Perspectives on Television: Analysis
The term, television aesthetics, started gaining significance in overall general television studies around the early 2000s. It refers to a distinct approach used for studying television programs and attitudes to this medium itself. There is a general opinion among scholars working in this field that television is capable of achieving artistic integrity and television programs have styles that are worthy of close examination. In this manner, television aesthetics refer to the reflective and thoughtful consideration of television texts for their stylistic qualities.
The term, television aesthetics, further functions to distinguish the different approaches to television studies such as ideological, cultural, and sociological matters of the past, which does not consider the stylistic analysis or aesthetic evaluation. This was the dominant approach in the past.
Camerawork and Television Aesthetics
Cinematography plays a significant role in determining the style and aesthetics of any media work. It is not just about recording what is happening; it is an art of visual storytelling that includes elements such as framing, lighting, camera motion, composition, camera angles, lens choices, film selection, focus, zoom, exposure, filtration, and color. Cinematography has a huge influence on a film's narrative as it determines its visual. Thus, the job of a cinematographer is to ensure every element support the narrative.
The camera work will determine the visual style for television and establish the best camera techniques to adopt for each shot and how best to transform a scene and bring it to life. Elements such as lenses, the angles of the camera, types of camera, etc. represent stylistic choices that contribute to television aesthetics. Lighting is also another element that occupies a prominent role in television style and also a function of the camera work.
There are certain techniques and terms that are commonly used in camerawork, and which anyone interested in how cinematography influences television styles and aesthetics. They include:
Close-up: This is a shot that focuses on a particular object or character and closely cropping out any other feature.
Extreme close-up: this is a close-up shot with a tighter frame
Establishing shot: the shot that starts a scene, lending context to the setting
Long shot: A shot that focuses on the character or object while also capturing the surroundings, usually to establish a relationship between the surroundings and character.
Extreme long shot: a shot that is so distant from the character or object that it merges with the surrounding with little to no distinction.
Tracking shot: a shot moving sideways as it follows a moving character or captures a landscape.
Dolly Shot: A Dolly shot refers to a forward and backward shot that zooms in and moves away from a character.
Crane shot: a shot taken overhead with a camera suspended in the air.
There are many other camerawork techniques, such as tilting, panning, crosscutting, etc. For television, the camera work focuses on the use of multiple cameras set up in diverse ways that become routine over time.
Narrative Structure in Television
Each art form creates a dramatic structure and narratives. For instance, literature, cinema, and theatre have created their conventions in dramatic structure and establish their narrative. Television shares semblance with cinema in the fact that their narrative forms feature story, recorded sound, and recorded image. At first, television was heavily influenced by radio as it borrowed its personalities, programs, and entertainment. Thus, while cinema focused on storytelling with pictures and sound, television told stories with words and pictures. Technical developments, over time, has also influenced the narrative forms such that today, there isn't much difference between film and television. Nowadays, films are made not strictly the cinema but with television in mind as well. Narrative forms for television focuses on fragmented storytelling with continuity in mind, instead of the self-contained feature that films usually have in their structure of beginnings, middles, and endings. The narrative television structure focuses on the middle and strives for completion that is never truly achieved. For a film, the narrative structure revolves around a single character and crisis most of the time, and any other character or crisis is just necessary to support the major one. The opposite is the case with television narrative, where there is a focus on many characters and crises. The emphasis is not on achieving resolutions but rather, protracting issues.
Sound and Television Style
Generally, more attention is paid to images and video rather than audio and sound when it comes to television. It was considered that all that matter in sound is the audibility, and once what is said can be heard, it is considered enough. However, with the development of new audio equipment and the understanding of the role sound plays in the style and aesthetics, it is now one of the major considerations.
Sound is constructed to support the narrative and could play an active role by telling the story directly or a passive one, where it’s indirectly used to enhance the story. On the technical side, the most important sound in television is what the listeners can hear. Beyond what the story that is told through sound, another dimension where the sound is very significant is in the soundtrack. The soundtrack serves an aesthetic function in television production while also indirectly enhancing the story.
Acting in Television
Television acting is completely different from theatre acting, which is far more demanding. The particular acting style employed can go a long way in determining television aesthetics, which is why it is necessary to get the most suitable actors that can transform the script into action.
Television aesthetics offers us the opportunity to analyze television in a new light and find a fresh perspective and analytical approach to the improvement of quality in television production.
Author: Frank Taylor