Media Yr10 AOS1 Media forms and codes of construction
Media forms and codes.
On completion of this unit the student should be able to;
Describe media by giving a range of examples of media forms,
- Identify media codes and analyse their use in construction of media forms.
What you will do
What is media? Well, what isn't media might be a better question. We all know about newspapers, TV shows and cinema, but what about podcasts, social media posts and hybrid media?And it's still changing. In this unit we will look at the face of media and explore how products are made.
Codes are the building blocks for media products. We can break each product down to find out how each part contributes to the communication of ideas. We will do a series of exercises to learn about three different kinds of codes and how they are used.
Finally we will use our knowledge to show our understanding in a practical photography and type setting task.
Learning intentions should be set at the commencement of each unit, then at regular intervals during the task.
Read through the content on this page. Discuss what you think could be learnt and form them into three 'learning intentions'. Use sentences like, 'I will learn about making 3d drawings', or I will learn about 'media codes'.
Write your three learning intentions.
For advanced learning intentions, go with 3 different levels.
- 1 - What you will learn. (For example, the media code of camera describes the techniques camera operators use to record a scene)
- 2 - How what you will learn can be used to create meaning or structure. (For example, camera techniques are combined with sound and/ or editing to create suspense).
- 3 - How could your understanding of the learning be extended or related to other learnings. (For example, the use of camera has changed over the years and the invention of digital formats have allowed anyone to become cinema photographers)
Success criteria should be negotiated between students and their teacher. The class group agrees about what is successful completion of the task. Identification of success criteria is done at the commencement of each unit, then at regular intervals.
Now that you are familiar with what you will learn in this task, it's time to lock in how you will be able to demonstrate that you know it, or can do it.
Write three success criteria, using sentences like the examples in the next column.
I will demonstrate that I have mastered the learning by;
- 1 - I Can identify all of the camera techniques used in the selected clip.
- 2 - I can use a camera to film clips in the ways I have identified.
- 3 - I can explain how camera is combined with other codes to create meaning in a narrative.
What is media?
In this section you will find out what media is for and how many different kinds of media forms there are. We might even find out how long media has existed for and where it is headed in the future.
What is media for?
Can you think of some purposes for media? What do you think it exists for? Write them up in your visual diary.
If we consider what the purpose of media was in the questions above, now we can think about how and where we can go to find the things we talked about.
Think of as many kinds of media as you can. Write them down. Discuss them as a class. Let's see if we can write a list of 'official' media forms. These will become the 'tree' in our mindmap in the next task.
What's my media?
Now in table groups create a list of 10 different media forms. Copy that list onto one page per student.
See task below for ranking activity.
1.1 What is media?
Make sure you have created your purposes for media list.
Make sure you have completed your media forms list for your self.
1.2 What's my media? Think, pair, share.
Rank your list of 10 different media forms from 1 - 10 where 1 is the most important or most used for you.
Compare your answers with your group.
1.3 Media forms Mindmap
Construct a beautiful mind map that shows every kind of media form in a graphic way. Put the word 'Media' in the centre then identify each kind of media product. Make each branch a different media form.
Illustrate your mindmap to inform your audience about;
- what date each media form began at,
- your favourite and least preferred media forms.
Media forms mindmap
A really informative media forms mind map. Stephanie Persl, 2019.
What's next for media?
Let's consider where media forms might be headed. Below are some visions of the future of media forms and their devices for reception and consumption. They were imagined in 1949, 1967 and 2002. How many of them have been realised in our world now? If they are not realised, is the purpose for which they were imagined being done in another way?
What do you think will be a media form we will see in 2040?
2.1 What's next for media?
Processing this topic - thinking routine
In this section we are going to process our learning with a three stage thinking routine.
Write the answers to the following questions:
- What did I already know about this topic?
- What did I learn new by studying this topic?
- What is a question or a wondering I can think of about this topic?
What makes media?
The subject of this section of the unit will be to explore the components that work together to make up media products. We will need to deconstruct media products in a variety of forms to find out what they are made up from.
What is a code? A code is a method to transmit ideas in a language. When you write you encode ideas into English language. When a reader who understands that language reads it they understand your ideas. Simple.
Film makers, photographers and designers all use the same idea when they communicate ideas in media products.
The question is, how do you make happy, contented horror movie-goer, full of anticipation with their supersize Coke and popcorn scared to their bones? Not with reality. Media producers can't actually scare them with real shocks. But ideas representing horror can be encoded and transmitted through film and sound to make them scared like it was real.
Consider the image below. How does it depict the process of encoding and decoding?
The VCAA Media study design (2018-2022) describes codes as;
“Technical, written and symbolic tools used to construct or suggest meaning in media forms and products."
Codes are the building blocks of media products. These include signs, symbols and techniques.
We will examine a range of codes in media forms and then produce some media to demonstrate our understanding.
Codes and media
Consider this image. There is a process of communication going on from left to right. Explain what the written terms mean and how they are at work communicating an idea to another person.
Codes in media forms
Our study is diverse. Media has many forms from print through photography to podcast, film and animation.
Whilst some of the elements of media, the codes the codes are common to sevearal forms, some forms have their own unique codes. In this section we will explore codes as they communicate;
- technically through techniques and processes, use of equipment
- through text and writing
Codes communicating through techniques, processes and use of equipment
Camera refers to the way a camera has been used to record visual sequences for photography, video or cinematography.
Camera and film techniques include:
- Shot sizes
- Camera angles
- Camera movement
- Tripod, hand-held
- Zooms and pans
- Focus/depth of field
- Film stock, grain, ISO Exposure
- The camera angle
- Camera movement
- Are different techniques combined?
- Why does it used this way?
Acting refers to the art of human representation or interpretation of a character within a media production.
Acting can be:
- The visual aspects of the performance
- Facial expressions
*Even non-acting or playing one’s self is acting. Consider the way Michael Moore ‘acts’ in his documentaries.
Setting refers to the time and/ or place that the narrative occurs in. Setting is related to the code 'mise en scene'.
How does the setting contribute to the narrative?
Is the setting integral to the narrative itself?
Could the film be set in a different time or place?
How does the setting function symbolically?
Mise en scene
Mise en scene refers to everything in a frame that has been placed to create a representation. Aspects of mise en scene include;
- makeup, hair styles,
Mise en scene also works in symbolic ways as it often includes objects that represent something else or other ideas.
- Character blocking
Editing refers to the cutting and combining of sequences of vision to create a narrative. As a narrative is rarely filmed and presented to the audience in real time, editing is the method by which sequences are assembled together to create a meaningful product.
Editing may refer to;
Visual: The way separate shots are combined/ arranged to make meaning,
Sound: The way sound is layered together to create meaning or emotion.
- Editing is used to:
- Tell a long story in a limited amount of time (screen time vs real time)
- To engage the audience
- Emphasise information about certain characters or events
- The types of edits (fades, dissolves, jump cuts)
- The sequence of shots
- The rhythm of the edits
- The pace of the editing
*Consider particular Directors and whether they favour particular editing techniques.
*Terms for editing include; jump cuts, pace editing, cross-cutting, continuity editing.
Lighting refers to the manner in which a scene or frame is illuminated. Video and filming are forms of photography so inherently rely on the capture of light and shade to render characters, actions and settings. However, lighting is not a given and must be constructed in the way that best creates meaning for a representation desired in a media product.
Lighting can be:
- Chiaroscuro (dramatic and 3 dimensional)
- Low key (dark)
- High key (light)
Different effects can be achieved by:
- Changing the direction of light
- Changing the number of light sources
- Changing the quality of the light
- Changing the colour of light
- Framing with light
- Using shadows
The lighting style
- Naturalistic lighting – Helps the audience to accept the film’s fictional world is real.
- Expressive lighting - Can be used for emphasis of to create a mood or atmosphere
The direction of light. Front, back lit.
The kind of light; candle, spot, daylight, chiaroscuro.
Sound refers to the audio (heard) component of a media production. In the case of a podcast or radio production this sound may be the entire component.
Sound is used to provide mood and/ or continuity in visual sequences. it is also often used to given an audience an insight into a character's feelings.
Sounds in a film are classified into two types:
Diegetic sounds: Sounds that originate from events in the film (within the world of the narrative).
- Character voices
- Sounds from objects
- Character turns on a radio and sings along to a song
Non-diegetic sounds: Sounds that do originate from events in the film, are not heard by characters in the story and are only heard by the audience
- Voice-over narration
- Incidental music
- Sound editing – cutting and placing of sound
- Sound effects – Sound effects are diegetic if it what a character would hear even if it is a sound effect.
Special effects (SFX)
Special effects (SFX) refers to methods of achieving difficult or impossible actions or sequences that cannot be filmed economically, easily, safely or naturally. Special Effects began as simple double exposures, tricks in editing, animation, models, and now usually employ digital production, digital sets, matte painting, stunts, visual illusions and/ or post production work.
How does the SFX add to the meaning of the media production?
How does the SFX add to the audience engagement?
How does the SFX relate to the genre of the media production?
How do SFX relate to a production schedule, location, degree of difficulty of the shoot or budget?
What are the techniques used?
- SFX may involve; green screen, (digital) matte painting, models, stunt work, digital sets.
3.1 Secret codes
Using an example from a film or TV show, explain how meaning has been encoded in a scene. Take a screen shot, print it and stick it in your visual diary. Identify what ideas or information is being communicated and explain what kind of understanding about codes audiences would need to decode the message properly.
3.2 Make your own investigation
Choose one of the codes shown above. Search through Youtube for films or TV show scenes you are familiar with. Find three different examples of the use of the code you chose and explain how the different uses of the code communicate different ideas in each case.
Codes communicating through symbols
Media is a visual language that relies on visual literacy for effective communication of ideas.
One branch of this literacy is the use of signs. The name for this study is semiotics. We will very briefly explore two main facets of semiotics to see how it applies to media products.
When we create representations of characters, events and places we do so by using actors, sounds and settings to stand in or take the place of real people and places.
Happiness in a movie isn't real happiness for an actor but a representation of it for the audience.
Therefore the tools of representation are signs that make audiences experience this re-presented reality.
Culture and symbol
One thing to note in this section of the study is that as symbols gain their meaning through use and associations correct interpretation of their meanings is usually highly culture specific. This means that different cultures may have different meanings for symbols. This is especially true for the meaning of colours.
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) and Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) were the founders of a study called semiotics. It is a study of communication and how it works. To understand codes we need a very basic understanding of it.
The main principle of communication through both literate and visual means is to understand that there are really two parts to communication.
Signifier and signified
- The signifier is a sign that stands for an idea or person or thing.
- The signified is the actual idea, person or thing.
An example of a signifier is a red light. The light itself has no meaning whatsoever. It is just a light. However, it signifies the idea that we must stop and wait.
The light is a sign. A sign is something that stands for or means something else.
An index is something that has a direct connection to the signified. Smoke is an index of fire. It is not a representation (as is an icon) but evidence that fire exists.
A symbol is a somewhat arbitrary sign that communicates ideas through learned conventions or associations. A red light or stop sign is a symbol for the idea 'stop'.
All this talk of icons, indexes and symbols can be a bit daunting. We are really only going to focus on symbols.
But before we do, we should be aware in creating representations, that we will be using colours and objects to represent ideas.
- Denotation refers to an actual object or visual effect. For example a person's shadow on a wall is just darkness created by shining a light towards someone at an angle.
- The connotation, however is very different. Consider what that shadow might mean in a mystery film? It would almost represent another, hidden person, perhaps stalking a character. Its foreboding telling of imminent danger.
A code used symbolically will connote meaning in a media production. The use of techniques, processes, equipment, colour, objects, type and layout strategies will all connote ideas for your audience.
White indicates innocence, honesty, enlightenment, divinity, truth, cleanliness.
Black indicates evil, foreboding, the unknown, fear.
Yellow and orange indicate health, happiness, warmth, sweetness.
Blue indicates cold and sterile environments. Sickness, stress, tiredness, isolation.
Green is used to represent fertility, growth, health, taking care of the earth.
book or library
4.1 Colour as symbol
Choose three colours. Investigate the meaning of the three colours in two different cultures. Make a colour swatch and then collect a picture of that colour to demonstrate the meaning in both cultures.
4.2 Secret meanings
Make a search for a list of symbols used in paintings. Take a look through the list and write down three symbols that are new to you. Consider and explain the how or why the symbols have become associated with their present meanings.
4.3 Symbolism in acting
Consider the various components in acting. Gesture, body language, facial expressions, etc. Choose two different ones and find a screen shot to illustrate how they are used to communicate ideas symbolically.
4.4 Icon or symbol
Identify two signs in one of your favorite TV shows. Explain if they are used as icons or as symbols. Give reasons for your answers making reference to how they are used in the show.
4.5 Denote or connote
Choose one symbol used in a media product. Explain what this object, sound or technique denotes and what it connotes. In other words, describe what it literally is and what it is used to express in the media product.
Codes communicating through writing and type
Writing communicates through the meaning of words and through the aesthetics of type forms. Type is an expressive code. The choice of type face and the way it is type set both contribute to the way it speaks.
This examination rests on our ability to determine how this code communicates ideas to an audience.
There are several factors typographers use that influence the construction of meaning through type.
Serif, sans serif, display, decorative
Type can be classified of type forms. Serif, Sans serif, display, decorative.
Serif and sans serif fonts have been used through history at different periods and for different purposes. They have formed symbolic associations.
- Serif types = old world, established ideas, traditional, authoritative, editorial, subjective.
- Sans serif types = new, ideas from Europe, impartial, corporate, factual, objective.
- Display and decorative types are for headlines and come in many different styles.
But wait a minute...
Just because serif and sans serif type faces have been used for the purposes listed above doesn't mean that they are always used in these ways. What is important is you consider what is the meaning being communicated? what is the tone of the communication? and how has type been chosen and set to support the communication?
Type setting practices
After the designer selects a typeface best suited to communicate the intended message consideration needs to be given to how the font will be typeset. This involves making choices such as;
- Type weight (where the type form resides in a type family [bold, regular, italic, light, extra light])
- Type width (condensed, regular, extended)
- The size
- The colour
- The case (use of upper and lower case)
- Tracking (space between letters)
- Leading (space between lines)
Below are some examples of written code and variations in all of the type setting practices listed above.
5.1 Just my type
Choose three teachers in your school. Write their names in a Word processing app. Based on your knowledge of how type forms express ideas, set their names in appropriate type faces to suit their personality.
5.2 Type history
Find out the names of two famous serif and sans serif fonts. (4 fonts). Collect or make an example of each and find out where, when, by whom and possibly why they were designed.
5.3 Old or new
Locate three examples of type in real print media. Find these examples where;
- serif type = old, authoritative ideas
- sans serif type = new, progressive ideas
- serif type = new, progressive ideas ironically
5.4 Type adjustments
Locate and collect one example of professional type setting in print media. Explain how it communicates ideas in harmony with the literal meaning of the words by referring to three of the type setting adjustments shown above.
3 codes in close up
In this section we are going to examine three different codes in more detail. These three codes are used in several different media forms so are therefore fundamental in all your analysis and in building skills to transfer to other codes.
Camera is used not only to record visual events but also to frame and create the representation of that event.
It is through camera that characters and settings are revealed to the audience.
How cinematographers and photographers are able to embed meaning in a shot is a deliberate process involving the shot size (how far away an actor is), the framing, (how many people are in the shot, depth of field (what is in/ out of focus), the angle from which the scene is viewed (camera angle) and any movements a camera may have during filming.
In this section we will learn how to identify and describe the use of camera in cinema.
The images below present a variety of common camera techniques to capture vision according to the aesthetic and structural intentions of the director.
Shot size refers to the distance the audience is to the action or characters.
Camera angle refers to the angle of the camera from horizontal when shooting. A camera can be level, pointing up or pointing down. The shooting point can also be above or below the subject.
Camera framing refers to the placement of subjects in a shot. The number of people in shot is related to the concept of selection and omission used in creating representations.
Zooms and camera movement
There are three kinds of camera 'movement' to consider.
Zoom = changing the focal length of a lens to give the appearance of getting closer or further away from a subject.
Pan and tilt = rotating a fixed camera left or right or up or down on a tripod.
Tracking or dolly = actually moving a camera along with a moving subject or towards or away from a subject.
The use of focus and selective focus in shot emphasises or draws attention to a subject. Focus can also be used to reveal a subject. Change in focus mid shot is called pulling focus.
The term depth of field refers to the amount (of subject) in focus.
The way a camera is held during shooting is an expressive component of cinematography. A traditional use of a tripod creates a stable, professionally filmed look. By contrast a handheld shot can emphasise urgency, fear or haphazardness.
6.1 Storyboard it
Choose an emotional kind of exchange that might happen between two people. Draw four rectangles to act as frames. Using four different camera techniques shown above, illustrate how each frame could be filmed.
As an extension task, do it with still photography.
6.2 Explain it for yourself
Grab a still camera and a group of friends.
Note down all of the camera techniques that could be used in still shots.
Shoot images and make a chart to illustrate all of these camera techniques to use in a Media class room. Put them onto one A3 sheet and title each image with the name of the technique.
6.3 Learn from a master
Research the name of a famous director of photography or cinematographer. Look through some stills from one of their movies. Choose one image that uses one camera technique in an interesting way. Draw and annotate a picture of the shot to explain how it has been shot using the technique you identified. Now, take a still camera and a group of friends and shoot your own photo using the same technique in the same way as your DOP. Print the shot and place it beside your annotated drawing.
Consider the two examples of movie posters shown at right. Discuss how colour works with images to create emotion or mood to express ideas about the movie to advertise it. Why do you think the designers chose such strictly limited colour pallets?
Warm tones movie poster
Cool tones movie poster
Colour and camera
In our class we will watch the movie 'Seven Pounds', 2009, Gabriele Muccino, Starring Will Smith.
It's hard to remember scenes unless you have the movie infront of you so do Task 7.2 from this trailer.
7.1 Colour and culture
Choose an example of a movie poster, collect the image, place it in your visual diary and explain how colour has been used to communicate mood or ideas symbolically in the poster.
The Google posters from the same kind of movie, but from a different country. Try Japan or Korea, Russia or China. Print another image and explain if colour is used in the same or different way across the world.
7.2 Colour and camera
Referring to one brief scene in the trailer above, or from one part in the movie 'Seven Pounds', 2009, describe how camera (angle, height, shot-size) has been used with colour (warm or cool colour) to communicate ideas to the audience.
In your answer identify the part of the movie you are referring to, the techniques concerning camera and colour, and the ideas being communicated.
Type (written code)
Examine camera, colour and written codes in two media forms.
Examine pound of flesh clips
8.1 Type talks
Think up a new kind of magazine. One that has not been created yet for a specific niche target audience. Define the audience. Using type in a publishing program, create a banner that could be used for the cover of the magazine that will attract your audience. Choose a typeface and adjust the case, colour, tracking, etc. to suit your audience expectations.
Putting it all together
In this task we will put our leaning together to demonstrate our understanding of media forms and codes in use. This will be the major assessment for this Area of Study.
Using the codes of camera, colour and writing create a kind of meme or inspirational poster to express a mood.
Use photography and photoshop to make an annotated picture.
Use three steps of the production process to plan and record your progress.
- colour storyboard image
- post production
- application of type
Your response to this task may be funny if your want.
Full col image header
9 Expressive poster
9.1 Pre production
Sketch ideas for two scenes. One should show a positive emotion and the other a negative one.
Draw two compositions in two separate frames.
Working in pairs or groups, shoot each of your scenes. Consider mise en scene, framing, camera techniques, costume and lighting to ensure that your image will express the ideas you intend.
9.3 Post production
Open each image in Photoshop. Set the size and resolution appropriately. Manage the levels if needed to ensure a balanced exposure.
Using photo filters change the colour cast of each image to a warm or cool range of colours.
Add type in expressive type faces to aid the communication of ideas. Adjust the type according to the written codes shown above using the settings shown in Photoshop.
Print and mount each image. Pin it to the wall in the classroom and provide informative feedback on how well each image communicates ideas for your peers.
Evaluation and deeper learning
In this section we will think about the learning we have done. We will review the main topics and evaluate our learning. Follow the steps in the tasks shown here to prepare your folio for presentation and grading.
What have I learnt?
Answer the following questions (on paper or if you use a computer, print them and stick them into your visual diary).
- What is media? Don't give an example, explain it's purpose
- What is your favorite media form? Why?
- What is one of your grandparent's favorite media forms?
- What is encode and decode again?
- Why do we need codes?
- What are three ways codes communicate?
- What is a representation?
- What is a symbol?
- What is a great code to use to create a certain mood?
- What are the two different groups of type faces?
Putting it together
Find where you wrote up what you thought the success criteria might be. Check that you have done something for all of the steps you wrote down.
Photograph and print pictures of your work. Put them in your visual diary and annotate them.
Check the assessment criteria below to see if you have prepared your folio for each criteria. If not, take the time to complete each section.
Hand up your work on the due date as instructed.
Evaluation and deeper learning
Below is shown a broad indication of the evidence a student should show.
The extent to which the student identifies and explains:
- Demonstrates an understanding of media forms in mindmap and class exercises
- Demonstrates an understanding of media codes in drawn, written, printed and annotated class exercises
- Applies understanding production process in practical photographic task
- Uses codes in technical and symbolic, written ways to create an expressive photo poster
- Answers the evaluation questions meaningfully with appropriate media language.
Please note: To achieve good marks in criteria based assessment you must remember to include some work for each part of the task required. Spread your time evenly across the task.