An extract from the introduction of my Film Studies Dissertation (King’s College London)…

This dissertation is situates within the growing research around the stylistic use of digital technology and new media in contemporary cinema. My main area of investigation will be the virtual camera in narrative computer-animated films, with a precise interest in musical cinematography. The term ‘musical’ refers to the narrative premise of analysing song or dance sequences, while the term ‘cinematography’ refers to the stylistic and aesthetic form of the camerawork. The musical context provides a point of consistency across the films and sequences chosen for formal analysis, thereby providing a lineage between different production methods and styles. Prince argues that that digital technology builds “on stylistic traditions established by filmmakers in earlier generations … while providing new and more powerful tools to accomplish these ends.”[1] Likewise this dissertation will explore the stylistic developments in computer-animated films in relation to past cinematic traditions.

This investigation is structured around the aim of outlining and testing the term ‘digital cine-mobility,’ as a cinematic style, through comparisons with established stylistic traditions. Chapter One will explore the visual effects of cel-animation and computer-animation in relation to the Walt Disney Animation Studio. Chapter Two will study the moving camera of the American film musical. And finally, Chapter Three will scrutinize the term ‘digital cine-mobility,’ which we will initially define as, the selection of fantastical, playful, and impossible camera movements in computer-animated films. The concept of digital cine-mobility is framed around a lively camera that presents spatially dynamic, effortlessly integrated, and kinetically expressive movements. The aim of this investigation is to progressively examine, and attempt to define, the descriptive terms above.

[1]  Stephen Prince, Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality (New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2012), 4-5.

What Does It Feel Like To Write A Dissertation? … it’s like braiding hair!

What Does It Feel Like To Write A Dissertation? ... it's like braiding hair!

I like to use the analogy that writing a dissertation is like braiding hair.

Don’t be fooled if it sounds easy. This isn’t a simple three-part braid. No no, your customer (or dissertation supervisor) wants a whole hairstyle, not just the braid. You have three chapters, each is like its own braid, which then has to weaves together into one. Plus, you have your introduction and conclusion, the equivalent of styling the bangs in the front and the stray hairs in the back.

It’s also a process, a journey. You try one strand of hair here and then another there and when that doesn’t work, you undo the braid and try again with the knowledge and experience you gained in trying the first time. It’s a constant process of putting a strand of hair in and then stepping back and seeing if it works. Then if that quote, errrm…. I mean strand of hair, doesn’t fit in with the other twists and turns of the style… Then it has to be taken out. Sometimes, you finish a whole fishtail braid and just as you’re about to tie the end… You realize the fishtail style doesn’t work with the hairpins you originally chose! Time to re-try weaving the hair strands together in a French Braid.

Lastly, let’s not forget about functionality. Hairstyles not only have to look clean and well-put together, they also have to hold when put to the test. Wedding hairstyles, gymnasts’ buns, horse-riders’ braids… They all have to stand the event/physical activity. Similarly, your dissertation has to be well-written/presentable AND be defendable/rooted in a research methodology.

And at the very end, you hairspray the style with footnotes, a bibliography, a filmography, a cover page, and a table of contents… And voila! You step back and you have a dissertation hairstyle!