Making Media
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Making Media

Foundations of Sound and Image Production

Jan Roberts-Breslin

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Making Media

Foundations of Sound and Image Production

Jan Roberts-Breslin

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Taking essential media production processes, this book deconstructs them into the most basic components. Students will learn the concepts of media production – frame, sound, light, time, motion, and sequencing – and be able to apply them to any medium they choose, from film and television to fine art and online applications. They will also become well-grounded in the digital work environment and the tools required to produce media in today's digital environment. The primacy of content and the importance of an ethical approach to media making are also emphasized.

This new fifth edition is fully updated throughout, featuring updates on technology and processes. Included is new information on shooting with a cell phone, developments in mirrorless cameras, color grading, tips for recording good audio, intimacy training, and much more. Fully illustrated, this book includes sidebar discussions of pertinent issues throughout. There is a companion website with interactive exercises for each chapter, allowing students to explore the process of media production.

This book is ideal for media students on courses including media production, film production, audio production, and photography.

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CHAPTER 1Content and Development

DOI: 10.4324/9781003120889-1
Content is primary to making media. The various classifications of content are presented, as well as the importance of cultural perspective and attention to ethical and legal concerns. The development stage of production is broken down into budgeting and financing. The range of visualization techniques are illustrated—script formats and site maps.

The Primacy of Content

Why make media? Different aspects of media production may draw you to the practice. It may be the challenge of understanding and mastering the technology that can turn light and physical vibrations into mediated sounds and images of breathtaking fidelity and clarity. It may be the aesthetic satisfaction of a stunning composition, evocative sound mix, or artfully choreographed camera movement. It may be the collective energy of a collaborative process or the satisfaction of individual creation. And it may be the power of mediated sound and image to express, confess, inform, persuade, and subvert. Ultimately there has to be something you want to say. The message can be literal and direct or abstract and implied. You may want to communicate to an audience of one or to the world.
This is not a book on writing. There are many good ones out there already. There are books about writing scripts for mainstream movies and television shows. There are ones that present an alternative approach and ones that emphasize the creative process and development of story ideas. This book is about the production process and the ways of realizing story ideas through sound and pictures. However, if we don’t recognize the importance of content, the rest is in vain. All the virtuosity in the world when it comes to camera work, sound recording, lighting, and editing is not what brings us to the movie theater or causes us to turn on the TV, radio, or computer. We want information. We want to be entertained. We want to feel emotion or get a glimpse of life through another person’s point of view. The techniques of media production are the tools that make expressing yourself possible.

Developing Story Ideas

The term story is used here in the broadest sense. It refers to imagined events enacted by made-up characters. It also refers to information you want to teach or messages you want to share. I would even argue (though some would certainly disagree) that an emotional response elicited from abstract sounds and images tells a story of sorts. Sometimes production is a process of realizing your own story idea; sometimes it’s a matter of interpreting an idea developed by someone else. Generating these ideas comes easily to some people; for others, it’s a challenge.
Figure 1.1Careful observation of life around you is an important tool of story development.
There are many techniques for encouraging creativity, such as keeping a dream journal and creating a scrapbook of intriguing news. Careful observation of everyday life helps you create fictional characters and situations that are believable (Figure 1.1).
Keeping involved in the community and informed about social and political issues spurs the desire to inform and persuade others. Appreciation of other art forms, such as painting, sculpture, theater, live music, and dance, helps in making artful media. Ultimately, passion, keen observation, and perseverance mark good storytellers.

Knowing your Audience

Deciding what story you want to tell is just the first step. Next, you must decide to whom you want to tell it. There are a couple of ways to look at this. Do you want to produce your work and then try to find an audience that will respond to it? Or are you trying to target your message to a specific audience, be it large or small?
Media artists often fall into the first category. The creation of the work is satisfying in and of itself. Artists hope that others will appreciate the work too and that recognition, profit, or at least subsistence will be forthcoming. As satisfying as self-expression can be, however, most artists are not satisfied to work in a vacuum. They want to contribute to the culture and have their voices heard. Their work might be a critique of social values or an attempt to encourage debate or evoke a universal emotion. For that to happen, the work must find its audience.
Media activists and advertisers often fall into the second category. The work is created from and based on researched data or intuitive beliefs as to what will sway opinions and motivate action. The media activist might be promoting sustainable energy through a grassroots documentary to be shown at a community gathering. The advertiser might be trying to get everyone to buy a certain brand of shampoo. Both are driven by how the audience responds.
For many makers of media, the audience relationship is somewhere in between. There is the desire to create high-quality work that fulfills the maker’s drive for self-expression, but media makers must also face the realities of the marketplace and the need to make a living. In a capitalistic society, the value of a piece of work is judged, by many, in primarily economic terms. Sometimes the motivation to express one’s creativity and the motivation to reach an audience are compatible; sometimes conflict arises between them. Sometimes that conflict exists within an individual maker; sometimes it is a conflict between different participants in a collaborative media project. The dynamics of self-expression and audience response, and the resulting tension between them, can create a better piece of work.

Matching the Medium to the Message

You can categorize a work of audiovisual media in many different ways. You can consider the type of programming: fiction feature, sitcom, installation, webisode, documentary, and so on. You can consider the method of production used to create the programming: digital camera, audio recording, or even film. You can also consider the means of distribution, the specific form of media on which the programming has been distributed. This could be a movie theater, streaming service, museum or gallery, or website.
In the past, the relationship between the programming, the method of production, and the means of distribution was much more straightforward than it is today. Movies were shot on film and viewed in the theater. Television programming originated live and was broadcast to the TV set in your living room. Radio programming, also broadcast live, traveled through the air, via radio waves, and was heard in your house or car. Museums and galleries were for paintings, sculpture, and sometimes photography.
Now, the types of programming, the production methods, and the distribution means of media overlap much more. This is sometimes called convergence of the media. Movies can be in the theater, viewed on demand from your cable or satellite provider, or streamed over the internet and viewed on your computer or mobile device. Some movies are still shot on actual film (including many high-budget blockbusters), but high-definition and digital imaging techniques are increasingly used to shoot feature films. Even if it is shot originally on film, footage is converted to digital media to be edited and almost always digitally projected.
In the 1950s, television was almost exclusively the live broadcast of video images and sound. By the 1960s, film became the prevalent production tool of primetime television, and it is still used, though it has been mostly replaced by high-definition digital media. Digital video is widely used in websites and for other interactive uses, such as kiosks and social media platforms. Radio programming is usually simultaneously broadcast via radio waves and streamed online. Such convergence is expected to increase, but that doesn’t mean the end of current combinations of programming, production methods, and means of distribution. It means new types and combinations of each. It means increased opportunities for media artists to create new forms and explore challenging content (Figure 1.2).
Having so many options provides a challenge to the media maker: “I have a story to tell. What is the best way to tell it? Should it be a two-hour film or an online game? Should it be a podcast or a web series?” These are not easy questions. The answer is often driven by many factors. Audience becomes key to determining programming type and means of distribution. Who is your audience and what forms of media are they most likely to use? An entire sector of the media industry is dedicated to audience research to help answer these important questions.
What programming type best communicates the message you want to send? Is the history of the civil rights movement in the United States told best by a dramatized reenactment or a factual website or perhaps by both? If you want to teach children about biology, is it better to create an entertaining TV show with a wacky scientist host or an interactive website that allows students to conduct virtual experiments and create digital habitats? The method of production is driven by the maker’s talents and preferences, industry practice, and budget restrictions. The maker might prefer film over video, but the industry practice is to shoot talk shows on video. Accepted industry practice might dictate that sitcoms are shot with multiple cameras in the studio, but a creator’s vision and budget might instead be produced as a single-camera, location-based sitcom. If the audience likes it, there will be more, and it, too, will become an accepted way of doing things.
Figure 1.2One example of media convergence is the wide use of video in social media.

Classifying Content

A basic premise of this book is that certain underlying concepts and concerns apply to all types of media productions, from Hollywood blockbusters to museum video installations. As you make your way through this book you will find that concepts such as framing, sound, time, and movement exist in all types of media, but you will also find that it becomes necessary or convenient at times to be able to classify works of media production, even though those classifications can overlap. One way of starting to organize the types of media production is to set up categories that apply to the relationship of the content to reality, or whether the content of the production is fiction or nonfiction.
Any time you start exploring the concepts of what is real or what is true, you’re opening up a can of proverbial worms. Philosophers have been struggling with these questions for thousands of years, but for the sake of convenience and trying to provide some structure to the way we organize our thinking about the broad spectrum of media production, perhaps we can agree that fiction is based on an imagined event or series of events, often with made-up participants and locations. Nonfiction, then, portrays actual events or situations that exist in the material world. Examples of fiction media include horror films, detective TV series, radio dramas, and role-playing games. Generally, fiction media will involve actors playing roles and plot and dialogue constructed by a writer. (In role-playing games, the player might be the one assuming the character’s identity and making decisions.) Nonfiction media range from historical documentaries, to web diaries, to reality TV, to live cov...

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