The Compositional Environment

I’m teaching a course this semester called “Film and Video,” and it’s always fun to spend time with students in the classroom. Along with the “grammar of film,” shooting and editing, I also get to share clips from classics and discuss how films work our senses and emotions. I always start with the opening sequences from Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), and then move on to something more moden (Brick, 2006) before sampling some classic Hitchcock and recent Michel Gondry short films.

Last week, my students got to do their first filming, and as usual I had to send them all back out again for multiple retakes. Yesterday they started editing (with iMovie before we use Final Cut Express), and suddenly it was clear why they needed the multiple takes. I really like how the editing software allows them to really slow done and think about their shots and composition, timing and sequence, pacing and continuity.

Anyway, that’s the reason why I use and teach with computers– the compositional environment they create. An extended period of thought and re-thought as multiple revisions are done (with writing, video, spreadsheets and other media and data forms). As we re-think our ideas and the evidence, new discoveries are made. New ways of thinking and doing. Maybe we find ourselves sometimes, as individuals.

I like this better than benchmarks that we’re all supposed to meet at the same time. At the moment, though, I’m supposed to be grading some of their work…


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