Visual Arts

Accepted ways of arranging materials into familiar forms, such as print, painting, moving image or sculpture.

Media Arts

Codes are the tools we use to create meaning and to construct and analyse media work. Codes include Technical Codes (the ways we create meaning by how we record an image), Symbolic Codes (the ways we create meaning by what we see in an image), Audio Codes (the ways we create meaning through the use of sound) and Written Codes (the ways we construct meaning through the use of text).

Conventions are repeated ways of constructing media works, using codes that, over time, have become accepted by audiences. (e.g. a fade to black indicates time has passed; a scene of a car chase will include dramatic music)

The meanings that are constructed by codes and conventions are culturally determined.

Technical codes: the use of technology to create meaning within a shot or sequence

  • Shot size: ­extreme close up (frame or screen is filled with a portion of an image for dramatic effect or emphasis by drawing attention to one, essential detail), close up (focus of frame is the head and shoulders of character- used to emphasise an important detail that the audience might otherwise miss or to show a reaction or what the character is saying), mid or medium shot (framing is from the head to waist of character - used in news anchorage and interviews as it focuses attention on what is being said. It is also used to show the interplay between characters and good for showing action),  long shot (or wide shot) and extreme long shot (also known as establishing shot) allow setting and action to be established
  • Camera angle: ­low camera angle (camera is looking up at the character)- makes the character appear large and powerful, eye level shot (camera is eye level to the character)- represents a neutral  viewpoint), high camera angle (looking down at the character)- makes the character appear weak or vulnerable)
  • Camera movement: ­camera pan (can follow the action) or zoom in or out (can be used to draw attention to a particular feature of a character, setting or object)
  • Shot duration: length of time of individual shots. (e.g. a long shot duration can create calm and peace whereas a series of short shots can create  tension)
  • Lighting: ­manipulation of natural or artificial light can be used to draw attention to important detail because the eye will be drawn to well-lit parts of the frame. Light and dark can also be used to create mood or atmosphere)
  • Special effects: often used to create realistic representations of implausible actions and settings or to manipulate images or shots for artistic effect (e.g. the use of ray guns in a sci fi film or a person surviving a fall from a 20 storey building)

Symbolic codes: elements within the frame or shot that carry symbolic meaning

  • Costume: ­characters’ costumes can suggest a period of time or occupation or character trait
  • Setting­: this can establish time and place and indicate possible action (e.g. a setting of London in 1940 would suggest a wartime narrative)
  • Body language: ­expression, gesture and posture can indicate how a character is feeling (e.g. a frown, crossed arms and the head tilted to the side may mean a person is confused)
  • Objects: the props used within a scene can create a sense of realism as well as adding meaning (e.g. the audience would make different assumptions about a person driving a Rolls Royce and someone driving a Ferrari)
  • Colour: used within a shot can carry symbolic meaning, which may be culturally specific. The use of the colour red can indicate danger in Western societies but happiness in some Eastern cultures
  • Mise-en-scène: ­the combination of symbolic elements ‘within the scene’ that creates meaning

Audio codes: the sound within the shot or scene that creates meaning

  • Dialogue: ­what the characters say and their interactions with other characters reveal the narrative to the audience. (e.g. an accent can represent the cultural context of a character)
  • Music:­ used to create feeling or atmosphere within a scene
  • Sound effects: ­natural sound effects and digitally constructed sound effects can enhance the narrative and create realism
  • Laugh tracks and applause tracks: ­used in a studio setting, this suggests audience interaction with the studio live performance. This enhances the experience for the audience watching the pre-record later

Written codes: the way words are used, written and positioned helps to establish meaning or to enhance the narrative  

  • Speech bubbles: ­comic books and strips place text in a bubble above a character’s head to indicate dialogue
  • Signs: ­such as street signs are often used within the narrative for a particular meaning
  • Titles and credits: ­the name of the media work, production crew and details contextualise the production context
  • Text on screen: ­can establish the setting, or the authority of a character on a particular issue
  • Headlines and captions: ­Newspapers and magazine headlines and captions use specific language for engaging with audiences, and are used to anchor the meaning to images;
  • Taglines and slogans: ­usually a one-line representation of a media work used in marketing