MTV Switch campaign

In this lesson you will study the MTV 'Switch' campaign, which spreads awareness about climate change. The guiding question is: 'How does MTV use different devices to persuade viewers to care about global warming?' The 'devices' that we will explore include the use of camera angle, image, light, sound and copy (commonly referred to as 'text'). As each ad is very different in its approach, you can easily compare and contrast the campaign ads.

As you view the ads, you will want to know what to look for. You can split your class into four groups. Each group will have a series of questions to answer for each film. Each group will focus on a different aspect of the films in an effort to understand how they achieve their aims.

Stylistic devices of film

Just as sentences use words, punctuation and grammar to construct meaning, film uses several devices to construct meaning. Just as there are many different ways to tell a story, there are many ways to film a story.

Break up into four 'expert' groups. Each group will focus on one of the following: 1) the use of camera angle, 2) image and light, 3) sound and 4) copy. Before you view the seven short films on global warming, read the explanations and questions that relate to your expert group. After you view each film, use your expertise to comment on each film. Collectively you should be able to fill in a chart like the one below. 

 MTV Switch campaign

  Use of camera Image and light Sound Copy
Sockets and faucets        
It takes two        
Save the tree        
Sad computer        
Brad and earth        
Space Umbrella        

Group 1 - Use of camera

Film directors have several options at their disposal when capturing a scene. The effects of each angle on an audience are quite different. Here is a brief overview of several common uses of camera shot, angle and movement.

Camera shot
- Extreme long shot - This is how the Hollywood sign is often portrayed in the hills over Los Angeles.
- Long shot - The subject is seen from a distance.
- Middle shot - One or two people viewed from the waist up.
- Close up - The camera is zoomed in on its subject.
- Extreme close up - The camera is extremely zoomed in on its subject.

Camera angle
- Bird's eye view - The subject is seen from above.
- High angle - The camera looks down on its subject from an angle.
- Eye level - The camera is at eye level with its subject.
- Low angle - The camera is looks up on its subject from an angle.

Camera movement
- Pan - The camera points from left to right or from right to left across the horizon.
- Tilt - The camera points from an eye level angle to a high or low angle (or vice versa).
- Dolly - The camera moves together with its subject through space, possibly through the use of a crane.
- Hand held - The camera is held by hand and moves with 'jerks', following its subject.
- Zoom - The camera zooms in from a long or middle shot to a close up or extreme close up shot.

After viewing each film, answer the following questions as a group.

  1. How does each film make use of camera shots, angles and movement?
  2. What kind of effect does the use of camera have on the audience in each film?

Group 2 - Image and light

'What goes into the frame?' This is another major question for directors to answer. We refer to the composition of elements as the 'mis en scene', which, in French, means 'putting things into the picture'. Here are several aspects of mis en scene to consider:

- Subject - Is the main subject animate or inanimate? Is there one or more characters? Who's important?
- Icons - To what extent is the subject easily identifiable and universal or particular and unique?
- Set - What is the backdrop? In what context is the subject?
- Color - How is color used? Are there many primary colors? Is there great contrast?

- How are the subjects arranged in relationship to each other? Is there juxtaposition?
- What is the subject's role in the setting?

- Key - How well lit is the main subject in the frame?
- Fill - This is the kind of lighting used to soften the shadows and determine the amount of contrast.
- Back - This comes from behind the subject and makes it stand out.

After viewing each film consider the following questions:

  1. What is the main use of mis en scene in each film? You may only wish to describe a few key scenes.
  2. What is the effect of this use of mis en scene on the audience in each film?

Group 3 - Sound

The kinds of sounds in a film often determine the audience's mood. The sounds we hear in a scene either come from the action in the scene, or they are superimposed (such as sound effects or music), or they are both natural and superimposed.

Here are two questions to consider when analyzing each film:

  1. How does the director use natural or superimposed sound?
  2. What is the effect of these sounds on the audience? How does sound help establish mood?

Group 4 - Copy

'Copy', in the world of media, means the actual text or words used in an advertisement or commercial. As you view the films consider the following element of the copy:

- Connotation / denotation - Do the words have a literal or figurative meaning?
- Tone - What mood is set through the use of vocabulary?
- Verb tense - Are the verbs in the present, past, future or conditional tense?
- Pronoun - Is the copy directed at 'you', 'he', 'she', 'it'?
- Stylistic devices - Are there expressions, similes, examples of alliteration, etc.?

Here are two questions when considering the use of copy in each film

  1. What are the kinds of devices and uses of diction used in the copy of each film?
  2. What are the effects of the language of these films on their audiences?

MTV Switch campaign

Here are the 7 ads that we will explore. For each ad answer the questions that are asked of your group

Compare and contrast

Now create new groups which are comprised of four unique experts; one from 'camera use', one from 'image and lighting', one from 'sound' and one from 'copy'. Within these new groups select two films for comparison. You can use the following table to organize a group presentation to the rest of the class. 

Comparing films

  Film A Film B
Use of camera    
Image and light    

Towards assessment

Further oral activity - Alone or in pairs, you can present a comparison on two of these MTV Switch campaign ads. In such a presentation, explain how the medium of film is used to convey a message to its audience. How do these ads target different or similar audiences using similar or different techniques? You can find a sample of this further oral activity in the assessment section of this Subject Site. 

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