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CG087. Time-based Multimedia Assets. Week 7. Storytelling For Beginners. Today. Silent times and Storyspace. Film Form. Motivation and motifs. Narrative form Story and plot. Time and space. Classical Hollywood cinema Expectations. Silent times and Storyspace. Silent times .

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cg087 time based multimedia assets

CG087. Time-based Multimedia Assets

Week 7. Storytelling For Beginners.

  • Silent times and Storyspace.
  • Film Form.
    • Motivation and motifs.
  • Narrative form
    • Story and plot.
    • Time and space.
  • Classical Hollywood cinema
  • Expectations
silent times
Silent times .
  • Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein.
  • helps write the rulebook of modern cinematic techniques
  • Made in 1925. A short edited sequence from the Odessa steps section of the film. A short story in its own right.
  • This link gives another story from the same section.

Very powerful drama. Strong emotional content.

30 Sec long 18 cuts

Click on image.

silent times5
Silent times
  • Charlie Chaplin.

Witty intelligent comedy.

10 sec 5 cuts a mini-story in its own right

Click on image.

storyspace the ultimate game where people play with each others expectations
Storyspace. The ultimate game where people play with each others expectations
  • It is generally agreed that all stories have:
  • Beginning(I say I say I say… My dogs got no nose)
  • Middle(Your dogs got no nose? How does he smell? )
  • End(terrible!)
  • Applies to Movies, Opera, TV adverts, Novels, Jokes etc.
storyspace what is it
Storyspace what is it?
  • “Chunks” of experience organised in a way that has a beginning, middle and end.
  • Lots of things fit the description from phone calls, theories of universe, switching on a light etc.
  • Is this how we experience information that has resulted from action ?
  • Many real, Physical phenomena like gravity and light were simply not noticed by people until acutely perceptive individuals came up with satisfactory stories about them. (storyfication)
  • Where no suitable story exists we make one up that fits the Information we have.
  • Science, religion, paranoia, superstitions, life after death etc…if we cannot make up a story we become confused and may suffer psychological trauma and cannot function.
  • How quick can storyspace be…….. ?????
the duration of the present miroslav holub
“The duration of the present”Miroslav Holub.
  • Shortest possible narrative is between 50 milliseconds and about 3 seconds.
  • Under 50 milliseconds, events do not make it into consciousness, although they have powerful effects subconsciously.
  • Is it the opposite of story?
  • If we cannot perceive events as stories can we perceive them at all ?
  • Events that do not follow the BME structure could just be cognitive noise, but too-abrupt events which appear to the audience/viewer out of sequence may be impossible to assimilate and may even cause trauma. Road accidents, bombings, muggings etc. No perceived gentle build up/no sequence.
why study formalist film theory
Why Study Formalist Film Theory?
  • To provide a theoretical foundation for understanding the forms and functions of time-based media
  • Unlike “Film Studies”, we the understanding not to interpret films, but to analyze and design multimedia information systems
    • Video capture
    • Video analysis
    • Video retrieval
    • Video assembly
    • Video reuse
    • Video summarization (e.g., meeting recording)
    • User interfaces to audio-visual content and that use audio-visual content
perceiving artistic form
Perceiving Artistic Form
  • Form
    • The overall system of relations that we can perceive among the elements in the whole film
  • In perceiving form, the spectator draws on
    • Cues within the work
    • Prior experiences
      • Derived from everyday life
      • From other artworks
        • Conventions and norms
principles of film form
Principles of Film Form
  • Function
    • What is this element doing there?
    • How does it cue us to respond?
    • Motivation (justification for the presence of an element)
  • Similarity and repetition
    • Motif (any significant repeated element in a film)
    • Parallelism (cues to compare two or more distinct elements by highlighting some similarity)
  • Difference and variation
  • Development
    • Progression moving from beginning to middle to end
  • Unity/Disunity
viewer s activity
Viewer’s Activity
  • “The constant interplay between similarity and difference, repetition and variation, leads the viewer to an active developing awareness of the film’s formal system.”
narratives are highly motivated
Narratives are highly motivated.
  • They are organized systematically.
  • Every element of film form serves a function in the narrative.
  • Motivation means that everything you see and hear in a film is intended to be meaningful. Implicitly as spectators, and explicitly as film analysts, we recognize the systematic organization of narrative through the repetition and development of motifs.
motifs are basic elements of narrative meaning
Motifs are basic elements of narrative meaning.
  • A motif is any significant element of film form.
    • A motif is a little hammer overloaded with meaning. It can be a gesture, a character trait, a piece of dialogue, a musical theme [Jaws theme], patterns of light and dark, camera movement [subjective camera in Halloween], any manipulation of the image [solarized image in Predator]; in short, any kind of narrative or stylistic element.
  • A motif is by definition repetitive.
    • It will reoccur and redevelop in a strategic and meaningful way.

Motifs are basic elements of narrative meaning

  • A motif can serve multiple narrative functions
    • The system and coherence of the narrative film, its abhorrence of non-functional elements, and its apparent organic unity are presented here as ideals. Most Hollywood films aspire to be tight, unified, with everything meaningful and in place. But few succeed entirely and some don't succeed at all. While aspiring to unity almost all narrative films incorporate, consciously or not, elements of disunity. Rather than all the motifs harmonizing, as it were, there are often some wrong notes.
    • More importantly, some films strategically and systematically build themselves on principles of disunity. The "montage" style of Soviet films of the 1920's are one example. Rather than assimilating shots into the impression of a continuous space, they stressed the formal integrity of the shot and the shock of the cut..
  • Plot’s way of distributing story information in order to achieve specific effects
  • Moment-by-moment process that guides us in building the story out of the plot
  • Involves range (unrestricted/restricted) and depth (perceptual and mental subjectivity) of knowledge of story information
range of story information
Range of Story Information
  • Spectrum of knowledge of the story world that viewers and characters have
    • Unrestricted (omniscient) narration
    • Restricted narration
  • Creates “hierarchy of knowledge” among viewer and characters
  • “Who knows what when?”
depth of story information
Depth of Story Information
  • How “deeply” the plot plunges into a character’s psychological states
  • Continuum between objectivity and subjectivity
  • Subjectivity
    • Perceptual subjectivity (hear and see what character perceives)
      • Point-of-view shot
      • Sound perspective
    • Mental subjectivity (hear and see what character thinks)
      • Internal voices
      • Internal images
  • “How deeply do I know the character’s perceptions, feelings, and thoughts?”
  • Range and depth of knowledge are independent variables
narrative form23
Narrative Form
  • Narrative
    • A chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space
  • Story and Plot (chicken or egg ??)
    • Story
      • Set of all events in a narrative, both the ones explicitly represented and those the viewer infers
    • Plot
      • Everything visibly and audibly present in the film
      • All the story events that are directly depicted
story and plot


Presumed and inferred


Explicitly presented


Added non-diegetic




Story and Plot

Plot and Story

This implies a basic distinction: STORY and PLOT.

This distinction is useful for three reasons:

  • 1) it helps us move between a general consideration of narrative and the criticism of specific films;
  • 2) it helps us distinguish between the formal patterning of the film and the mental/perceptual activity of the spectator; and
  • 3) it helps us to understand the organization of film space and film time.
plot and story
Plot and Story
  • The plot refers to the ordering of actions and events as they actually appear in the film in their closed and irreversible sequence
    • The plot is organized by various patterns of development.
  • The story refers to the spectator’s mental reconstruction of these actions and events into a chronological and meaningful pattern.
plot and story27
Plot and Story
  • The plot is the film as it literally unrolls before your eyes. The plot of a film is fixed and unchanging, it always begins with first scene and ends with the last. (The first true exceptions to this rule are "Hypertext" narratives with truly randomized plots.)
  • However, the activity of story-making in the mind of the spectator is not so linear and fixed. While watching the film, the spectator is always juggling events in his or her memory, anticipating what comes next, making second guesses, reassessing old information in the light of the new, correcting earlier mistaken impressions; in short, establishing patterns of meaning out of the cues that the plot offers. Therefore, the "story" exists nowhere but in the mind of the spectator. It defines the interpretive activity, conscious or unconscious, that the spectator performs on the material offered by the plot. The plot rarely depicts events in strict chronological sequence. Time and causality are messed with in order to initiate mysteries and to give pleasure at their resolution (Pulp Fiction). The story--or "what really happened"--is therefore a mental construct, established by the spectator retroactively using the clues offered by the plot. (Many spectators many differing stories)
  • Temporal order
    • Flash-back
    • Flash-forward
  • Temporal duration
    • Story duration
    • Plot duration
    • Screen duration
  • Temporal frequency
    • Repetition of events
teeth brushing example
Teeth Brushing Example
  • Brushing Teeth
    • Protagonist stands in front of bathroom mirror
    • Protagonist opens medicine cabinet to remove toothbrush and toothpaste tube
    • Protagonist squeezes out toothpaste on toothbrush
    • Protagonist brushes teeth
    • Protagonist drinks water from glass
    • Protagonist spits out water and toothpaste residue
temporal duration
Temporal Duration
  • Story Duration
    • Example: Brushing teeth in story world (5 minutes)
  • Plot Duration
    • Example: Brushing teeth in plot world (1 minute: 6 steps of ~10 seconds each)
  • Screen Duration
    • Example: Brushing teeth (12 seconds: 3 shots of ~4 seconds each)
  • Story space
  • Plot space
  • Screen space and off screen space
patterns of development in the hollywood cinema
Patterns of development in the Hollywood cinema
  • Most Hollywood plots are structured in three-acts. BME structure
  • The three acts of most Hollywood films are further divided into six sections of narrative development.
  • The typical Hollywood plot follows a canonic form.
the six basic plot sections
The six basic plot sections
plot the canonic form
Plot: the “canonic form”
  • The basic pattern:
    • initial state of affairs--violence or rupture--restoration--undisturbed stage--disturbance--struggle--elimination of disturbance
  • A double causal structure: two plot lines
  • Each plot line encompasses a goal, obstacle and climax
  • The two plot lines coincide at the climax
  • Resolving one plot line triggers the resolution of the other
  • How to make a task easier divided it up into smaller tasks… Segments
  • Typical film has 14 - 35 segments each with 25 - 30 shots/ segment. Not standard just a guideline.
  • How do you recognise a segment ?
how to define a segment
How to define a segment
  • Beginnings and ending of segments are often signaled by cinematic marks of punctuation such as fades, dissolves, wipes, irises, or hard cuts;
  • A segment is often defined by unities of time, place, and action. A single narrative idea will be followed through from statement to conclusion;
  • Apprehension of formal unity in the patterning of the shots;
  • Apprehension of formal unity in the context of the film considered as a whole
classical hollywood cinema38
“Classical Hollywood Cinema”
  • Action primarily arises from individual characters as causal agents
  • The process of achieving goals desired by one or more characters drives the narrative’s development
  • The protagonists’ goals come into conflict with other characters’ goals (antagonists) to create conflict
classical hollywood cinema39
“Classical Hollywood Cinema”
  • The cause-effect chain drives narrative events
  • Plot time tends to depend on the story’s cause-effect chain
    • “Dead time” is rarely shown
    • Appointments bring characters together at a specific time and usually place
    • Deadlines makes plot duration dependent on the cause-effect chain
  • Narration tends to be “objective” and unrestricted
  • Narrative usually has strong closure at the end (cause-effect chain ends with final effect)
What are some of the basic conventions of film narrative?
  • Genres imply one set of conventions. What are some of the conventional expectations that you bring to the mystery genre?
  • Many historians also consider THE CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA or CHC as representing a set of stable narrative conventions. From the early on, the Hollywood studios refined their methods for standardizing the production of films. These standards, which have a concrete industrial and economic basis, became widespread owing to Hollywood's economic domination of world markets. In this manner, the classical Hollywood cinema has become the dominant model for the construction of "good" film narratives. The CHC has become an aesthetic norm for film narrative.

Just as there are films that build themselves systematically on principles of disunity, rather than unity, there are many important films that implicitly or explicitly challenge the norms of the CHC. The CHC presents a series of narrative conventions.

It neither objectively defines narrative as such, even good narrative, nor is it the only way of telling a story visually.

It is simply the most familiar model of film narrative. As you watch films you should think about which ones can be considered as creative deviations from the norm of Hollywood Cinema. There are also many important non-narrative films.

conventions of the classic hollywood cinema
Conventions of the classic, Hollywood cinema
  • Hollywood narrative:
  • … is human-centered; individual characters are the causal agents of the narrative; narrative centers on individual choice, action, decisions, or problems.
  • ... is driven by desire; --the narrative defines a lack or a need, proposing a goal that the protagonist must accomplish (the CHC is a goal-oriented form);
  • ... is built on opposition and conflict; the progress of the hero towards the defined goal is opposed by problems, obstacles, or a character with antagonistic values;
conventions of the classic hollywood cinema43
Conventions of the classic, Hollywood cinema
  • ... is linear (actions and events are clearly linked by a logic of cause and effect); the forward movement of the narrative, the progress or set-backs encountered by the hero, takes place in a linear fashion. Each action or event must follow logically from the actions preceding it even if that logic is only apparent retroactively. Time is subordinate to the cause and effect chain: the plot will omit insignificant elements in order to emphasize only events of causal importance; the plot will rearrange story chronology to maximize interest in the narrative.
  • ... depicts actions and events with clear and complete motivation; each element must have a clear reason for being there--it must follow the internal logic of the film.
conventions of the classic hollywood cinema44
Conventions of the classic, Hollywood cinema
  • ... tends to have an objective or omniscient narration; The camera narrates in third person. It pretends to an objective status against which the limited knowledge of individual characters can be measured. Even if a single character dominates the pov of the film, there are portions of the film that give us access to things that the character does not see, hear, or know.
  • ... communicates a strong sense of closure. No loose ends. All problems overcome, mysteries resolved, desires fulfilled.
chc hit list
CHC… hit list
  • Hollywood narrative is human-centered;
  • ... is driven by desire;
  • ... is built on opposition and conflict;
  • ... is linear (actions and events are clearly linked by a logic of cause and effect);
  • ... depicts actions and events with clear and complete motivation;
  • ... tends to have an objective or omniscient narration;
  • ... communicates a strong sense of closure.
finally expectations
Finally expectations.

Our narrative competence, like our ability to speak, is huge but largely unconscious. You need to be encouraged to be more self-conscious about your activity as spectators, simply do not accept what you see. Investigate your expectations.

  • Suspense
    • Delay in fulfilling an established expectation
    • (his he going to get caught ?)
  • Surprise
    • Result of an expectation that is revealed to be incorrect
    • (he gets away !)
  • Curiosity
    • Construct hypotheses about prior events
    • (why did he slam the door ?)