Film Genres

Here are some interesting sites on film genres:

Main film genres and Film Sub-genres by Tim Dirks, a similar site is KnowledgeRush and this Movie Genres Chart provides examples of 14 basic film genres.

This site is really useful: Categorizing film genres, as well as this article on Genre Analysis.

This wiki article is quite nice, as it allows you to navigate different genres on the right and you can research themes, imagery, visual elements, etc of these different genres – please remember not to quote Wikipedia in essays, treat it as a starting point.

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Theory of the Animated Form

Traditional animation is also called cel animation where the frames of a traditionally animated movie are hand-drawn. The drawings are traced or copied onto transparent acetate sheets called cels, which are then placed over a painted background and photographed one by one on a rostrum camera. Nowadays, the use of cels (and cameras) is mostly obsolete, since the drawings are scanned into computers, and digitally transferred directly to 35 mm film

In Understanding Animation, Paul Wells devotes a chapter to outlining a formal distinction between the qualities of what he terms “Orthodox,” “Experimental” and “Developmental” animation (35-46). Orthodox animation refers to traditional cel animation:

Cel animation remains the most convenient technique for the mass production of cartoons and, therefore, the most commonly seen form of animation. Consequently, it constitutes what may be understood as orthodox animation, and is most associated, even in its most anarchic or fantastical form, at the level of narrative, along with the hyper-realist style [associated with Disney]. This may seem extraordinary to the viewer who sees the cartoon as an intrinsically non-realist form, but as will become clear, this sense of unreality only operates with regard to the representation of events in a cartoon, and not the ‘realist’ conventions by which it is understood. [. . .] This method enables a large number of animators to be involved and facilitates an industrial process. It also results in a certain creative intention which characterizes the criteria for orthodox animation. (35-36)

Orthodox animation, according to Wells (35-46), is characterized by the following eight conditions: configuration, specific continuity, narrative form, evolution of context, unity of style, absence of the artist, dynamics of dialogue.

“Configuration” refers to the fact that cartoons typically feature “figures”—”identifiable people or animals who corresponded to what audiences would understand as an orthodox human being or creature.”

Experimental animation, on the other hand, explores the particular language and formal properties of animation itself. Wells defines its “terms and conditions” in opposition to those of orthodox animation: abstraction, specific non-continuity, interpretative form, evolution of materiality, multiple styles, presence of the artist, and dynamics of musicality.

Experimental animation tends to “Abstraction,” rather than configuration. It is more concerned with rhythm and movement than in using the figure, the body as “an illustrative image” (43). It rejects logical and linear continuity while creating other, sometimes multiple continuities, structured not on narrative progression but the vocabulary unique to the particular animation in question. Rather than narrative, experimental animation displays “Interpretative Form.” It is aesthetic and non-narrative; it prioritizes abstract forms in motion and its vocabulary is painterly and/or sculptural, requiring the audience to interpret the work not in the context of familiar storytelling strategies but “on their own terms, or terms predetermined by the artist.”

Further reading: Wiki article on The Incredibles and this article on animation from New World Encyclopedia provides a nice overview of early animation and animation techniques. An interesting article Inside the Incredibles, if you’d like to know more about technical innovations, and this one on creative human character animation which discusses comedy and action through squash-and stretch. Also see this blog post on gender in pixar movies and this article on how Disney perpetuates gender stereotypes. “Hey Pixar, what’s up?” is also quite engaging.

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Sound bridge

A Sound Bridge is when the sound comes in before the images of the next scene (e.g. in a cut from a quiet room to a busy street. The noise from the street will be heard before it is seen.) Sound bridges are often used to get the attention of the characters.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein: The men are arguing while chopping the ice away from their boat when Dr. Frankenstein shows up asking for help. No one takes much notice until the screams of the monster are heard taking the camera and characters to look away across the ice.

Spider-Man: Unlike most films the visual here comes before the audio. When the green goblin sees spidey he says ‘no one says no to me’ but the sound of him saying this carry’s over to see Norman Osborne standing in a lift.

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Commonly confused sound terms

What is the difference between non-synchronous (or asynchronous) and non-simultaneous sound? Basically, the difference is about sound that takes place in a different time to the action (such as a sonic flashback) which is non-simultaneous, and sound that is not synchronized with the action on the screen (asynchronous). Non-simultaneous sound would include sonic flashbacks (“Luke, I am your father”) and asynchronous would include satellite delays at live events and bad dubbing in old martial arts films.

What is the difference between non-diegetic and internal diegetic sound? Non-diegetic sound refers to any sound not audible to characters in the world of the film whereas internal diegetic sound forms part of the story world but is not audible to all characters. Non-diegetic example would be the musical score. Internal diegetic sound refers to a character’s thoughts.

For more sound terms see You may also find these Wiki articles on Diegesis and Cinematic techniques quite useful here – great for a quick understanding of terms, but NOT to be cited in academic essays.

More examples:

DIEGETIC: Spider-Man – the song ‘what we’re all about’ is played in the scene where Uncle Ben drops Pete off just before he is killed.  Although the audience can hear it is supposed to be on the car radio.

NON-DIEGETIC: JAWS – although the music is heavily connected to JAWS  the music that plays before the shark attacks is only heard by the  audience watching the film and not by the characters the shark is about to attack.

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Graphic match and match on action

A graphic match is when an object, colour or shape is ‘matched’ with an object, colour or shape in the following shot. An example would be the sun in shot A followed by a yellow balloon in the same position on the screen in shot B. (see earlier post – bone/spaceship match in 2001.)

A match on action is when an action is matched or continued in successive shots. Examples would be cutting on two different sets of feet walking, cutting between two sets of running feet, or, the simple act of continuing a movement in one shot that was started in the previous shot.

Match on action is a continuity cut which unites two different views of the same action together at the same moment in movement, making it seem to continue.A match on action, a technique used in film editing, is a cut that connects two different views of the same action at the same moment in the movement. By carefully matching the movement across the two shots, filmmakers make it seem that the motion continues uninterrupted. For a real match on action, the action should begin in the first shot and end in the second shot.

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The graphic match

This type of cut emphasizes spatio-temporal continuity. It is a cut in film editing from one scene to another in which the two camera shots’ compositional elements match, helping to establish a strong continuity of action – and linking two ideas with a metaphor.

Match cuts form the basis for continuity editing, such as the ubiquitous use of match on action. Continuity editing smoothes over the inherent discontinuity of shot changes to establish a logical coherence between shots. Even within continuity editing, though, the match cut is a contrast both with cross-cutting between actions in two different locations that are occurring simultaneously, and with parallel editing, which draws parallels or contrasts between two different time-space locations.

A graphic match (as opposed to a graphic contrast or collision) occurs when the shapes, colors and/or overall movement of two shots match in composition, either within a scene or, especially, across a transition between two scenes. Indeed, rather than the seamless cuts of continuity editing within a scene, the term “graphic match” usually denotes a more conspicuous transition between (or comparison of) two shots via pictorial elements. A match cut often involves a graphic match, a smooth transition between scenes and an element of metaphorical (or at least meaningful) comparison between elements in both shots. A match cut contrasts with the conspicuous and abrupt discontinuity of a jump cut. For more on jump cuts, see this wiki article and note the example from Godard’s Breathless (1960) where the cut from shot one to shot two makes the subject appear to “jump” in an abrupt way – a classic demonstration of how jump cuts are considered a violation of classical continuity editing.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey contains a famous example. After an ape discovers the use of bones as a tool and a weapon, there is a match cut to a space station. The match cut helps draw a connection between the two objects as exemplars of primitive and advanced tools respectively.

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2 Important types of editing: Continuity and Montage

Please note: Soviet montage and modern montage are not the same!  For Soviet Montage, this found footage demonstrates the five methods of montage (metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal, and intellectual).  Basically, a new idea emerges from a sequence of shots which cannot be found in any of the individual shots shown on their own…

Eisenstein argued that ‘montage is conflict’ where new ideas emerge from the collision of images and where the new emerging ideas are not innate in any of the images of the edited sequence. A new concept explodes into being.

Soviet Montage is not concerned with the depiction of a comprehensible spatial or temporal continuity as is found in the Classical Hollywood continuity system. It draws attention to temporal ellipses because changes between shots are obvious, less fluid, and non-seamless.

Have a look at this example. There are lots of interesting student projects on YouTube, their assignment was as follows: “Apply Eisensteins theory of montage, or other soviet theories, to a series of shots by shooting and editing together shots that conform with his theory to create a visually interesting montage about a subject of your choice. This will be a thematic concept specific to your life and something that you do and will pertain to the concepts in the reading.” Watching some of these should give you a feel for what makes Soviet Montage unique.

If still in doubt, watch this slaughter scene from Eisenstein’s Strike (1925) – a good example of intellectual montage (i.e. shots create intellectual meaning, you can read this wiki, or here – nice resource this if you ignore the tacky ads). In Strike, Eisenstein includes a sequence with cross-cut editing between the slaughter of a bull and slaughter of people. The affect that he wished to produce was not simply to show images of people’s lives in the film but more importantly to shock the viewer into understanding the reality of their own lives.

Continuity editing is the predominant style of film editing practiced by most Hollywood editors. The goal of continuity editing is to make the work of the editor as invisible as possible – the audience should not notice the cuts, and shots should flow together naturally. Important rules in continuity editing are: the 180 degree rule (axis of action)shot reverse shot, eyeline matches, use of the establishing shot, and others. We will look at these in greater detail in later blog posts.

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