Aesthetics Theory

Authored by: Herbert Zettl

Handbook of Visual Communication

Print publication date:  November  2004
Online publication date:  December  2004

Print ISBN: 9780805841787
eBook ISBN: 9781410611581
Adobe ISBN: 9781135636531


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When reading film and television reviews, we are usually told by the critics whether the characters and their actions are believable or not, whether the plot has a logical development, whether it is too simple or too complex, and whether the setting is befitting the story. Occasionally, we learn about the director’s skill or lack of it, or the creative or unimaginative camera work. But rarely, if ever, do these critics mention the specifics of lighting, picture composition, the continuity of shots, and the role of sound effects. This is understandable, because such media-aesthetic factors work mostly underground. In fact, one of the criteria for good editing is that it is seamless, and for effective film music, that it remains largely unnoticed by the audience. However, such meta-messages are crucial for the clarification and intensification of the various messages, and for how we finally interpret and feel about a particular television show or film. Even the creators of such media fare are often unaware of the perceptual effect a specific type of lighting or sound effect will produce, at least not until such an effect has been applied. What we obviously need for a more precise analysis and synthesis—production—of video, film, and computer presentations is a system that allows a closer look at the various aesthetic media factors, how they function, and how they interact. Applied media aesthetics is such a system. 1

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