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Representing reality Contents and media. Beliefs about the impact of media realism It enhances audience involvement  Emotional connection with characters.

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Presentation on theme: "Representing reality Contents and media. Beliefs about the impact of media realism It enhances audience involvement  Emotional connection with characters."— Presentation transcript:

1 Representing reality Contents and media

2 Beliefs about the impact of media realism It enhances audience involvement  Emotional connection with characters It increases learning It increases enjoyment It increases effect  Emotional involvement  Identification with characters

3 Two major meanings of realism A realistic depiction of the natural world A form of representation that depicts what is seen as an unmediated view of the natural world

4 Are ‘natural’ and ‘real’ the same? The ‘real’ in realistic presentation has as much to do with culturally learned expectations as with capture of ‘true’ or ‘natural’ action, objects, etc.  Color, sound effects, etc. may need to be enhanced in order to generate a ‘realistic’ representation  Time is often distorted (compressed) to make it more compatible with audience expectations as well as to work with the story Actually, ‘natural’ presentation (start the camera and walk away) often is experienced as ‘less real’ than doctored  It is often hard to hear dialogue, etc. because of ambient sound

5 “On the one hand it asserted that “films built around the institutions of stories and characters do, in indirect ways, make reference to the real world or to an idea of the real world, and the understanding that they do make such reference is part of the way in which spectators themselves understand them.” Yet on the other hand, as Stephen Heath remarks: “The realism of cinema, as that of the novel, is to be understood not in terms of some immediate mirroring of some reality... But in relation to the representation of ‘reality’ a particular society proposes and assumes.”

6 Though obviously far from the only contributing factor (plot, dialogue, acting, and other factors come instantly to mind) the importance of visually realized perceptual reality and the truth that lies in details should be obviously apparent. Imagine if a dramatic moment was supposedly taking place on a luxury ocean liner, but the ship shown onscreen was clearly just a tugboat; context influences the action, and that moment would be read significantly differently by the audience. Or more importantly for this argument, what if the ship shown was an ocean liner, but was missing the details that the audience has come to expect that mark it as such—deck chairs, shuffleboard, a largely white color scheme, or Cruise Director Julie McCoy—and instead looked like a military destroyer.

7 Frank “ Stephen Prince suggests that images are viewed along two axis of reality, the referential and perceptual. Referential reality refers to how grounded the image is in real-world actuality; its fictiveness or non-fictiveness. Perceptual reality is how much that image appears as if it is grounded in that reality [3]. By these criteria, a documentary on dinosaurs is referentially real, while the Lord of the Rings is not. But, by grounding a referentially unreal image in visual or cognitive cues that suggest to the audience familiar experiences and expectations they have of the real world, a filmmaker can create a picture that is referentially unreal, but perceptually real.”

8 The textbook example of this is Jurassic Park, which drew upon both visual references and plot elements the audience would be familiar with. The dinosaurs weren’t just the same size and color as the viewers might have expected from their childhood trips to museums, but had their computer-generated skin (designed after everyday lizards’) carefully mapped to interact with their computer-generated muscles and bones. To breed further familiarity with the audience’s experience with actual animals, the dinosaurs ran and moved in patterns carefully copied from real-life quadrupeds. The visuals were not the only element to benefit from perceived reality cues: Spielberg said, ‘The credibility of the premise—that dinosaurs could come back to life through cloning of the DNA of fossil mosquitos trapped in amber—is what allowed the movie to be made’ [4].

9 The reelization of reality The drive behind the need to create a strong perceptual reality, particularly in referentially unreal productions, is difficult to pin down. Charles and Mirella Affron discuss what they term the ‘Reality Effect’—a notion of perceptual reality which asserts that sets must look real enough that people who have been to the actual location they replicate might think the films were shot on location. Most films seek to produce a strong reality effect

10 “The aspect of reality that is usually inferred here is visual reality. For example, the reason aliens don’t physically show up in 2001: A Space Odyssey is not so Stanley Kubrick could maintain an aura of mystery (which is what occurred), but because his special effects team couldn’t create one with the desired level of perceptual reality. In fact, Kubrick originally intended to show the aliens, and extensive scenes about them and their technology had to be cut for this very reason.”

11 “Interestingly enough, research librarians, production designers, directors, and cinema theorists all seem to believe in an almost subconscious ability of the audience to sniff out the inauthentic based on the smallest pieces of visual reality, and that the audience actually cares: “There are a lot of people out there watching these films, and they know what’s right and what’s not. And what works and what doesn’t.” “I think, you know, the audience smells right away if something is absurd or preposterous. (Producer) [23].”

12 Jim Cameron In T2 and Jurassic Park, computer animation was being used to solve a real-world photographic problem, and so the audience didn’t question the reality of the images. Film is inherently kind of not real, and the films that succeed best are the ones that start by creating a world or characters or whatever that say: this is real, this is real, this is real--and they keep coming at you every moment the actors are working, and every bit of production design is trying to underline in red that it’s real. The moment you start playing with virtual reality, the audience knows that what they’re seeing is not real, so you’ve sort of violated one of the most powerful things about film--the ability to create an alternate reality.

13 “Virtual reality will prove to be a more compelling fantasy world than Nintendo--but even so, the real power of the Head-Mounted Display is that it can help you perceive the real world in ways that were previously impossible. To see the invisible, to travel at the speed of light, to shrink yourself into microscopic worlds, to relive experiences--these are the powers that the head-mounted display offers you. Though it sounds like science fiction today, tomorrow it will seem as commonplace as talking on the telephone.”

14 This quote suggests, rightly so, that we have to learn to accept the new technology in a kind of willing suspension of disbelief. In the same way we have to "learn" that the train coming at us in a film will not run over us, we will develop a multimedia literacy which will allow us to accept the characteristics and limitations of virtual reality as if they were real--or at least real enough.

15 Realist presentations Representation is supposed to ‘stand in’ for the actual events and objects The work of representation is hidden from view. That is, you should not be aware of all the technology, decision-making, etc. that went into telling the story—it should seem as though you are a fly on the wall actually watching real events unfold.

16 Judith Mayne points out that “as novelistic the cinema depends upon an unquestioned relationship between image and the real, as the novel depends upon a similar relationship between language and the real.””

17 Features of realist presentation Third-person narration Narrator/audience omniscience Camera work edited to be unobtrusive Actors, etc. never directly address audience “Fourth wall” Treatment of actions as displaying certainty—no discussion of likelihood, probability, etc.


19 Features of the presentation that affect its ‘realism’ Continuity Technical quality Characteristics of the medium  Modalities of perception: Sound, video, motion, linguistic, etc.

20 Realism is not always prized On occasion, the attempt is made to present a story as fantasy  You may want a sort of magical feeling Harry Potter  You may want the audience to experience the narrative as pure escape  You might want the natural and mundane world to be seen as fantastic

21 How do audiences evaluate realism? What have researchers found are the dimensions that audience members evaluate story realism on?  Magic window  Social realism  Plausibility  Probability  Identity  Utility

22 ‘Magic Window’ “The extent to which television allows one to observe ongoing life in another place or inside the set itself.”  Often seen as disappearing early in childhood

23 Social realism “The extent to which television content, whether real or fictional, is similar to life in the real world.”

24 Plausibility “The extent to which something observed on TV could exist in the real world.”  Willing suspension of disbelief

25 Probability “The likelihood of something observed on TV existing in the real world or the frequency with which it occurs.”  Cultivation

26 Identity “The extent to which viewers incorporate television content into their real lives or involve themselves with content elements.”  ‘my soaps’  daydreaming

27 Utility “How much information or events observed on television are useful to the viewer in real life.”  Soap operas as a guide for living

28 Hall’s dimensions of ‘reality’ Alice Hall studied college students’ evaluations of the realism of media texts  Focus groups Identified 6 “means of evaluating the realism of media texts”  Plausibility  Typicality  Factuality  Emotional involvement  Narrative consistency  Perceptual persuasiveness

29 Audience members vary in their willing suspension of disbelief An example: Jurassic Park

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