Saturday, March 20, 2010

Scene Analysis Assignment

For the assignment, I require the students to select at least two scenes and the scenes must total at least six minutes of film.

They begin by making a complete shot list and sound track description for the scene. For each shot, I ask them to provide:
  • A time code for each shot.

  • A shot description, which should include the characters in (or object of) the shot, the framing (LS, MS, CU, etc.), any significant camera movements, and any image transition other than a cut (dissolve, wipe, etc.). A brief description of the action can also sometimes be useful.

  • A complete transcription of the dialogue in the shot.

  • A listing and description of the sound effects. (In an action sequence from recent films, it is unlikely that the list will be completely exhaustive, but try to be as complete as possible.)
  • A listing and description of the music.

  • General remarks, which contain more detailed comments about aspects of the sound track, including interactions among the components and how they interact with the images/narrative.

Filling out the form requires making at least four passes through the scene, attending on each pass to one element:
  1. Time code and shot description
  2. Dialogue
  3. Sound effects
  4. Music
Here is what the scene analysis blank looks like:

I distribute the blanks as an Excel file. I also give them some exemplars, which are provided as jpgs below. After the students have filled out their forms for the scenes, I will ask them to write a short paper based on these analyses.

The first examplar is the terrace scene from Rebecca.

(We analyze this scene using musical notation in HtM, pp. 218-21.)

* * * * *

The second is the main title and Trinity in a jam, from The Matrix:

We analyze this sequence from The Matrix on pp. 223-24 of HtM, albeit in much less detail. Note the large number of shots (and short average shot length) in this sequence. Also this is a very busy sound track, and at times it is difficult to know whether a particular event belongs to the sound effects track or the music track. A version of the script is located here. (Correction: HtM refers to the agents collectively as Mr. Smiths; according to both IMDB and the script, however, the other two agents in this scene are named Mr. Brown and Mr. Jones.)

* * * * *

The third example consists of two scenes from 42nd Street.

Neither of these dialogue scenes has music. The number of sound effects is also quite low.