Visual Rhetoric dissection of a film trailer

For this post, I’m analyzing a trailer for the animated film, Frozen:

The trailer opens with a standard establishing shots, meant to give a sense of the film’s setting. The shots get closer and closer to their subjects to transition from the super-wider establishing shot to more close-up shots of the main characters. “Everything is changed forever” by the inciting action that turns the world to frost. Another wide establishing shot of the changed landscape. Textual cues take over for the narrator to introduce the main characters of the movie and the basic plot: “who will save the day?” Chanting music in the background maintains an upbeat mood throughout the trailer, increasing and decreasing in volume to accommodate video. The flare/flash sound paired with each character introduction helps the pacing of the trailer, but also serves to draw your attention. Flashing colors and loud noises are tried and true methods of drawing attention. Because it’s a Disney family film, a good chunk of the trailer is devoted to comedic highlights (to appeal to children) and excitement-building action clips (to show off animation). Throughout the trailer, short clips perpetuate its fast pace, and longer clips are interspersed for comedic value and to contrast and emphasize the faster, short clips. The audience is given breaks this way, short reprieves from the constant overlapping sounds and bombardment of visual information. Cool blue colors are present throughout the trailer, since everything is frozen, but warmer purples tend to show up during comedic scenes to lighten the mood and to correlate with the main princess character.


It is strange to think of all the editors who make film trailers for a living… They have to condense the general ideas/plots of feature-length films into a short video probably no longer than three minutes. It’s no wonder why so many of them end up so similar.


Verbal Rhetoric

As I sit in the library preparing for an oral presentation, I find myself wishing I’d taken Public Speaking. Though I understand the information I am presenting and am confident in the paper I will turn in to accompany my presentation, I can feel the knot in my stomach that I always get before speaking in front of a class. I can never understand why I get so nervous before giving presentations–it seems like an almost involuntary biological response (sweaty palms, SUPER red face, hives). Further, this leads me to wonder if my lack of confidence in presenting is due to a lack of training. 

I remember, weeks ago, discussing something similar in 225. We talked about the training we’ve received in verbal rhetoric. I don’t quite remember the stance I took during our class discussion but at this current moment I am certainly wishing I’d had more training. While I remember giving book reports in elementary school and presenting the occasional project in high school, this is the first semester that I’ve had to make a presentation in college. And it is definitely a lot more stressful. I wonder why, as a Junior, I’m only facing this problem now. Dont get me wrong, I’m very happy that presentations haven’t been part of the curriculm in my previous class–but I wonder if that has also hindered my ability to give presentations. Or, am I just not a fan of having all eyes on me? Who knows.

Hopefully, taking Public Speaking will help me to build confidence in my presentation skills but, until then, wish me luck!

Text vs Music vs Film

This year, I’ve read more than I have in the past ten years combined. I have probably watched more movies and listened to more music this year as well. I feel that I’ve thought about different modes of communication in a very critical, comparative sense this semester, so here I’m going to not do that. All three forms (text, music, video) of communication/entertainment have unique features, so I cannot hold one as superior to the others.

My favorite aspect of text is its immersive capability. Whenever I’m reading an intense, action-packed point in a book, I am utterly engrossed, and completely dismissive of my immediate surroundings. Whenever I read an interesting philosophy text, I turn the ideas over and over in my head, and often think about the concepts into the next day. I also never can get quite the same sense of character from film or music that I can from text.

Music is without equal when it comes to conveying emotion, in my opinion. If I just want to relax and unwind, I put on some Grateful Dead and kick back. Sometimes I use music to help me get to class faster, by listening to some faster-paced music like ACDC. Typically when I think about communication, I’m thinking about words and information, not about emotions or attitudes. Granted, the lyrical element of music can easily contain that sort of factual information (like Schoolhouse Rock), but the vast majority of music people listen to for leisure does not preach the function of conjunctions.

I have always appreciated film as the combination of textual, musical, and visual elements, but just because text and music are present does not distract from the fact that film in a visual medium. In this way, I like to think of film in its “motion picture” sense, as a sort of animated illustration of a story. Video provides an overwhelming amount of description in the form of visuals, musical cues, and character dialogue, leaving little to no information left for the audience to fill in. In this way, a viewer is involved in film much less than a reader or listener is in text or music. While this could be considered a weakness of the medium, it is also one of my favorite features – I watch plenty of brainless movies purely for their shallow entertainment value. Not every film can, or should, be Academy Award Winners!

I’m not crying… it’s just a piece of dust or something

I just watched an SPCA commercial and got sad.  We’re all familiar with them; Sarah McLachlan talks to us and implores us to adopt a dog or cat that’s been a victim of abuse and donate to the SPCA, whilst her song “Angel” fades in and out.  Originally, I wanted to write my research paper on these types of commercials, and ads by PETA (I am not associating the ASPCA and PETA by any stretch of the imagination however).  I wanted to find out statistically if these depressing SPCA commercials actually are inspiring to viewers, as compared to what I would strongly recommend they broadcast— commercials of two new best friends (owner and dog) playing and having a fun time.  Having no facts in front of me, I imagine what they do draws fewer adoptions but far more capital via donations than what I suggest.  In my opinion, pathos is the greatest motivator of the three rhetorical appeals; the others being logos and ethos.  The ads run now are rhetoric manifest; they are all-or-nothing appeals to the pathos of the viewer.  In this sense, these McLachlan spots are great successes because unless you are Dexter Morgan a deluge of empathy rushes through the television screen and into the home of the audience.  Even though they are likely successful, I wish these commercials were a little more upbeat, because I was watching Comedy Central after all.  Maybe run another version with Sarah wearing a clown nose that she honks whenever things get “too real.”

Rap Your Ideas

 I was skimming through an article on NPR about M.I.A, a popular rapper, and how she came into fame when I was struck by something she said, “…here I was. I had left Sri Lanka, which is still a very unsafe place. For me to get here, I had to learn to speak English, I had to go to art school, become a rapper — because it’s what America understood the most, in terms of communication.” (NPR Staff). This made me think, is our society one in which the best way to portray a message is through rap?

Music impacts many people’s lives, but I argue that it is not the only way to get a message out there. Music is a great form of communication and reaches a huge portion of the population, but to say that it is the best, I feel, is an overstatement. I do not think that there is one way that is the best, I think it is a mix of many mediums that is the most productive. The reasoning behind why music is not the best medium of communication is because music hits only certain demographics. People have a specific taste in music, some like alternative, opera, country, reggae and so forth but very few people like every type of music. It is difficult to have a song that can hit so many. Rap, in particular, has a particular following. Those who do not enjoy rap usually stay far from it. Those over the age of 50, for example, are not known for having a strong following of rap music, and although I am sure there are those who adore it, there are many who show no interest. If an artist is only trying to get their message to one subset of the population, then music is a terrific way to reach them, but if trying to reach a larger population they will fall short.

This quote that M.I.A stated also made me think that if rap can be so influential in communication then should it be taught in schools? Should rap be taught as a way to express and share thoughts and ideas, in the same way that writing and public speaking are taught? For a student who is trying to find their voice, rap or any music really should be an option for them. Also should we teach literacy in this from of rhetoric? If this music has the power to communicate, should we be teaching students to recognize the topics of the music they are listening to and teach them to combat the absorption of ideas through music? I believe that the option should be presented to students. Schools should offer the ability for student to find their voice and teach them to share it in any way they can. Along with learning how to write we should also learn how to ingest the information. There are a lot of strong messages portrayed in music, there should be avenues to learn how to recognize these messages and learn your opinion either following or against these topics.

Works Cited:

Staff, NPR. “‘I Built The Platform Myself’: M.I.A. On Being Heard.” NPR. NPR, 5 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

Ward’s First Year

This morning, I found this truly amazing video– a documentary made by a father following the first year or so of his son’s life after his premature birth, 3.5 months before his due date.  While watching the incredibly moving footage, I found myself considering rhetorical choices made, just like we’ve been doing in class with the Concept in 60 videos.  While you watch, keep some of those same questions in mind:  What is the message?  How is the message conveyed visually?  How are video/text/still images used?  How does the music affect the message?  How does the filmmaker play with sound and silence?

How cool is that?  Some observations:

  1. I absolutely LOVE the music.  The way it builds from solemn, cautious, and almost mournful to joyful and exuberant kind of mirrors the course of Ward’s life so far, really driving that point home.
  2. I was really affected by the contrast between the music and the white noise of the hospital in the opening shots, the sounds of machines whirring and nurses chattering.  When the music begins, it’s like all of that falls away.  This move does a great job of replicating the mindset of Ward’s parents; when they’re looking at their baby or holding him close, they’re alone with their emotions and all the rest falls away.
  3. Although the text fit nicely with the song in that it appeared when The Fray was singing about “home,” I think the song and images alone could have expressed that message.  It didn’t detract but because of the beauty of the sound and visuals it seemed a bit superfluous.
  4. This message couldn’t have been transmitted as powerfully in any other form than video.  It seems to me that Ward’s father sought, not only to record his baby’s first days, but to capture the beauty and fragility of life and a demonstration of the strength of the smallest and weakest among us, a will for survival that provides hope for the future.  This is a multi-faceted message and I think that video demonstrates that dynamism, illustrating life more forcefully than still images could.

What do you guys think about this video?

Video vs Paper

          The concept in 60 assignment, was actually my first video project. In class we talked about writing literacy and media literacy quite a bit. So I thought I would do a blog post comparing making and editing a video to writing and editing a paper. Before writing a paper, I usually brainstorm and write a few thoughts down. Before making my video project, my partner and I jotted down a few ideas of what we wanted our video to look like. After the brainstorming stage of essay writing, comes the researching and outlining stage. I research information I want in my paper and when I am finished, I create an outline of where in the paper I will say certain things. Similar to this, when making my video project my partner and I researched music and photos we could use. After we shot all our video clips and photos, we made an outline of where in the video we wanted our footage to go. After a paper is written and a video is shot editing has to be done.  In a paper writers proofread, rephrase sentences, delete sentences etc. In a video editors split clips, delete clips, shorten videos etc. Writing a paper and creating a video have many similarities. More similarities than I wrote about in this blog post.

– Celine