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Moving Image Theory

Ecological Considerations

Edited by Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson. Foreword by David Bordwell

Publication Year: 2007

Blending unconventional film theory with nontraditional psychology to provide a radically different set of critical methods and propositions about cinema, Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations looks at film through its communication properties rather than its social or political implications. Drawing on the tenets of James J. Gibson’ s ecological theory of visual perception, the fifteen essays and forty-one illustrations gathered here by editors Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson offer a new understanding of how moving images are seen and understood.
Focusing on a more straightforward perception of the world and cinema in an attempt to move film theory closer to reality, Moving Image Theory proposes that we should first understand how cinema communicates information about the representation of the three-dimensional world through properties of image and sound.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Here, in gross outline, is one answer. As humans we have evolved certain capacities and predispositions, ranging from perceptual ones (biological mechanisms for obtaining information about the world we live in) to social ones (e.g., affinities with and curiosity about other humans). ...

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Preliminary Considerations

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pp. 1-6

A few years ago a student, a very bright Ph.D. candidate, stopped me in the hallway after class and said, “Why do you persist in your ecological approach to film theory when it makes everyone so angry at you?” I was a bit stunned. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. ...

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Part One. Information Available in Moving Images

The concept of information is central to ecological psychology. It is a precise term that denotes arrays of energy that are patterned and quantifiable; a discussion of the information available in moving images seems an appropriate place to begin. ...

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1. Perceiving Scenes in Film and in the World

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pp. 9-27

The real world is spatially and temporally continuous; film is not. We evolved in a continuous world and, regardless of how much we may enjoy them, we emphatically did not evolve to watch movies. Instead, movies evolved, at least in part, to match our cognitive and perceptual dispositions. ...

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2. The Value of Oriented Geometry for Ecological Psychology and Moving Image Art

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pp. 28-48

Scientists and artists share the same environmental habitat (roughly, where they live) but occupy distinct, somewhat intersecting econiches (roughly, how they live). Although evolving within the same natural frame, their arenas of life are so dramatically different—the former tending toward the rational and the latter toward the expressive— ...

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Part Two. Perception of Simulated Human Motion

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pp. 49-51

By the end of the twentieth century, the film-theory establishment had lost its faith in realism. In the waning decades, film theorists became increasingly entrenched in their belief that reality itself is a construct of language and culture. The digital technologies of the 1990s that made possible the synthetic construction of images ...

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3. Creating Realistic Motion

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pp. 52-60

People are skilled at perceiving the subtle details of human motion. We can, for example, often identify friends by the style of their walk when they are too far away to be recognizable otherwise. As a result of this skill, we have high standards for the motion of virtual human actors. ...

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4. Perceiving Human Motion in Synthesized Images

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pp. 61-66

The goal of special-effects animators is to create on the computer portions of an event that can be intercut or composited with other portions of the event that were shot in live action, such that the computer-generated portions of the event are indistinguishable from the live-action portions. ...

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Part Three. Acoustic Events

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pp. 67-69

A sound-effects editor for a motion picture begins his work by viewing a scene in which people are moving about on the screen, interacting with each other and with objects and structures in their environment. And usually the sounds of their footsteps, their opening and closing of doors, their pouring and drinking of liquids, ...

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5. Background Tracks in Recent Cinema

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pp. 70-78

What we hear affects what we see. Each of the three kinds of movie sound—voice, background sounds, and music—has important functions in our experience of film narratives. Though background sound was used only sparingly until the late 1960s—notable exceptions occur in films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window— ...

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6. Acoustic Specification of Object Properties

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pp. 79-104

A bottle sits unseen on the kitchen counter. Your elbow clips it inadvertently and sends it hurtling towards the floor. As you cringe, waiting for the crash, what you hear is not a shattering mess but a harmless bounce. The impact of glass on linoleum has set the materials into vibration, generating compression waves in the air. ...

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Part Four. Information in Facial Expression

Eyes flashing or twinkling, lips moist or dry, smiling or scowling, looming large and sharing our personal space, the human face in close-up is cinema’s unique gift and its greatest delight. The power of the close-up was not immediately obvious to early filmmakers, but they caught on quickly. ...

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7. Three Views of Facial Expression and Its Understandingin the Cinema

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pp. 107-127

The popularity of American mainstream movies has been immense over virtually the whole world since the 1920s. As is known, part of the success is best explained by economic push factors, such as affluent production and distribution, and the ubiquity of the English language and American culture. ...

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8. Facial Motion as a Cue to Identity

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pp. 128-148

The human face provides the most reliable and accessible means of person identification1—more reliable than other sources such as voice or gait (see later this chapter). Each of us can recognize thousands of different faces, an amazing feat when we consider how similar human faces are. ...

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Part Five. Coupling of Perception and Emotion

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pp. 149-151

In the 1990s, when cognitive film theory (remember that cognitive in the field of film studies broadly denotes an approach to film study that seeks to incorporate the findings and methods of science into the study of film) was just beginning to gain momentum, it was generally thought that such an approach could deal only with conscious and rational responses to film ...

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9. Film Lighting and Mood

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pp. 152-163

Lighting is one of the most powerful means of creating effect in films. The research on lighting as a means of creating effect has mainly been pragmatic and based on singlecase observations. Different cinematographers have commented on their experiments with different types of lighting ...

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10. Cinematic Creation of Emotion

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pp. 164-180

The dynamics of emotion that govern responses to actual situations versus to cinematic presentations thereof may be much the same. There is ample research evidence that demonstrates considerable commonality in the mediation of affect by the two formats (Zillmann, 2000a). ...

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Part Six. Appeals of Reality-Based Moving Images

In the 1970s and 1980s, as if in reaction to the strong case for realism set forth by André Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer at mid-century, film-studies scholars alternately attacked, ignored, and redefined realism until by the last decade of the twentieth century, filmic realism was considered a non-issue in film studies. ...

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11. Documentary’s Peculiar Appeals

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pp. 183-199

One of the most affecting movie sequences I have ever seen is the opening of Robert Gardner’s documentary about India, Forest of Bliss (1985). In it, an extremely emaciated and very bedraggled-looking mongrel is set upon by a pack of more-robust dogs. The lone mongrel tries to run away, but the pack catches it and brings it down. ...

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12. Reality Programming: Evolutionary Models of Film and Television Viewership

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pp. 200-214

Reading is not dead, but it is practiced by a steadily decreasing percentage of Americans. The consumption of books, newspapers, and magazines is becoming an elite activity, still practiced by some educated and relatively affluent citizens but increasingly eschewed by others. ...

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Part Seven. Events, Symbols, and Metaphors

When viewing a motion picture, we are constantly in alternation between seeing the scene and seeing the surface. The perceptual alternation between scene and surface constitutes a framing of the motion-picture viewing event, separating the experience of a motion picture from the experience of the real world, ...

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13. Through Alice’s Glass: The Creation and Perception of Other Worlds in Movies, Pictures, and Virtual Reality

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pp. 217-227

We take our seats, sit back, and prepare to be enthralled. In the coming “two hours’ traffic of our stage,” we will see people, places, objects, and events. They are familiar—they are ours, from this planet, this life. We understand what we see. But wait! The actor is twenty feet tall. She is flat and trapped on a surface that slopes away to one side. ...

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14. Metaphors in Movies

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pp. 228-244

In the opening of Memento (2001), a murderer kills his victim with a gunshot. But the scenes run backwards. The blood rises to the wound. The wound heals. The victim gets up. The murderer pockets his gun. The killer and the target separate and retreat their own ways. ...


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pp. 245-248


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pp. 249-253

Back Cover

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p. 269-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780809387571
E-ISBN-10: 0809387573
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327461
Print-ISBN-10: 0809387573

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 41
Publication Year: 2007