“Reading” Movies?

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I learned from “How to Read a Movie”, that reading a movie is basically analyzing the scene. Roger Ebert mentioned an example that he heard from film critic, John West. The example is that you can analyze films just like how football coaches study game plays. I never really thought of these two things as the same, but it makes sense!

I think that when you are watching a film,  you take each scene and think about several things:

  • What do you see?
    • Pay attention to characters and the settings of the scenes.
  • The impact
    • How does the scene affect the viewers emotionally, or how does the aesthetics of the scene on onto the movie in general.

Roger Ebert states that watching a movie with others can help with answering simple curious questions because the movie being watched in different perspectives.

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One really interesting thing that I learned is about the positioning of characters in a frame. There are such things as “positive” or “negative” tendencies in a composition. “In a two-shot, the person on the right will “seem” dominant over the person on the left… A movement to the right seems more favorable; [and not so much ]to the left.” Overall, the right is more positive and left is more negative.

From the short video of The Shining movie, I got the idea that the Zoom-Ins feature was used throughout the movie to create intensity or focus. For most of the scenes shown, the zoom-in effect amplified the feeling of suspense and mystery.

Until I watched this video, I never realized that there are so many editing techniques and what they were called or used for.

For example, here are a few of the techniques in the video and what I thought about them:

  • Jump Cuts
    • Switching to a different frame to show another character. Other times, jump cuts are used when the actor did several takes to do a certain line.
  • ¬†Slow Motion/Montage
    • This is to make the clip more dramatic.
  • Wipe Transition
    • Help create a sense of movement along with the characters.
  • Fast Motion/ Time Compression
    • Similar to a time lapse

I think that the article and videos were all great background resources to look at as an introduction to video making.

Join the Conversation


  1. I like the techniques you got from How to Read A Movies. I also liked your descriptions of the different techniques that were used in the cinematic techniques videos. This was very informative, thank you!

  2. Great summary of “reading” movies! Sounds like a figure of speech, huh?

    I knew filmmaking required a lot of editing, but I never really knew exactly how much. It’s really interesting to learn and analyze! If you are able to, look into the class ENGL245: Intro to Cinema Studies.
    It’s fun and you get to watch and analyze movies! Excited to see what videos you make this week.

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