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Moving Image Technical and Symbolic Codes

Rob Miller | Monday January 13, 2014

Categories: Film, Film Analysis, Film Language, Key Concepts, Media Language, iTraining, Improve Your Teaching, Staffroom

Semiotic terminology applied to moving image media.


The study of signs that help us to deconstruct film e.g. Technical and Symbolic Codes in Film

Technical Codes

Constructed codes e.g. Camera angle, types of shot, types of edit, type of lens, SFX, Sound, Framing, Focus

Symbolic Codes

Cultural Representations – in film the mise en scene can be described as symbolic codes ie they ‘stand’ for something

Mise En Scene

The Mise en Scene comprises – setting, objects and props, body language, pose and posture, gaze or ‘the look’, lighting and colour – everything in the shot

Narrative Enigma

Limits audience understanding to ensure 100% concentration and engagement with the narrative

Parallel Sound

Sound you would expect from a scene

Contrapuntal Sound

Sound you would not expect from a scene

Sound Bridges

A piece of music is carried across two different scenes to connect the narrative

Non-diegetic Sound

Sound added during the process of post production e.g. music


Up and down camera movement


Left to right/right to left

Star Marketing

Where a film/advert is marketed to audiences primarily on the status of the A’ List celebrity

Genre Marketing

Where a film/advert is marketed using familiar genre codes and conventions

Establishing Shot

Identifies setting and often introduces the central protagonists

Close Up (see also ECU or BCU or Insert Shot)

Shows character, emotion, reaction

Long Shot

Overall view of the scene

Medium Shot

Normally involving character – a shot from the waist up

Point of View

Often behind the character encode g their own emotions, feelings

Fast Paced Editing

Quick cuts, often to increase tension and anxiety in the audience e.g. Action Films

Straight Cut/Hard Cut

Standard cut in films to a different shot

Dissolve Cut

One shot slowly fades down while the other overlaps it (links two scenes – see sound bridge)

Fade To Black

‘Normally’ signifies the end of a...

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