Lesson 3 Reading Assignment
On the Set


How to Read a Film

In Chapter 2, Technology: Image and Sound, read the sections titled, "The Lens," "The Camera," and "The Filmstock."

In Chapter 4, The Shape of Film History, read the section titled, "'Cinema': Esthetics" (only from pp. 284-300).

In Chapter 6, Media: In the Middle of Things, read the section titled, "The Technology of Mechanical and Electronic Media."

Time Estimate

1 1/2 hours


Without lights, cameras, lenses, and filmstock—what’s left? Just people, scenery, dialogue, and sounds. It’s the technology that filters the reality and turns it into (we hope) art. Most of the time we go to the movies for the reality (or unreality) that film captures for us. But sometimes, it’s the "filter" itself that catches our attention.

Please post your responses to the following questions on the class message board.

  1. Describe a shot that you find particularly memorable for its technology, be it for its lighting, its unusual use of a lens, or some other technical "filter."
  2. Similarly, is there a subtle bit of action that has stuck with you? It could be a look or a gesture—something small (we’re not talking about Terminator explosions or the sinking of the Titanic here!)
  3. What’s the newest genre in film that you can think of? Do you think it will survive?