Semiotic analysis of a poster: American History X

Semiotic analysis of a poster: American History X

By Seb Griffin-Keane

American History X is directed by Tony Kaye and was released in 1998, starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong. The poster is a black and white photograph of Edward Norton standing bare-chested with his hand across his body.

One of the Semiotic signs in this poster would be the Swastika. The denotation would be Nazism, whereas the connotation would be racism, discrimination and white supremacy. This shows that the film is going to be a challenging film dealing with the subject of racism and confronting real world issues such as ‘white supremacy’. The composition also shows that he is very passionate about his beliefs by having the Swastika close to his heart. The composition also shows that he is swearing allegiance to ‘white supremacy’ – similar to the way in which Americans swear allegiance to the flag.

There is also another denotation of that he is bare-chested; it can be implied from this that the film poster is designed to illustrate that he is open with his beliefs as well as being very confident with them. These two denotations are used to target adults due to the mature themes that are presented and how they are shown. The use of the colour is very important due to the whole poster being in black and white apart from the surnames of the two actors and the ‘X’ in ‘American history X,’ which is shown in red. The black and white is striking and bold, this corresponds with the fact that the film is bold in its approach to the issues of ‘white supremacy’ and isn’t afraid of confronting these challenging issues. The red also contrasts with the black and white so that we can see the actors’ names more clearly. This helps the film because fans of the two actors will be more likely to see it because they recognise the two names. It is also interesting because this is the first time Edward Norton has portrayed himself in this manner in an acting role, i.e. shaved head, tattooed etc. This contrast with his other roles immediately grabs the viewer’s attention.

The character that Edward Norton is also looking straight at you. This shows that the character is intimidating and demands attention. This corresponds with the bare chested connotation of not being afraid of showing his views. The focus of the poster is all on Edward Norton’s character. This tells the audience that the film is going to be his story and will depict his journey in the film.  The simplicity of the poster, in some ways, leads you to believe this is purely a film about Nazism, when in fact it is a complex multi-layered film about redemption. Interestingly there is no tag line for the poster only the title and the actors’ names, this intrigues people to want to see the film and know what it is about.


Evaluation and write up of the feedback given – “the visitor”

I have presented my short film to the rest of the class and some written feedback was given to improve my work and also saying what was good. I will now be writing what feedback I have been given and how I should move forward with my work and short films.

One of the people who gave feedback on my short film was Tammy Wilkinson. The feedback given on areas of development was that I should include more shots of the visitor (Dan’s character.) I feel that this would be good if I was to do this because of the fact that it will add more tension to the scene whilst also making the visitor more sinister. It will also make the film more interesting and explore the theme of “the visitor,” more. This will also mean I would have greater variation within my shots. Good things that were identified were that I had good quick editing at the start of the my film making it snappy. I feel that I should explore this technique more when I am creating future projects due to the fact that it is good use of editing. Another positive was that of the music, feel that I will always make sure that I have a soundtrack that fits with the tone of the film without being too cliché or cheesy. I feel that this is important due to keeping the tone of the film the same level throughout. The tracking shot was also praised as well, if that this is important because it says that I should include more of these in my other projects in the future.

The next person who gave feedback was Dan Pederson, this was the person who I worked with the film the short film. He also said that the music worked well with the camera shots and editing. I agree with this point due to the fact that the lonely piano corresponds with the isolated feel of the short film and being alone. However the areas for development were that I should turn down the audio for the music due to the fact that it being too loud. To improve this I feel that I should listen to the audio more carefully so I can make the not too loud, and when editing to look at the audio levels to make sure they match with each other. The reason I did make it loud was because of the fact that I wanted to hide the background that would of taken away from the tension and atmosphere of the short film.

The last person who gave feedback on my short film was Sara. The feedback given was that the use of different angle was creative and good, whilst also having good camera movements within the film. I will make sure to include more theses in my future short films and make sure I have variety in the film with the shots and movements. For areas of development the feedback given was that I should more video effects, this means that I will make sure to take more time in editing and post production to make sure I have a better overall quality product. Another improvement I should make was that of turing down the music again. This tells me I need to improve on my editing with the audio and also take more time with post. So I can add video effects to make the film more interesting.

Overall I feel that this is good having other people to evaluate my short film, because it gives an extra view on the short film. It also tells me what I need to improve and what worked well for the short film, what I should do more of to make my short films better. I feel that next time I should spend more time in post with editing footage. I also feel that I should of chose a better location so I didn’t have to drown out the background noise with the music. In turn this meant I didn’t have to make the music quite as loud. This would of also helped with the tension and atmosphere of the short film.

Evaluation of the final cut for task 3 – the visitor

I have made my final cut for task 3 and have exported it. This would be an overall evaluation on the final cut and how I should improve with my other short films going forward.

This is the link to the final cut of my short film, where it is located on Youtube:

The first scene of the short film where I am waking up and going to the bath room, I feel that worked well. Due to the quick cuts and the close ups of the shots of me in the bathroom. The shot that was my favourite from that scene was the shot with the mirror and me brushing my teeth I feel that this was a good shot due to the fact that of how it was framed within the shot. However to improve my work next time I feel like I should include more shots of the me waking up and include more quick cuts. I feel that I should also include shots of me waking up and stopping the alarm clock. I feel that this would add more value to the short film and time to the short film.

The scene where I am walking through redhill and into the college, I feel could be improved. This was because of the camera being so shaky in the last couple of shots and having the background noise didn’t help. To overcome the noise issue in editing I turned down the volume so they are all on the same level so the noise is constant. However I feel that the shots and how they were cut work extremely well for the final product. Making the walk into the college much more interesting. To make this scene better I feel that I should add more shots of me walking to the college with the same framing and shots. I feel this would make the film have much more continuity in the film and make the film look better because it cuts from red hill straight to inside the college. This would improve the quality of the short film. Next time I would make sure that I give myself more time to make the short film and have enough time to reshoot.

The scene where I am walking around the college I feel is the weakest, I feel that this is due to the fact that I had to cover up alot of the background noise by turning down the volume and having to play music over that scene. The reason for the footage having so much background noise was due to the fact that the college was echoey and there were still a lot of people around the college even though we were in the evening. To improve this next time we should will film in a location where there isn’t a lot of people to make it easier on ourselves and base it around that. Also due to there being still a few people many of the shots had to be cut so they weren’t in the background, this also meant that we had to cut out a scene due to there being people in the reflection and also too much background noise. The shots we did get were of to a high standard but still would have been better if we made more of a plan and had an idea where we didn’t need most of the college to be empty.

What I will take away from this, is that I should be prepared about my short film and have more of idea of the locations and how difficult it is going to be to film there. I feel that this would improve my work in the future because I will be able to think more about what I am doing and plan further ahead. However even though we had problems filming we still managed to have good shots where nobody is in the frame and also not having the background noise to be too loud by editing the sound and playing music over the background noise to cover it up.

The last scene in the film we also had problems filming due to the fact that we didn’t have the duct tape for the back of the wall and also didn’t have correct shot for the last shot. This was because of the fact that there was a mirror behind and the camera would be in the shot. This meant we had to reshoot with the black duct on the wall with the mirror in the background. Considering the mirror in the background I think the last shot was successful however I would preferred if we had more of jumpscare feel to it but this felt cheesy at the end. The parts with the end scene is the X on the wall I feel is when one of the better moments of our film due to the mysterious of it and the fact that it adds tension and creepiness to the scene.

Next time with the last short I will make sure that we aren’t going to have any problems and also have the short film and the last shot be more similar, so I am able to film more easily without having any problems with the footage or editing.

Overall I feel that this short film is good considering the fact that we had many technical issues with the shooting of it and also the fact that we had problems with transferring the footage over the two separate cameras. I feel that Me and Dan both met the specification of the short film up to standard with the brief. However next time we would have to think about the location and the story of short film and how difficult it is to pull off. Whilst also keeping in mind sound and to eliminate any background noise that is there. These two points I feel we would have to take into consideration when making our next project. If we do this we will be able to improve our work and also make a better product.

Editing a music video

The next thing I have edited using premiere pro was the music video alongside the sample music that was given to us. In this task we were given a source track that we had to put footage to make a music video. I used a wide range of different footage and visual styles. I used footage from the films: The tree of life, Raging bull and Apocalypse now. The reason I used these three films was because of the wide range of visual diversity while all looking appealing and compelling. The footage I used from the tree of life was the landscape shots the CGI shots of space and bacteria. The reason why I used these shots is that I wanted to show contrast between the Raging bull shots whilst also being visually appealing. For Apocalypse now I used the starting sequence and Martin Sheen waking up. The reason for these shots is that I feel that they are visually compelling and correspond well the timing of the music. My final film that I used was raging bull, I used the starting shot from this film where Robert De Niro is shadowing boxing. The reason I used this shot is because of the fact that it is beautifully framed and whilst having colours of the footage that contrast, due to the raging bull clip being black and white.

Overall I feel that my music video has came out rather well, I taken my experience from my pervious work on editing and made some of the cuts fades so it has more of flowing feel to it in time with the music. However I do think I should chose more wisely with the shots I use and how use them to tell a story. I feel like this improve my overall editing skills and how I look at films.

Samsara – the finished product

I have just finished my trailer for Samsara unfortunately I can’t add the file due to not paying for WordPress. However I feel that the trailer was of high quality, in this post I will be evaluating my work for the Samsara task. I used the song La Corsa from Django unchained. I feel that the rhythm of the editing matches with the music and shots, I feel that the story can be told with the creepy music and also the style of the editing and shots. However I do think I can improve by the hard cuts I use, instead I should used more fades and less hard cuts. Having a more of a mixture with the editing.

Task 3 – reflection of the obstacles we had whilst filming

Whilst filming we had to overcome a few obstacles with filming. One of the main obstacles was filming in the college with people walking around the walking around the college walking into the shot and talking in the background. To overcome this we had to wait until late in the evening when mostly everyone had gone home. This meant we had to wait around a bit until people went home or moved. This paid off because we managed to get the footage we wanted and didn’t have anyone in the shot. Another obstacle we had to overcome was that of the background noise whilst filming in Redhill. To overcome this problem we filmed where the noise was at a minimal, I will then change the audio so that it doesn’t sound out of place of unnatural.

The other problem as well, and maybe the hardest scene, was the evaluator scene. The problem we had was not getting the camera in the shot, we tired to have the camera at a angle so it wouldn’t get seen in the mirror at the back of the evaluator. However this didn’t have the full effect so to overcome it we reshot it with the tripod and have no one behind the camera. We also made sure that I was position in certain way so I covered up the camera from the mirror. Whilst also reshooting we also changed the X on the wall to black, to make look more creepier and a bit more disturbing.

We also had trouble getting the footage from the camera to the computer due to the fact that we filmed on two separate cameras. This was problem because we couldn’t email each other the footage because of the fact that the file was too big for an email. To overcome this we had to bring in a USB and sd cards so we could trade the footage, we did this on monday. Next time we will make sure to film on one camera or be more prepared to exchange the footage and make sure what we are doing.

Overall I feel that we overcome the problems quite well and managed to have a short film of high quality even with production problems.


Task 3 -reflection of the reshooting

Yesterday me and Dan did reshoots for our short film, this post is a reflection of what happened and what the outcome was. We reshot the evaluator scene making it a lot more scary and better quality. We adjusted the camera angle in some of the shots and also changed the X in the background to black duct tape so it more visible and of higher quality making the scene scarier.

The reshooting of the less important shots were not completed. Due to the fact that this would mess with continuity due to the sun being out when perviously it was cloudy. This would make the short film look worse so we decided not to reshoot that scene. These reshoots weren’t important to the overall film, it will just mean that now we will have to edit the film so we can shorten a certain short within the film that we were perviously going to reshoot.

I feel that doing these reshoots will improve my short film, and will help the ending scene have more tension and be creepier. The other reshoots won’t effect the film insufficiently however next time we have to make sure the footage is good on set and at the time so we don’t have to reshoot at a later date. This is something I will take to my another short film so I can save time and improve my overall short film.