How many hours do you spend each day watching commercials, films or short videos? Quite a few? We live in a world that is saturated with moving images. If you view a lot of videos, it helps to have an understanding of the conventions of film and the moving image. Use the worksheet below to analyse a movie, film or documentary. A model analysis of a commercial is provided below. 

Worksheet: film


  1. What kinds of features should you explore when analysing film? Watch this famous Apple 1984 commercial below and analyse it using the diagram and worksheet from above.

  2. How did you answer the questions from the worksheet? Here are some example answers you could give to such questions. They are not exhaustive, as there is so much you can say in response to this epic commercial!  

  3. Feature Example
    Mise en scène: This refers to what goes into the frame, including the subjects, backdrop and props. It refers to the composition of the shot, including the lighting, and can involve a director of photography. How does your film or video use composition (or mise en scène) to capture or frame the director's message?  The large room, where all of the ‘skin heads’ sit staring at Big Brother on the screen, is featured in many scenes. The gas masks, the boots, the grey clothing and tunnel all contribute to the dystopian atmosphere. The use of colour in the hammer thrower’s clothing is sharply contrasted with the blues and greys in the scene, suggesting she brings hope and change. 
    Camera angle: What is the angle of the camera in relation to its subject? Is it a bird’s eye view, high angle, eye-level angle, low angle or worm’s eye view? Camera angle (see diagram) greatly affects the viewer's interpretation of the subject. It provides a perspective or a window into a world. How does your film use camera angle to construct meaning?  The scene opens with a bird’s eye view of a transparent tunnel, where we see the heads of prisoners marching. There is a worm’s eye view of the boots, and eye-level shots of the prisoners. This makes the viewer feel like they observing this strange world both from the outside and inside
    Camera shot: The distance between the camera and the subject is important to consider. You may see an extreme-close shot (XCS), a close shot (CS), medium shot (MS), long shot (LS) or extreme long shot (XLS) (see figure). Does the camera move or stay still in relation to its subject? Sometimes the camera is put on a dolly. Sometimes it rotates on its access, creating a pan. Cameras can also zoom in and out, often in combination with camera movement for special effects. Finally consider the length or duration of the shot, which will help determine the pace of the film.   The camera is on a dolly as it pans along the rows of prisoners. Close-up shots of the prisoners’ faces, as they march or sit give the viewer the impression that they are brainwashed like zombies. The running woman with her hammer approaches the camera, which switches between her getting closer, the guards chasing her and Big Brother speaking. Each shot zooms in on its subject more and more, intensifying the experience for the viewer.
    Shot length: Consider the length or duration of the shot. Shot length will help determine the pace of the film and the viewer’s engagement with the topic. How do the lengths of the shots help construct the director’s presentation of the topic and how does shot length affect the viewer? The length of each shot is relatively consistent, giving the viewer an steady sense of pace. Just as the viewer begins to understand what is happening in each shot, the shot changes to reveal another aspect of this strange world, making the viewer feel disoriented. 
    Diegetic or non-diegetic soundSounds that are created by the characters, objects or events on the film set, (such as dialogue) are known as diegetic sounds. Sounds that are added to the footage after filming, such as music, voice-overs or sound effects, are known as non-diegetic sounds. How do both non-diegetic and diegetic sounds help convey the message of the film that you are analysing?  

    The sound of Big Brother speaking is at first non-diegetic and then later diegetic, which creates suspense. The hammer thrower’s scream, as she throws her hammer at the screen, seems to cut through all of the background robotic noises. The prisoners’ make a strange singing noise in response to the exploding screen, as the voice over tells us about Apple’s new computer. 

    Montage: How are all of the shots and music put together? The skill of editing and joining shots to get a particular effect is called ‘montage’. Post-production editing, or montage, is important in constructing the viewer's experience of the events that unfold. How does your film use montage to construct meaning?  

    The shots switch between the woman with the hammer and the prisoners with increasing frequency. This creates tension and suspense, as the reader sees the inevitable conflict between her and the guards and Big Brother. The final text about the launch of the new Apple Macintosh frames the whole scene as an allusion to the novel 1984.

  4. Prepare a short presentation on a collections of screenshots from a movie, documentary or commercial and present it to your classmates. You can even explore one screenshot for each of the features. 

  5. Check out this model analysis of a screenshot from Bo Burnham's special 'Inside'. Take one of the screenshots that your classmates presented from the previous activity and create your own poster with one paragraph to analyse the screenshot. Make a copy of the poster in Google Slides (under 'file') and overwrite the contents.

  6. A3 Poster: Model analysis of 'Inside'

Any multi-modal text that involves moving image is considered, by the IB, non-literary by definition. A TV series, collection of commercials, documentary or feature film is considered a non-literary body of work (BOW) by the IB. Multi-modal, moving image BOWs are popular for the Individual Oral. If you should decide to use a multi-modal text for your individual oral, your extract will include several (3-5) stills. For each still, include a caption that states what is voiced either through diegetic or non-diegetic sound during that section of film. 


Thinking skills are valued in the IB. By applying what you learned from the analysis of 1984 commercial to a film of your choice, you are using 'transfer skills'. As you study the text types in this section, think of how you can apply what you know about the features of each text type to a variety of examples. This will help you understand how texts can be conventional or unconventional. 

Last modified: Tuesday, 15 March 2022, 7:02 PM