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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Moving Images

"Moving images" are literally images that move. The term "moving images" refers to the images that move in drama performance, and on the film, television, and computer screen.

A movie (or motion picture) consists of thousands of frames. When a film runs through a camera, each frame is exposed for a twenty-fourth of a second and records a fractional moment of movement. When the edited and completed film is projected at the same speed, our eyes are unable to distinguish between each frame, and so the individual frames or photographs appear to us as one continuous, uninterrupted movement. The terms "motion picture", "movie", and, to some extent, "moving images" reflect this phenomenon.

The more recent technology used to record and screen video or television is different from film, but many of the terms - such as "frame" as in "freeze-frame"- and production techniques and skills are common to both film and video or television. The language used to describe the processes of making film, video, or television is therefore very similar.

In the same way as we acquire and use spoken and written language without describing its individual parts, so we come to understand the visual language of moving images without being able to describe the particular elements that make a film or television programme and that enable it to communicate meaning. We interpret and make meaning from close-ups, high-angle shots, and fade-outs before learning their names. However, our understanding is enhanced by learning how the language of film and television works, by making our implicit knowledge and understanding explicit, and by acquiring the terminology that enables us to describe, discuss, analyse, and evaluate film or television.

There are a lot of what are sometimes called filmic terms, but they are not all peculiar to film. For example, some of the following terms are specific to film, but others are used elsewhere: narrative, characters, setting, production design, composition, shape, texture, space, depth, make-up, costume, music, sound effects, frame, shot, scene, sequence, movement, lighting, colour, script, animation, editing, and cutting.

When we read film or television closely, we also gain some of the tools that help teachers and students to present ideas and information using moving images in these media.

Presenting material using video, computer graphics, CD-ROM, or any other form of interactive audio/video technology, including digital technology, is an excellent means of exploring visual language. This, in turn, enhances viewing skills and abilities.

Exploring language content page

Exploring Language is reproduced by permission of the publishers Learning Media Limited on behalf of Ministry of Education, P O Box 3293, Wellington, New Zealand, © Crown, 1996.

Published on: 25 Feb 2009