Aaron Smith’s Response Journal

Nov6th

Video Essay Reflection

One essay that I think is extremely relevant to film and media students, this narration class, and the video essay assignment in particular is Greg M. Smith’s “It’s just a movie.” Smith writes a compelling response to film students who wonder, “Are we reading too much into films? After all, it’s just a movie!” Admittedly, I’ve asked this very question myself when thinking about Bordwell’s arguments. I’ll paraphrase a few of Smith’s points because I think they’re important as we close the ‘film unit’ of narration.

  1. Everything in a film is a choice.
  2. Films are not messages that we ‘get’ or ‘don’t get.’ They are more complicated than the sender-message-receiver model.
  3. Audiences already read into films based on intrinsic norms, extrinsic norms, and extratextual knowledge. Narration is an active process that demands interpretation.
  4. Films hold valuable cultural and historical meanings.
  5. Analyzing a film while simultaneously being entertained by it results in a richer, more complex experience.

I would argue that the average film class at Middlebury does not adequately reinforce all of these five reasons for studying film (and there are more) Why? Because often written analytical essays are the only way a student can convey their engagement with the material. Yes, academic papers are absolutely essential to studying film and media and in gaining a liberal arts education in general. Papers should be the primary contributor to a grade, at least in the Film Department, but I don’t think they should be the only type of required assignment.

In creating this video essay, I know I gained a greater appreciation for Smith’s 1, 2, and 3. Instead of merely observing an author’s choices, I made my own. And by understanding the infinite possibilities that could have changed everything, I was able to recognize the skill in the choices that were made. Instead of analyzing the message of the text, I thought about how a message can be manipulated through editing. Instead of concentrating on analyzing the author and the text, I focused on their effect on the active role of the viewer. These are all learning experiences that a paper simply could not have done justice.

I probably could go on and on about the importance of integrating media literacy into a liberal arts education but that might be for another post. The point is this: the video essay provided valuable insights about the construction of movies that I could not have obtained any other way. Ultimately, it was a great tool in developing number 5, learning how to have a deeper, more complex viewing experience.

Video Essay Reflection 2
This video essay provided a learning experience that I could not have gotten from an analytical paper. Completing the assignment involved four steps. First, I needed to analyze how the original text’s narration was operating. How was it cuing and constraining the viewer’s fabula construction and how was this process heightened by style? A written essay would have ended after a satisfactory discussion over this question. But then I needed to think creatively about how I was going to manipulate the narration and create my own cues to alter the viewer’s response. This required a fundamental understanding about how the formal and stylistic features of a film guide a spectator’s story construction and comprehension.

Once I came up with an idea, I problem solved about how I was going to effectively convey my desired message and how I was going to overcome any potential technical difficulties. Utilizing these three skills—critical analysis, creative thinking, and problem solving—I gained a greater appreciation for the constructedness of narration and the careful decision-making that goes into it. I can imagine how this would be important to an aspiring film writer/director/producer who must access and apply all three skills simultaneously.

Finally, the fourth step involved a re-analysis of my re-edit. After looking at the piece days after producing it and after discussing it in class, I discovered insights about it that were unintentional yet interesting nonetheless. This demonstrated to me how a viewer can interpret a text in a completely different way than the author’s original intent, but that doesn’t mean the interpretation is wrong.

In response to Snap Z Pro, as a digital media tutor I understand how it can be frustrating, time consuming, and unhelpful. There are only four computers that carry the program and sometimes there’s a bug that requires you to delete a corrupt preference file before you can record audio.
However, the main issue with SnapZ is that it is made for capturing up to 5 minute clips. Any more than that and it becomes a tedious process to maintain the quality of the video while keeping the file size down. For this assignment, you want to be able to play with a lot of footage and experiment a little, not force together short captured clips. It takes awhile to capture a long clip. It takes awhile to encode and export it. And it takes awhile to import it or render it in a video editing software. Because editing is so time consuming, it is especially aggravating when there are problems just acquiring the footage.

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