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Through The Eagle’s Eye Innovative Approaches to Teaching the Media Arts

The Language of Video

Through The Eagle’s Eye

The Language of Video

Media Arts Vocabulary Understanding the terms that bring meaning to video storytelling.

Through The Eagle’s Eye

The Language of Video The Basic Elements of A Video Most media pieces are created from a series of creative, technical and aesthetic elements that interweave to communicate a message or idea. The following, though not inclusive, represent the most common elements to this medium: Sound:

what we hear in terms of language, our natural environments, as well as conscious sounds we create and manipulate and internal life sounds.


what we see in our natural and constructed environments. An image is what we choose to view within a given frame of reference.


what we recognize as language in our society. It includes both written and spoken words and applies to most languages.


how images, sounds and text are arranged to expand or change the interpretation of a media work. This includes the use of time, motion, and rhythm.

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The Language of Video Formal Elements Every image is composed with lines, color, light, shadow, texture, shapes, compositions, angles, balance, change, etc. It is these elements that build meaning within a moving image. Without them, you have a blank screen - nothing, no color, no box to view. Used without thought, your video images are likely to lack a depth of meaning. Worse yet, your images may portray meaning that was never intended. When used purposefully your images will carry your intended meaning. As you become more comfortable recognizing and using these elements you will gain the power and ease of an experienced storyteller and

Through The Eagle’s Eye

The Language of Video Formal Elements

formal elements refer to the unique features that make up a picture.

Common examples include lines, shapes, textures, colors, etc.

When used well formal elements can create a strong emotional story.

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The Language of Video Formal Elements - Color The use of color within an image often Carries symbolic importance. For some the use of “reds” may symbolize anger, where the use of “blues” may make other feel at peace.

It is important to recognize how colors contribute to the story you are telling. By emphasizing them consciously You will be able to enhance the Meaning of your video.

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The Language of Video Formal Elements - Shape Shapes are distinct areas of visual information. Stressing the use of Shapes in an image helps to raise the level of abstraction and sense of symbolism.

The structure of common shapes take on greater meaning when connected to the real world.

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The Language of Video Formal Elements Texture Texture refers to the “feel” of the video image. A texture may be smooth, often consisting of a similar set of colors, like an image of water. Rough texture often uses contrasting colors and sharp shapes to presents the appearance of deeper dimensions.

Like color, the use of texture can create an emotional or symbolic meaning. Be aware of how texture appears within the frame of your camera and use it when possible to add meaning.

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The Language of Video Formal Elements - Line Straight or curvy, lines take you from one corner of the picture to another. Lines can be used to emphasize your subject matter or to draw the audience towards something new. In this photograph, the camera is tilted, emphasizing the the door frame and building corner. The model is then positioned (almost trapped) within those lines creating a new frame within the picture.

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The Language of Video Formal Elements - Light & Shadow Always be aware of the quality of light available when making a video or taking a photograph. Often, shadows or darkened areas can emphasize important aspects of images. Always know where the source of light is when collecting images. If photographed into the light, subject matter may appear shadowed or poorly defined. If the light is blocked by another object (such as a tree), the image may appear with streaked shadows. If you understand how light and contrast work, you will be able to create dramatic effects in your art. Illustrated below are some examples of good use of light and shadow. The pictures to the right demonstrate the use of: Reflection mirror

taken using the reflection of a rear view

Shadow taken with the sun behind the photographer

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The Language of Video Compositions Long Shot usually

An image captured from far away that usually includes the entire subject matter within the camera frame. This shot is

used to introduce a setting or environment (sometimes known as an “establishing shot”). Abbreviation: LS Mid-Shot This type of composition usually includes the subject matter from the waist up and is often used to introduce a “character” to the audience. Informally, the mid-shot is considered to be a “safeyet-friendly” distance that is similar to the length between two people shaking hands. Abbreviation: MS Close-up This type of shot is taken close to the subject and is often used to show emotion. The most common composition of a close-up is also called a ”head and shoulders shot,” which refers to a person

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The Language of Video Camera Angles High Angle down

The camera is placed high and looks

at the subject. This angle often makes the subject appear smaller than it is. In American culture, the use of this angle indicates that the subject being viewed by the camera is vulnerable and without powerďž‘this relates to the idea of a parent looking down at a child.

Low Angle The camera is placed low and looks up towards the subject matter. This angle often makes the subject appear larger than it is. In American culture, this angle often causes the audience to view the subject matter in a position of power and/ or importance, as if the audience were a child looking upward towards a parent. Camera angles are often used with great subtlety and

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The Language of Video Camera Movements Movement is most often considered when producing videos, but it can also play an important part in how photographs are taken and how the image conveys movement within a single frame. The following list contains some basic terms used in video. Pan

The camera moves horizontally (sideways) from left to right or right to left. Panning is often used to reveal more information about a setting or a situation.

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The Language of Video Camera Movements


The camera moves vertically (up and/or down) with the purpose of revealing new information about a setting or a situation.

Through The Eagle’s Eye

The Language of Video Camera Movements


The camera magnifies an image by moving from a long shot to a closer shot. Most cameras offer some form of a zoom function. The camera is able to use multiple lenses to magnify an image, making it appear closer than it really is. Beginning photographers often overuse the zoom function, creating chaotic movements or magnifying an image so the slightest movement of the camera causes the image to blur or appear “bumpy.”


A dolly shot serves a similar purpose as the zoom, except the camera itself physically slides forwards or backwards. By using a dolly shot, the camera operator has greater control over the speed of movement and focusing options. On professional film sets, tracks are laid for a dolly (cart) upon which the camera is placed; this ensures fluid movement. Less expensive options include the use of a steady cam, wheeled tripods, or simply carefully walking with a camera.

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The Language of Video In Summary: Always pay attention to what Is within the frame of your camera. Use formal elements, compositions Angles and movements thoughtfully. Use these basic elements the Same way you would use punctuation To add emphasis to your story. Be playful, experiment, and don’t be Afraid of being daring with the video Camera.

This power point presentation was created by: Keisha Little Cloud Tiana LaPointe

© 2005

Video Arts Vocabulary  

This presentation provides a basic overview of the language of video arts. Learn the terms for compositions, camera movements and and angle...

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