills sets and talents to the table. Maximize these. DO remember that working together takes more time than working individually. DON’T make major creative decisions without consulting one another.
This assignment is worth a substantial portion — 20% — of your final grade. Overall, you will be expected to produce a video both competent from a technical standpoint and effective from the standpoint of communicating your ideas.
While technical matters will factor into your grade, far more important is the video’s success in organizing your ideas, presenting them clearly, and demonstrating awareness of how the sequence (a) works on its own and (b) is emblematic of the film in which it appears.
Here are the rubrics by which Prof. Curley will evaluate your video:
- Technical competency (20%). The look and sound of the video overall. Its use of clips, transitions, captions, and narration, and its blending of these and other elements into a whole. How it takes advantage of its medium. If the video feels little different from an academic essay or a PowerPoint presentation, it’s probably not availing itself of the technology.
- Organization (30%). How well the video follows the formats outlined above (under Requirements). Its flow from idea to idea. How easy it is to follow. If the video is disjointed or unclear, it probably suffers from poor organization.
- Content (30%). The correct labeling of shots in the formal analysis. The interpretation of the shots within their sequence. A compelling connection between the sequence and its film. Responsible citing of sources. If the video has no thoughtful ideas or if it offers trifling or inaccurate analysis, its content is not robust.
- Discussion (20%): The quality and quantity of the ensuing discussion. If the video inspires (or renews) excitement and interest in the film among peers, it has done its job.
RESOURCES (written in a pre-COVID-19 era)
Scribner Library 113. LI 113 is a workshop and meeting space that fosters visual literacy and documentary skills. Room 113 has meeting areas, as well as audio and video production services. Experienced student assistants hold open hours during the week and provide assistance on media-rich projects.
Multimedia Production Lab. Located on the ground floor of Scribner Library, the Lab is open for use whenever the library is open, with staff available to answer questions and sign out equipment.
Prof. Curley is also available to answer any questions you might have, or to steer you in the right direction. He will, given enough time, watch a rough cut of your video and offer suggestions for improvement.
The sites from which you can download editing software also provide excellent technical support. See, for instance, the short but extremely helpful tutorials on the Camtasia site.
Reminder. Final videos are due by noon EST in our shared Google Drive folder on the day they are scheduled to be shown in class.
09.24. Hercules (1958). Graubart & Ricci.
09.29. The Legend of Hercules (2014). Huntley & Savage.
10.06. Hercules (2014). Whatley & Rosenblum.
10.15. Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Eiger & Raker.
10.22. Medea (1969). Cullors & Pettit.
10.29. Helen of Troy (1956). Gross & Jefferson.
11.05. Troy (2014). Davis & Knepper.
11.12. Iphigenia (1977). Bernstein & Padala.