Strategies for Digital Media Analysis

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson we review various strategies for digital media analysis. These include content analysis and frame analysis of camera angles, voiceovers, and music in various forms of digital media.

Analysis of Digital Media

Digital media has become a major part of all of our lives, from movies to television to music. Most of the time we just watch the presentations or listen to the songs without thinking in-depth about them. However, it is possible to analyze these forms of entertainment to see how people produced them and what techniques they employed.

Analyzing Camera Angles

When it comes to frame analysis and content analysis of camera angles we often think of the master himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Who does not remember the riveting Dolly Zoom techniques from the movie Vertigo? The Dolly Zoom is a technique in which the camera actually moves toward the subject (or away) as it films. Many directors have copied the method since the Hitchcock days.

The tracking shot is a similar technique in which the camera follows the subject, perhaps as the person is walking. The cameramen would move in a parallel path alongside the person.

The most common camera angles are eye-level, which are neutral and do not convey much emotion. Two more basic camera angles are the high-angle, when the subject is below the camera, and the low-angle, when the subject is above the camera. A fourth angle is the canted angle, in which the camera tilts to create a diagonal view. This is often effective for suspense and horror films. Finally, the point-of-view (POV) is an angle from the subject's perspective, which can really convey the subject's current emotions.

A flash pan (or whip pan) involves the camera changing angles rapidly with a resultant blurred image.

A tilt is when the camera angle is altered by moving up and down during a scene. The opposite of a tilt is a pan, when the camera angle is altered left to right instead.

The cameraperson, or videographer, has a lot of leeway in determining the angle of a particular scene

Analyzing Voiceovers

A voiceover is a narrative piece in a broadcast, but the speaker is not to be seen. The narrator might also be referred to as an announcer or a moderator. There are several ways to analyze voiceovers. In addition, narrators can use their own personal system of marking a script with a pen to indicate different moods, inflections, and so forth. Then the narrator can simply look down at his notes and markings as he reads through the script:

  • Volume: the narrator can underline a word that needs to be stressed and then say it louder for effect, or even whisper the word softly.
  • Pausing: have you ever noticed that when a speaker pauses the audience tends to hang on, waiting for the next word? The moderator can use a slash to mark where pauses should be placed.
  • Pitch: in the same manner as raising or lowering the volume, the speaker can change the pitch of a word in much the same way a musician sings high and low notes.
  • Mood: the narrator can reflect moments of happiness or sadness by the inflection of his voice, and mark the piece with an h or an s to denote these moments.

A typical microphone used for voiceover work

Analyzing Music

Music analysis aims to determine how music actually works. Many musicians feel it is an insult to try to break down music in component parts, advocating that music is an art form that should be viewed as a whole.

However, English professors have been analyzing poetry for hundreds of years, and it could be argued that music is essentially a form of poetry with notes.

Scholars often analyze music as it relates to a culture. For example, certain folk music is related to farming, hunting, or even preparing for battle. Folk music has been used to help groups communicate with each other and even survive incredibly harsh conditions. The tempo, or rate of speed, of each song may vary according to the activity of the group. A slow song may represent courtship, while a fast song may represent the hope of rain.

Folk dancing is a way to express the feelings of a particular culture

When analyzing a song three major factors come into play:

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