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Understanding Media Language

jeremy | Thursday March 01, 2018

Categories: Codes & Conventions, Key Concepts, Media Language

Brief Definition

Media language is the way in which the meaning of a media text is conveyed to the audience.

One of the ways Media Language works is to convey meaning through signs and symbols suggested by the way a scene is set up and filmed.

Signs and symbols in media texts are polysemic which means they are open to many interpretations. The different possible meanings in media texts depend on two things. The first is the way the signs and symbols in the text are ‘read’. The second is the cultural background of the person ‘reading’ the text.

For film and television media language includes the way meaning comes across through the pictures and through the words or dialogue. Seeing the characters in a moving image text allows meaning to come across as non verbal communication. This includes the gestures, facial expressions, clothing and props in a film as well as where the characters are placed in the frame.

Media language includes the way the camera sees the scene through shot size and camera angle. It is also possible under the heading of media language to analyse the way the actors interpret the script.

Camera Work

Where the camera is placed is very important for how the audience understands a scene. The camera angle is the exact position of the camera. e.g. a high angle shot is where the camera is looking down on the scene from a high point.

  • Typically the camera shows a scene from the position of an observer watching action as it happens. Look at any soap such as Hollyoaks (C4) to see the camera working to tell the story as an observer.
  • The camera can take the position of a character and show his or her point of view – this is a POV shot, as we see the action through the eyes of that character.
  • The camera can see the action from any number of different viewpoints depending on how the director wants us – the audience – to perceive meaning in the scene.
  • The camera can move on a dolly to give a smooth tracking shot, or the...

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