Articles on French Cinema

Pulver, A. (2011) A Short History of French Cinema. [Online] The Guardian. March 22nd. Availabe from: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/mar/22/french-cinema-short-history [Last Accessed: 10/01/2017]

Renee, V. (2014) Infographic: Your Guide to the History of French Cinema. [Online] No Film School. Available from: http://nofilmschool.com/2014/11/infographic-your-guide-history-french-cinema [Last Accessed: 10/01/2017]

Critical Analysis – Concergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins.

  • Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide. New York University Press. New York. [Pg. 103 – 106]

Henry Jenkins is considered to be at the forefront in the realm of transmedia storytelling, being the man who first coined the term. His book Convergence Culture is noted as a landmark work due to its exploration of the blurring boundaries of media and fan participation, however, it’s his chapter on transmedia storytelling, Searching for the Origami Unicorn, that holds particular interest, as he examines The Matrix as an example of the strengths and weaknesses of constructing a transmedia universe.

Jenkins criticises the amount of faith the creators had in the casual viewer and in the draw of their own franchise by insinuating that the mystery of The Matrix would be so appealing, that the audience would feel compelled to seek out the answers. Though even when the films were released as DVDs, he notes that only the dedicated fans would actively attempt to piece together the missing information. While analysing interviews, Jenkins describes the method in which the directors and writers confusingly instructed the actor in the nature of the franchises transmedia aspects, actors even admitting that they were uncertain which scenes were being filmed for which media, implying the franchises flawed execution in regards to its storytelling method.

The subchapter, ‘Synergistic Storytelling’, opens by highlighting The Matrix’s grand overarching story, likening it to Casablanca to the nth degree, referring to the series creators, The Wachowskis, wanting to wind the story across a wide variety of media to create a compelling whole. Using examples from both The Matrix animated shorts and video games, Jenkins tracks both, the story of the Osiris crew, and the character of the Kids. Details and events that would only be known to someone who has engaged with both The Animatrix shorts, The Kid’s Story and The Final Flight of the Osiris shorts in particular, and the Enter The Matrix video game, but are included in the main films as arbitrary details, rather than defined characters. Comparing the storytelling style to both the old Hollywood system, dependant on redundancy to ensure that the audience can follow the plot at all times, and the demands of New Hollywood, for the audience to remain in constant focus to the how and why of the story. Jenkins draws particular emphasis on the introduction of The Kid in The Matrix Reloaded, especially given his significance in the final film, The Matrix Revolution, The Kid’s introduction and opening exchange with Neo, the franchises main character, is staged as though the audience is meant to understand and appreciate that the two have a long and important history together, that the scene is written for established characters, confusing the average audience member. A notable failure in regards to transmedia storytelling, as it now leaves the audience with only two options, to actively seek out the backstory behind this exchange just to make sense of it, or to continue as a confused spectator.

During Jenkins exploration of these failings, a second exploration is going on across the sides of each page. In this example, Jenkins chooses to examine The Blair Witch Project, one of the first transmedia projects to enter the public dialogue. Contrasting The Matrix with The Blair Witch provides us with a set of binary oppositions, creating the perfect counter point to the transmedia attempts of the Wachowskis. While both had their first major instalment in 1999, The Matrix had a much higher budget, and a high profile production company to back it, The Blair Witch was an independent venture, with a miniscule budget and significantly shorter shooting schedule, totalling 8 days. Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez used their assets to the best of their ability, instead of relying on a potentially non-existent audience, they actively spread the information themselves, taking the role of active fans themselves. While stating that they viewed the sire and spin-offs as a form of marketing, they still viewed them as an integral part of the experience. Jenkins points out that the creators awareness of how effective transmedia storytelling can be, and the understanding that not every consumer will dive deep to attempt to solve the films secrets, in interviews the creators note that, what they learned from Blair Witch is that if you give people enough people enough material to explore, they will explore. However, unlike the Wachowski’s, Myrick and Sanchez understood that not everyone will take advantage of this, but those who do will explore the whole world provided. Jenkins uses this example to point out the Wachowski’s failings in the transmedia landscape. The Wachowski’s assumption that by leaving plot holes open, and using their higher budget to create such supplementary materials, would guarantee the audiences compulsion to explore such material. By contrasting The Matrix with Blair Witch, Jenkins is juxtaposing it with its extreme opposite.

The way Jenkins crafts his work, particularly in this example, attempts to point out and acknowledge the failings that can come from crafting a transmedia story in a poor manor, but not only recognising the shortcomings, but contrasting them with a better crafted or less reliant example. The choice of comparing two franchises at the same time, on the same page, allows for a visual juxtaposition as well as a counterpoint in content, the choice of Blair Witch in particular compares two franchises released at the same time, allows for something such as cultural viewpoint to be a non-issue, allowing for certain elements such as technological advancements to be far less of a defining factor. Jenkins is thorough in regards to his research, delving through, and mentioning, as many relevant spin-off pieces of media as can be found, as well as interviews and articles relating, both directly and indirectly, to the desired transmedia aspect of both The Matrix and The Blair Witch Project, giving us a thorough and relevant overview for his comparisons and analysis.

Webcomics: The Influence and Continuation of the Comix Revolution by Fenty, Houp & Taylor

With the prevalence of the internet, readers find themselves with the ability to retrieve older, out of print works, or overshadowed works with greater ease than before, whether it be through scans, websites or sites such as eBay and Amazon. “The internet has given rise to a new generation of comic artists who use the internet as their sole means of production and distribution.” [Fenty, Houp, Taylor.2004] This use of the internet as a distribution system, sidestepping the larger publishers, mirrors what came to be known as Underground Comics.

Mentions Gary Groth, Scott McCloud and Charles Brownstein.

The Freedom of independent publishing via the internet, allows creators to be far more free with the choice of subject matter as they do not have to feel the constriction of appealing to a broad demographic. This also shares parallels with underground comics, such as the work of Robert Crum and later, Charles Burns, as their print runs were relatively small, appealed to a much smaller demographic than the mainstream publishers, and covered much more polerising subject matters, such as politics, sex and drugs. “The web allows webcomic creators to write comics with content which is outside of the acceptable bounds for typical mass-released comics.” [Fenty, Houp, Taylor.2004]

The authors attempt to define webcomics as comics made for the web first, with a single or small group of creators, with no originally printed version and no corporate sponsor. The freedom webcomics are given through their lack of sponsor and distribution methods, allow for even the art style to vary wildly. Allowing creators to use assets such as game sprites and more exploratory art styles, frequently parodying “popular culture, video games, and table-top role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons” [Fenty, Houp, Taylor.2004] some focusing on subcultures within cultures, making their desired audiences even smaller. While the writers attempts to define webcomics relies on the definition given by Scott McCloud, they do not use it as it’s only evidence. The authors draw their own definition in parallel by comparing existing webcomics to the underground comix movement. Fenty, Houp and Taylor go into depth of both the limitation of traditional printed comics, and the freedoms awarded to digital comics, regarding things such as space limitations and cost. Borrowing from the works of Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics, and Bill Watterson’s The Cheapening of Comics.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the future of comics publishing by R. Murray

“In order to be with Ramona, Scott Pilgrim has to defeat her seven evil exes in elaborately staged battles that draw liberally on a vocabulary familiar to gamers – an economy where skills, resources and tenacity are embodied in material objects such as swords, gold coins and levels, and without this awareness, understanding of the comic is notionally incomplete. However, it is crucial to emphasize that this understanding is not at the level of narrative, but rather at that of narrative form.” [Murray, 2012: 3]

“With the advent of the Internet, many comics creators have chosen to reveal their artistic process online, often blogging about their method in detail, and communicating with their readers regarding creative decisions made, thus creating an epitextual archive. However, these communications do not, at least directly, implicate any financial consequences. Accordingly, if the material that O’Malley put up before and during the lifespan of Scott Pilgrim in the form of blogposts, sketches and photographs could be considered epitextual, what are the commercial implications of such material?” [Murray, 2012:7]

“Publishers base marketing decisions on assumptions that are informed by segmenting the market in order to recognize the appropriate demographic for the book they are trying to sell. Fourth Estate recognized that Scott Pilgrim’s readers, given the books’ allegiance to video game culture, would be digitally savvy, and thus creating an app seemed like a perfect opportunity to cater to its potential readership. The decision to develop an app for the book was a revolutionary one for an independent comic, and was covered widely in the book trade, technology and comics press. The first volume was to be released for the iPhone and iPad in May 2010, with each volume being released thereafter, building up to the release of the sixth volume and the film in August. Robot Media worked in conjunction to create the app, which contained original new artwork, social networking tools for fans, and enhanced features such as vibrations and sound effects that were triggered during fight scenes in the book.” [Murray, 2012: 11-12]

“Readers have complained about how reading digital versions can often diminish the quality of colour and detail that can be found on printed high – quality paper, and that comics intended for one medium often fails in another.” [Murray, 2012: 12]

“Robot Media chose to tackle this by reinterpreting the physical boundaries of the printed page onto what comics pioneer and scholar Scott McCloud has called a theoretically infinite (digital) canvas (2009) – using the device as a window to view the panels, which transition kinetically.” [Murray, 2012:12]

“Marvel, home to the X-Men and Spiderman, bounced back from its bankruptcy in 1997 on the strength of its reinvention as an intellectual property holding company, but still has to develop a sound digital strategy that will not alienate older readers yet will still attract new readers. Their much – vaunted ‘motion comics’ confused consumers by treading a fine line between animation and static sequential art, and were considered over-priced compared to print comics.” [Murray, 2012:16]

  • Murray, R. (2012) Scott Pilgrim vs. the future of comics publishing. Studies in Comics 3.1 (2012): 129 – 142.

Comics for Film, Games, and Animation. Using Comics to Construct your Transmedia Story World by Tylor Weaver

518k7sxclvl-_sx373_bo1204203200_While specified in its core subject, Comics for Film, Games, and Animation is a well thought out and paced piece of research. The book goes into great detail to chronicle both the history of comics and their relationship with other media, the latter half uses a series of franchise examples to make their point about what makes a good transmedia story, or what can ruin the attended impact. Weaver uses a mixture of history, interviews and critical analysis to make his points, and when addressing more complex franchises, he provides colour coded diagrams to make his point more clear.Weaver’s work has come in handy before, providing a useful basis for my undergraduate dissertation.

 

Weaver, T. (2013) Comics For Film, Games, and Animation. Using Comics to Construct your Transmedia Story World. Focus Press. Burlington.

Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan

understanding-media-cover-1964Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man, is one of McLuhan’s quintessential works. The book covers a large variety of media and how each relates to our experience. Relating several of McLuhan’s theories, such as hot and cold media, the extension of man, and high and low fidelity, Understanding Media is a useful basis when discussing various forms of media. McLuhan’s work is almost inescapable when discussing media theory, and while The Medium is the Message is also a useful asset, Understanding Media is far more dense, lending itself to more in depth discussions.

  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man. Routledge Classics. Oxon.

Digital Art by Christine Paul

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While the article is only partial, Paul covers a rather large depth, discussing the music as it relates to a digital performance and the varying methods this can be achieved by, the nature of remixing, audience participation and audio visual implementation. Paul discusses the works of Golan Levin, and his Audio-visual Environment Suite, and the manipulation of visuals and sound in real time. Pauls’ article is well researched and thorough, in its exploration of a largely specialised subject, providing a useful, if incomplete look at the area as a whole.

Paul, C., 2003. Digital art (p. 29). London: Thames & Hudson  [http://www.flong.com/storage/pdf/press/2003_paul_digitalart.pdf]

Scott McCloud at TED

Scott talks a lot about vision, in both the physical sense and our visions for the future in regards to the arts, media, technology and comics. “Learn from Everyone, Follow no one, Watch for Patterns, Work like Hell.” Thinking about a scientific mind in an artistic field, attempting to make something and understand something at the same time. In regards to comics, despite them being a purely visual medium, they attempt to replicate all five senses. Something that innovation in the digital age could bridge the gap with in later years (e.g. Motion comics, interactive comics). The talk also goes through a history of visual narratives in print, from hieroglyphics, and tapestries, to modern day comics and digital comics. As well as talking about McLuhan-esc mistakes when transferring comics from print to screen, as they are attempting to recreate a previous medium in a new one, ignoring what the new medium can do. This talk borrows heavily from McCloud’s previous books Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics.

I find this talk useful as it shows McCloud openly discussing and elaborating on his theories in a more open fashion, providing examples for each point he makes and going through the work with him to better understand his point. Since my focus is geared towards media theory in the realm of Comics, TV, Film, literature, and theatre, this elaboration of McCloud’s thoughts is interesting to behold.

Digital Semiotics – Oscar Bastiaens

Stemming from the field of linguistics, semiotics is the study of signs and the meanings we attach to those signs, an expression of man and animal behaviour. With birth of the internet age, and especially virtual reality, whole new breeds of signs are created that are unique to that environment. The existence of these signs are growing simply by the digital spaced being used and evolving. When it comes to virtual reality, semiotics takes on a whole new role. Recreating, or just creating, worlds that seem real to the user, will require a firm understanding of semiotics, an understanding of why a symbol or sign is the way it is and what it means to us. A miss communication of these signs, may be enough to break immersion for the user and create an incomplete experience due to this break in the imposed reality.

Semiotics is an important aspect in the realm of media theory, but I feel that it is important to understand that how we view signs in the physical world is quite different to how they are perceived in the digital. While this talk does not go very far in depth with this matter, it does provide a basis of understanding and some useful examples to keep in mind.

  • TEDx Talks (2015) Digital Semiotics: Making Sense of the World | Oscar Bastiaens | TEDxDordrecht. [Online Video] February 20th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O2ZBnYjcGw [Last Accessed: 21/10/16]