Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

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Media Studies – Semiotic Codes

Semiotic Codes

Personal Note

I’m going to explain what I mean by Semiotics, that is the Signs and Meanings that can be derived from a Media Artefact, by this statement I mean the signs/meanings from an image, a film or something in print.

PS – probably not a good idea to copy this example assignment as although my marks were OK at Bournemouth & Poole College they were not exceptional, beside Plagiarism is always to be frowned upon.


Semiotic Codes

 

1. You will select two media texts and analyse how a process of selection of the material to be included has taken place and how meaning has been encoded within the chosen examples.

 

Film Poster for Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction - Film Poster Semiotic Codes

Pulp Fiction - Film Poster Semiotic Codes

Semiotic Codes
1. Old 40’s – 50’s Magazines (Pulp Fiction)
2. Femme Fatale
3. Dangerous
4. Blood
5. Unconventional
6. Smoking
7. Cheap
8. Possessive
9. Film Noire
10. Stylish
11. Desire
Pulp Fiction Film Poster

Central to the posters design is the Films Title ‘Pulp Fiction’ which also references back to cheap magazines that also went by the same name. The designers based their design upon these magazines even down to the use of the magazines price of 10¢. These books also known as ‘hero pulps’ are of personal interest to the films Director, Quentin Tarantino who is known to be a fan of what is known as trash movies and publications of the 60’s and 70’s which incorporated these style of images.
One of the central characters from the film ‘Uma Thurman’ was chosen to portray what can only be described as a Femme Fatale in a typical pose smoking a cigarette, which was very much the norm in magazines and films of the time when smoking was not seen as antisocial and in fact was positively promoted by Hollywood actors. The pose and visuals also make you think of Film Noir the Femme Fatale lying on the bed in a provocative pose, invitational but the crossed legs say no, there is also a hint of danger, identified by many visual clues but in particular by the gun on the bed in front of her.
The designers have also chosen to add the scratches and creases that a well thumbed through magazine or cheap paperback book would attract over time. Colours also have relevance to the design, the bold title on a red background makes you think of Blood. To further add to these visual clues they the designers have included a copy of a magazine of this type and placed it under the actress’s hand.

DVD Cover for the British Film ‘Harry Brown’ Directed by Daniel Barber and starring Michael Caine.

Harry Brown Film Poster Semiotic Codes

Harry Brown Film Poster Semiotic Codes

Semiotic Codes
1. Target
2. British
3. Quadrophenia
4. Iconic
5. Old School
6. Get Carter
7. Yobs
8. Violence
9. Gritty
10. British Music

Harry Brown DVD Cover

The designers have chosen several very British iconic images to attract the media consumer, starting with the red, white and blue target design, similar to that used in the British iconic film ‘Quadrophenia’ and also very reminiscent of the markings on a World War 2 fighter plane. For example the Spitfire which also provides a link to another film that starred Michael Caine ‘The Battle of Britain’. We could assume that the designers rather than by luck fully intended to link all these images with their semiotic codes together in a cohesive manner building up the message “It’s a British Film” to the media consumer.
The central character of the film Michael Caine also strikes an iconic pose with the gun in his right hand and toting a bag which could hold more guns, money or similar items associated with the ill gotten gains of a criminal, this is again very reminiscent of another Michael Caine film ‘Get Carter’ in which he also starred.
The picture of the ‘Yobs’ and drug addicts positioned behind the target representing everything that is wrong with British society today and therefore the target of Michael Caine’s character.
In conclusion the designer of this DVD cover was targeting the consumer seeking essentially a British action film containing some violence starring the iconic figure Michael Caine in one of his villainous poses.

2. You will select two media texts and provide analysis of how meanings are created through semiotic code systems. Provide analysis of how presentation techniques construct points of view (how are the individual semiotic codes combined to create an overall effect on the consumer of the text)

 

Magazine Advertisment - Semiotic Codes

Magazine Advertisment - Semiotic Codes

Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano – Advertisement for Ice Cream
Entitled “Kiss temptation”

Semiotic Codes
1. Sex
2. Religion
3. Anti Religious
4. Faith
5. Catholic
6. Anti Establishment
7. Controversial
8. Temptation
9. Forbidden Love
10. Dark

Advertisement for Ice Cream entitled “Kiss temptation”

There are several meanings hidden within this advert using semiotic coding, many of which send out conflicting messages.
Firstly there is the idea of sex between a Nun and a Priest which of course is totally forbidden (a forbidden pleasure) in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church and its religious followers. The advertisement is for an Italian Ice Cream the home of the Catholic Church and so in its home market this advertisement would almost certainly be extremely controversial and likely to attract publicity albeit possibly for all the wrong reasons. Though it could be said that “… there is no such thing as bad publicity…”
The tagline “Kiss Temptation” that is Anchor Text also helps the media consumer position themselves and therefore identify with the product, the hidden meaning here is that to eat this ice cream is a Temptation, a forbidden pleasure.
In conclusion the advertiser is hoping that the viewer reads/consumes the media text here in a certain way that is, that they will be left with the overall impression that they will enjoy a forbidden pleasure by buying and consuming this ice cream.

LOVE – Fashion and Fame Magazine cover featuring Beth Ditto, The Gossip singer

Magazine Cover - Semiotic Codes

Magazine Cover - Semiotic Codes

Semiotic Codes
1. Sex
2. Being Fat is ok
3. Non conformist
4. People come in all shapes
5. Controversial
6. Anything Goes
7. Cold
8. Steel
9. Obsessions
10. Opposites
11. Vulnerable

LOVE – Fashion and Fame Magazine cover

Another image with several hidden messages using semiotic coding, the most obvious is “… beauty is in the eye of the beholder …” where you would expect the more stereotypical female model form, the slim and unbelievably beautiful (typically Photoshop’d) we see a naked obese women who is in direct opposition to this stereotypical image.
The Anchor Text “…Icons of our generation…” also sends out a conflicted message in regard to the cover picture although the names on right of the picture some of which for example ‘Amy Winehouse’ and ‘Kate Moss’ who are certainly seen as Icons of this time although can not be sure if Beth Ditto will be so considered.
The image itself of a naked women whose modesty? Is only covered by a few well chosen titles and a pink tutu, this should send out the stereotypical sexual message but instead rather appears to suggest more of a certain vulnerability, self-consciousness and modesty (because her eyes are shut) of a person finding it hard, struggling to accept themselves for what they are.
Other hidden messages include Cold and Steel derived from the mental strength needed for any person to portray themselves in the eyes of the public in this controversial way.
In conclusion the magazine intended to be controversial and attract attention to its cover and therefore its magazine, helping the magazine to stand out from the other magazines on the shelf. It also breaks from the stereotypical image of essentially a naked woman on the front cover of a magazine, while still catching the attention of the public and as mentioned before “… there is no such thing as bad publicity…”

Posted May 18th 2010 – Word Count = 1285

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Media Studies – Effectiveness of Media Texts and use of Language

Effectiveness of Media Texts and use of Language

1.0 Effectiveness of Media Texts and use of Language – You will compare and contrast the structural features of media texts in at least two of the following:

  1. advertising image
  2. magazine cover/newspaper front-page
  3. radio sequence
  4. TV sequence
  5. film sequence
  6. web site

You might for instance compare a magazine cover to a newspaper cover, or a TV and radio news report.

Fig1. Daily Express newspaper front page 09/04/2010

Fig1. Daily Express newspaper front page 09/04/2010

Fig.2 Radio Times magazine front cover 20/03/2010

Fig.2 Radio Times magazine front cover 20/03/2010

Daily Express

Headlines dominate the front page of the newspaper; they are designed to be attention grabbing to guide the eye from a distance as they are competing with other newspapers on the news stand. The two row headline stretches across the page uses emotive language to grab the readers attention “Petrol Hits £6 a Gallon” which is much more emotive than a headline that reads “Petrol Hits £1.20 a Litre”. The sub heading (by-line) adds to this emotive message “Fury as pump prices reach record high”. The layout of the newspaper is designed to lead the eye that is the reader is presented with a layout which the reader is intended to read in a specific order which in this case would be the headline first for petrol price hikes, the by-line heading to be read next followed by the article beneath. Although continued inside the reader would glance at the other stories (Banners) first. There is a choice of three other stories on the front page all continued inside the newspaper.

The picture of Camilla and the article associated and then followed by the two less prominent headlines/banners “Tories to bring in national service for 16-year-olds” and then “Free Inside Your full colour National Sweepstake Kit”. By comparison with the headline the Newspapers name (Masthead) is much less prominent although it does stretch across the width of the page and is positioned near the top of the page but even so because of it’s size in comparison with the headline it is therefore of lesser importance to the reader, possibly? It also includes a centralised logo of a Crusader Knight breaking up the Masthead text.

The size of text (Typography) used plays its part in this process gradually getting smaller depending on the importance placed upon the story by the editor which is related to what is called the ‘Style’ of the newspaper but all this leads the eye down the page in the order that the newspaper intended for the readers consumption. There is the overall impression that this is a serious publication, mainly due to the higher text content ratio compared to the amount of space allocated to the pictures.

Although there is no advertising as such on the front cover there is a special offer across the top of the masthead offering “15p off tomorrow’s Daily Express”.

Radio Times

The Radio Times headlines are given less prominence on the front cover, the picture used is much more prominent on the page. There are five Banners to stories within the magazine, three under the banner “The sharpest interviews in RT”

The Masthead is broken up by the picture and therefore it can be assumed that the picture is of more importance to the layout and the structure of the magazine than the name itself.

The main headline positioned unusually at the bottom of the page is used as an anchor for the picture. There is a play on words in the headline “Let her eat cake” a mispronunciation of the quotation “Let them eat cake” attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the Queen consort of French King Louis XVI. She is supposed to have quoted this when she was told that the French populace had no bread to eat. This ties in well with the picture on the front cover which is of a celebrity who introduces a Television cookery program on BBC Two which just happens to include the cooking of cakes. The two by-lines add to this “Sophie Dahl on diet modelling and marriage” and the second by-line “The delicious Miss Dahl Tuesday BBC2” which ties the headline again to the article inside and the TV program which is called “The Delicious Miss Dahl”.

In general there is considerably less text on the front cover compared with the newspaper. Colour is used to help distinguish the banner headlines from each other and there is the indication that these colours have been chosen to link into the colours used in the picture rather than for any other purpose. There’s also no advertising on the page except for the price of the magazine “Still only £1.10”. The Masthead uses a compressed text, the ‘T’ in times is actually overlapping the ‘o’ in Radio because they are so compressed. Most headlines and banners use capitals adding to their prominence on the page.

The overall effect of the layout suggests this is more of a fun magazine rather than a series publication. The layout itself leads the eye to the picture first, then to the Anchor text (Headline), then back to the Masthead with its Banner stories distributed around it. In all it’s the central picture which is used to make the magazine stand out for the rest of the magazines on the magazine rack.

2.0 Effectiveness of Media Texts and use of Language – You will evaluate the extent to which genre formats of your chosen texts affect the structure.

Daily Express

The Daily Express a general news paper rather than being subject specific has multiple genres dependent upon the stories it covers. In many newspapers the paper is divided up into sections, for example traditionally the back pages cover sports. The paper will be further divided up to cover for example Television, Film, Theatre and Arts stories. The layouts of each of these sections usually specific to their content. The Television section will have tables showing programmes against the time that they are shown. Reviews will give prominence to the reviewer depending on their standing in the community or their authority in the industry.

Radio Times

The Radio Times is designed to be more than just a TV guide and instead is more of a Lifestyle Magazine which includes information on program scheduling. So the articles in the first section of the Magazine are similar in format to most Lifestyle Magazines that is stories and interviews with celebrities TV actors and Cooking but the TV Guide section layout is set by the need to list programs against viewing times and so a formulised list is employed.

3.0 You will analyse the ways in which two different media texts use language: (is the language emotive, emotional, analytical, descriptive, agenda setting, what are the connotations, does the language promote an ideology, is there intertextuality)

 

Fig.3 Ultimate Force (TV Series)

Fig.3 Ultimate Force (TV Series)

Fig.4 Actionaid website

Fig.4 Actionaid website

Ultimate Force

The TV series shown on ITV 2002 to 2006, based on the SAS and a fictional group of soldiers called Red Troop.

Emotive language is used throughout the series of TV programs, particularly by the lead character, the leader of Red Troop played by Ross Kemp, whose character promotes an over the top Masculinity – a Macho image continuously. The program makers probably intended for the audience to assume they were seeing realistic situations and a true reflection of the SAS in action. To have some empathy with the characters, but the characterisations are larger than life and the situations they become involved in appear unbelievable.

The programs all have this ideology, the program makers and script writer’s world-view is very narrow, black and white this is shown by the assumption that there are the good guys in this case Red Troop and the other protagonists are the bad guys. The opening titles use the Hollywood sequence now popular with Action films that is ‘The long walk’ where the members of Red Troop are filmed as they walk in a line abreast towards the camera carrying their weapons prominently positioned in front of them with a large military backdrop visible behind them.

However the repeats of this series are currently being shown whilst British forces are engaged in conflict in Afghanistan and so the language used in the programs can be very emotive, for example the programs catch phrase “…Man down. Man down…” has greater meaning at this time.

Intertextuality exists in many sequences, referencing other action TV and Film productions, by keeping to a well trodden action formula, it’s almost possible to correctly guess the words the actors are about to speak in a given situation before they actually say them.

Actionaid

The charity Actionaid supports children in mainly the African or Asian continents, promoting the sponsorship of a child.

The layout of the site is very similar to a newspaper with a Headline, a central main story and Banners to other news stories which can be expanded upon by following the page links just like a newspaper links to another internal page where the story is continued. The eye is led from the top linearly down the page with each short paragraph leading to the next in sequence, then back up the page viewing the links to the right using keywords to highlight specific causes.

The language used is of course very emotive throughout, for example “…As a child sponsor, you’ll have the chance to help a whole community take control of their lives and end their poverty…” and again “…only people can change poverty and that includes you…” The language used allows the targeted audience to believe in the truth of what you see on the website backed up by its pictures of smiling children and articles from current sponsors telling their stories and experiences of sponsoring a child through Actionaid, for example “…Sponsoring a child is amazing – it isn’t just giving money. I get such a lot of satisfaction from the experience because it’s so much more personal. You really get to see the difference that you make. And I have become emotionally attached to the children I’ve sponsored over the years…”

4.0 Effectiveness of Media Texts and use of Language – You will identify and evaluate how your chosen texts construct particular points of view for specific audiences (How are audiences positioned to read a specific meaning into a text)

Ultimate Force

The audience is intended to take on board the ideology of the program that the good guys that is Red Troop will defeat the bad guys that is everyone else. The structure takes the format of an enigma which is introduced at the beginning of the show, revealing the bad guys and the criminal or terrorist act that they have committed. Red troop is made aware and a resolution is devised and acted out between breaks for advertising each of which is preceded by another enigma or cliff-hanger which is resolved just after the commercial break or at least acted upon ready for final resolution at the end of the program.

Actionaid

All of this emotive language used in the main body of the websites homepage is backed up by descriptive language for example “…Despite world leader’s commitments to halve hunger by 2015, there are more hungry people now than at any time in history. But the causes of hunger aren’t natural, they’re manmade, and the solutions are within our power…” positions the audience towards making the decision if they are able to, to become a child sponsor.

5.0 Effectiveness of Media Texts and use of Language – You will evaluate the extent to which your chosen texts assume a context of consumption. (How do the producers of the text assume it will be consumed?)

Ultimate Force

As the situations and characterisation of Red Troop appear unbelievable, therefore the audience could consume the program in a way that the program makers did not originally intend. For example the audience may see it as purely entertainment whereas the program makers were known to have employed Chris Ryan of the SAS to consult them on the real activities of the SAS with the idea most probably of adding an element of realism to the programs, to make them more believable.

Actionaid

The Actionaid website appears to achieve its intention of how the audience is expected to consume the language used in its pages very well. It uses emotive language to create empathy for the hungry children in the world and it backs this up with very descriptive language, describing how the audience can help the starving children by sponsoring a child, taking it out of poverty, helping with education and making sure that it does not suffer hunger all thanks to your generosity. Complete with all the imperatives for example “…Do something amazing today, sponsor a child with Actionaid…” and again “…Sponsor Now…”

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