Film Studies in Motion: From audiovisual essay to academic research video

Re-purposing current practice

Let us talk about ‘ideal’ form and function. We want to take a moment here to clarify that our approach does not only look to build on principles found in critical writing, or that we consider video essays mere off-shoots enabled by commercial paratexts and amateur filmmaking. We believe that the videographic work done thus far by critics, fans and scholars also provides very potent building blocks that, when combined, rearranged and supplemented, can easily flourish into a bigger and more potent form of Videographic Film Studies. In Chapter II we have made an attempt to pull apart the general denominator of ‘essay video’, and devise distinct categories based on shared governing traits. In order to complement these endeavors with what we hope will flourish into the category of ‘autonomous explanatory research video’, we propose to start by recapitulating what has already been created in audiovisual work, and then take different aspects from these videos and recombine them into a new aesthetic. To underline what comes next, we want to reflect upon the following: with extensive pieces of writing, it is not uncommon to adopt a different approach per segment. Somehow, audiovisual literacy has not (yet) matured enough to indulge in the same way. In part we think that this is because audiovisual efforts, up to date, have been relatively ‘modest’. They are moderate in the sense that they generally span around 2-10 minutes, and base themselves on either small or vaguely demarcated topics. In both cases, extensive contextualization or in-depth exploration are circumvented, which allows for videos that are shorter and play on a smaller scale than one might assume from an average length research paper.
            â€‹When looking at current audiovisual practice compared to the segments that make up a written explanatory argumentative piece, one could easily fit approaches taken in separate videos as techniques for a combination of segments in a larger video. For instance, an ‘annotated excerpt’ generally provides ‘entrance’ into a film, and briefly indicates a focal point. Compared to a piece of writing, this would parallel to a preface. ‘Video lectures’ are proving themselves to be purposeful ways of conveying information by means of oscillating between on-screen text and verbal narration, but also are perhaps one of the more logical modes of communication for incorporating added, explanatory, material. Lectures call for paraphrase and citation, and logically they have been the form thus far to implement external information most extensively.[87] Because of these inherent traits, the methods and aesthetics of the video lecture are a logical fit for a more expansive subject introduction, the video’s point of focus, and even for the presented methodology and framework. Examples of this can be found in what is already the most analytical form yet, including the most ‘complete’ quotations, namely the category of ‘videographic formalism’. For the ‘body text’ or truly analytical part of a video essay, this mode of presentation would, again, be a logical modus operandi due to the combination of various editing and annotative approaches. This way, one can round out the explorative and explanatory elements of analysis in a way that is on par with written analysis. Techniques such as compilational or kaleidoscopic supercuts can easily be fitted in for illustrative purposes. Elements of video lecture modes could also be employed, varying between showing only text-slides, presenting slides underneath voice-over (with either redundant or complementary information), or having a voice-over lecture while the visuals illustrate the words either directly or symbolically. ‘Symbolic’ illustration can quickly lead to overly personal affect or at least tends to give way to such associations. However, when kept at a feasible distance, it can in fact be a very potent and lucid technique (see, for example, the stills and graphs employed in (un)reliable (un)reliability [Figure 36]).
As mentioned earlier, due to the evanescent nature of video delivery (with text one can adjust one’s reading-speed, flip back a few pages etc.; with video this is not the case, the video strides on at a pre-set speed), it would be advised to provide at least the most essential information redundantly. The exact measurements of this balance are dependent on subject matter, its theoretical depth, anticipated audience, general aesthetic choices like speed of delivery and tone, as well as its external technological factors such as the image and sound quality of the delivery. In any case, it is known that multi-modal representations generally yield better results of information consumption than mono-modal delivery.[88] (This only underlines our earlier plea for complete use of film’s textuality in both the scholar’s work as with film quotation.)

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