Semiology is the study of signs and messages that can be read in a shot of a film or TV show. It is used to help the audience investigate what is being shown to find out information that isn’t directly told. Therefore it is a great way to develop ideas and intentions amongst the audience. Even the smallest aspects of a shot can help the audience develop a better idea of who a character is and how they can be implemented into the story. Anything such as colours, clothes, body language and use of props can all help with character building in a TV/film scenario.
Colours are particularly powerful in film and TV. Not only do they make the experience more interesting/easy to watch, but they can show the emotions or intentions that the director is trying to convey.
As a class we came up with a colour table that shows the different feelings that a director would be trying to convey with the use of colours. We decided that the colour red would be to show feelings such as love, anger, luxury, heat, jealousy, power and danger. This is because of how society’s perspective has been shaped by the media and personal experiences over time. The colour green was compared with feelings such as envy, happiness, health, greed and magic. Yellow was more of positive colour and can be matched with feelings like enlightenment, success, summer, youth and also happiness. This could be because it is a brighter colour and is typically compared with more positive aspects of life. Blue had a wider variety of feelings as it has a wider spectrum therefore both positive and negative feelings could be matched such as sadness, formality, calmness, neutrality and coldness.
New ‘Skins’ Character
During class we were asked to think of a new character for the UK based show, Skins. This would allow us to think about what a character actually needs to be seen as a realistic person and how semiology can be used to develop characteristics and personalities that would not be directly told to the audience.
For my character, I chose to have the name William, a name mostly used in the UK. William came from a working class family and had a job at the local cafe. He was forced to work a high amount of hours as he was told he must contribute to the household bills. William’s clothes were mainly for the summer showing a variety of bright and saturated colours representing his positive outlook on life. Due to having to work so often he had an extremely untidy room that had not been cleaned or tidied for a considerable amount of time. Although he was able to have all of the things he wanted such as a nice phone, designer glasses and a computer due to his good work ethic.
Examples of Semilogy
(Jewell Carver, 2015)
A good use of semiology can be seen in the first few minutes of Skins in episode one, series one. With the introduction of Tony and his family there are aspects of almost every shot that help the audience decode who Tony is and his standpoint within the family. Just within the first minute there are huge signs for the audience to show who Tony is and some of his characteristics.
The first 50 seconds show Tony in his bedroom, waking up and exercising. Also from what we can see at this point, Tony has a very tidy bedroom. This shows that he is very respectful of himself and that he has a strict routine. As the scene progresses, there is a cut to a shot showing a girl (presumably Tony’s sister) walking towards the home and signalling for Tony’s attention. At this point Tony is looking out of the window for his sister and gets distracted by a girl getting changed in a different house. Then Tony is brought to the attention of his sister and distracts his Dad. This shows that him and his sister trusts each other and know that they can both depend on one another. The fact that Tony was distracted by the other girl shows his orientation and the fact that he is not loyal to his girlfriend, however this is not known at this point in the episode.
Just within the first 2 minutes of Skins we know a lot of information about Tony, just by looking at his actions and surroundings. This is why semiology is so important in film and particularly TV. It is used to keep the attention of the audience by giving out pieces of information that may or may not be relevant to the story. Without it, both film and TV would be very difficult to watch.
In conclusion, semiology is a huge part of how the visuals on screen are displayed to the audience. For this reason, it is heavily taken into consideration when planning in pre – production. It is used in all films and TV shows as it is a great way to help the audience gain an idea of what the characters and location are like and how they might effect the final outcome of the story.
Jewell Carver (2015) Skins season 1 episode 1 tony. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MKg7ese1Dc (Accessed: 23 September 2016).