So, we’ve looked at how media audiences respond to media products, and also how a media producer defines the audience that they want to produce for,but just How can they produce for an audience? What things are taken into consideration?
Firstly – content.
Content overall is the integrity of the product itself, and is what the user has payed their money for or gone out of their way to consume if the example is a film, so lets use Hell boy as a first example. Hell boy is a 2004 American supernatural superhero film, based on a dark horse comic.
Hell boy’s theme is dark and of an odd and almost alien upbringing, with the main character being introduced as a small and dependent child, it is quickly changed into something more of a brute whom is fighting large alien like creatures. From a reviewers point of view, the film is something of a piece of nostalgia for those who had read the comic book. The tone used within the entire production is of a very bleak and dark tone, making the use of many grey and blacks to try and capture a world of underground activity and bleakness, with the only colour exceptions being of the aliens and their unnatural pigments of skin, Hell boy appearing a devilish red and his amphibious accomplice, appearing blue – easy to identify from a distance, and all the more emphasis on having to hide themselves when in the real world. Rain and night are excessively used within the film, further emphasizing that the world is. Vampires and other horrific creatures lurk in the depths of darkness that fill the world, and some major reviewers feel that the age rating of a 12 was a little too lenient, as it may give the illusion that this is a very family friendly superhero movie, when in reality has a considerable amount of swearing, action, and horror elements to it. Many main reviewers think that it should be a 15 – but is this intentional? Were the producers attempting to widen the public view on superhero’s by allowing a darker element to enter the minds of a younger generation? Or was it a decision that wasn’t backed up by much prior research on the age limit and what they might feel safe and comfortable viewing?
So – Lets look into colour within content. When producing for a film, colour correcting is to be expected; yet films will more often than not choose to uphold a specific colour margin or theme in order to depict a certain mood or atmosphere for the audience to feel via a passive consumption, we don’t take note of the colour, yet it holds an incredible passive impact as to how we feel about a certain situation or scene. Another example apart from hell-boy could be batman, where the cool and metallic city of Gotham can be best represented by the colour blue, allowing for the cool impact of steel and darkness to create a better atmosphere within The Dark Knight Rises.
A good example of how colour is used in other scenario’s would be jaws and the colour yellow. Repeatedly through the film the colour yellow is used, from the buoy that is dragged from the boat to the jacket of the fisherman, it is constantly used because yellow is the only colour that sharks are believed to be able to see – Spielberg put this colour all over the film simply because he’d thought it would create a link between the colour yellow and the shark’s attacks, and because they hardly see the shark itself during the film, that this might create even more tension, allowing the illusion of substance to be created for the audience from the lack of shark visuals.
Colours will carry emotions with them, and people will subconsciously link said colours to a wide variety of emotions, scenario’s or products within the real world. A good website to refer to this theory is ( http://www.webpagefx.com/blog/web-design/psychology-of-color-infographic/ ), a website which shows visual representations as to how we psychologically perceive colour, and includes surveys!It is quite obvious that colour makes an incredible impact when it comes to product marketing and how people perceive shops, ads and a variety of other things – let this only be more evidence to back up the use of colour within films!
Next up is typography, or “text”. Believe it or not, but text and the way it is written is considered very important for any advertising media product with a name or brand that attempting to make its ways into peoples lives, whether it be the bold and extreme text of movie titles, or the more delicate swirls of medieval handwriting to further enforce the timeline of the production; text and general typography is an integral part to any successful media product. ~Most films that are being watched online or via their trailers for a first impression will more often than not lose their viewers within the first 15 seconds if they are not interested, so making the first impression is vital for sustaining an audience. This is incredibly important for short films, who’s accessibility to an audience may be limited because of their inability to fund a large advertisement screen.
A good way to capture your audience into the film is the typography, as an attractive font can make or break a film, bringing it from an amateur level to a professional look. There are many mistakes that people make however, as many fonts are deemed excessive and over the top – only to be ridiculed by its viewers. A good set of typography within a trailer of the films opening gives not only a professional look, but the credibility that effort has been put into the production as a hole, as the title sequence more often than not is used as a grounds to set the tone for the entirety of the film.
Simplicity is an aspect that is often overlooked in the film industry, yet has been proved time and time again by large production companies that it more often than not works better something full on, and this applies especially to title sequences and general typography – at the right speeds and the right transitions, even a fade animation for a title can be enthralling given the right situation and atmosphere within that first 15 seconds of film, after all – Typography is considered graphic design, or art – and you wouldn’t go about slapping paint on a canvas randomly would you? (Unless your one of those artists..) Essentially, when including any typography within the film, you are generally branding the film to follow a specific style. Referring back to the colour scheme and how you would use colour to bend the atmosphere and emotion to your will, by keeping the typography to a certain theme depending on the situation, you can create an effect which keeps to the films own “Canon”, allowing for a fuller immersion and experience.
Onto another large topic, and that’s narrative and layout; including the codes and conventions of a production that allows it to rise or fall within the production foundry. In this section, we are going to use a game called “The Last of Us”, an (in my opinion) incredible title that has stunned the world with its incredible story telling, aesthetics and structure, and whilst the story itself is not completely original, the world is so uniquely pieced together that it certainly allows it to stand out from the rest.
The story is set in a world no different from our own from both an era standpoint and a technological standpoint, however the world takes a turn for the worst after a fungal virus called the Cordyceps (Which is REAL by the way.) has made its way into the human system and effectively mutated them into creatures of no control, losing their natural ability to comprehend or communicate, as well as becoming extremely animalistic in nature. The game immediately introduces you to two characters, Joel and Sarah.
Joel is a rugged looking individual with a soft voice and mature outlook, he is first introduced into the game as an individual who seems to be hardworking, but also at a slight impede in his career – as made evident by a phone call stating that he might be losing a job, something which a single parent (No mention of the mother throughout) would suffer highly from. He wears a dark green thick shirt and shows signs of aging, particularly within his beard there are noticeable grey hairs. Immediate from the get go, Joel is considered a father figure to Sarah, and a particularly good one as well. Consideration for her well being is a top priority, and it is certainly something that we as human beings in real life can relate to, and even call “Cute.” All of this is completely thrown out of the window as the game progresses 20 years into the future after a rather upsetting prologue, and whilst the prologue is most certainly an emotional roller coaster that was executed extremely well (Credit to Naughty Dog!), it certainly did its job of setting the scene and creating an extreme contrast from the prior and current Joel. After the prologue, Joel is a ruthless and brutal individual who uses any means necessary to proceed in the one thing that all of humanity is trying to do – Survive. Through the use of brute force with weapons that rarely exceed a baseball bat or objects found around the world, he never ceases to impress the audience, or make them squint from the brutality that is most often generalized or emphasized within action movies. This game is designed to be as realisticly simulated as possible when taken into consideration as to what we as a society are capable of doing if all hell was to break loose.Ellie is the second main character of the game, and is almost the direct opposite of Joel from the get-go. (Spoiler alert) She is a girl that was born into the new society (or lack of), and has seen nothing but the world of terror and the fungal infested individuals that roam the streets. However, even though she was born into a world full of pain and suffering throughout its entirety, she is also the games way of expressing hope. Quickly, she becomes the star of the game as she often asks about the world and what it used to be like, even asking about how people would go about their everyday life. For her, even a job is completely out of the picture as she fails to understand how life involved people waking up in an environment which was of extreme tranquility in comparison to the world they lived in today, where one simple mistake could cost them everything. She is also hope in another way, alongside the quirky personality. The fungal infection within the world is spread by breathing in certain spores, typically found in hotzones of the infected, or by being bit by one. Ellie, was one of those people; having been bitten by an infected, she had some how grown immune to the fungus and its growth, effectively storing a cure within her well being, and the goal of the story is for Joel to safely escort her to a science lab across the county in hopes of finding a cure.
The game proceeds over a year and the personalities of the two begin to mold and be reflected by one another. Throughout the beginning of the game, Naughty Dog goes through the explicit task of setting them at either end of the stick, allowing their differences to become apparent as Ellie would try and spark up curious conversation, only to be let down by an oppressive and ruthless Joel, who didn’t exactly like the escort idea in the first place. Immediately we are given two characters with wildly different opinions on how they would proceed with certain scenario’s; and not only is this a good narrative technique in itself, but it also allows the play to take sides, something which is almost prohibited with many games or films. Usually, the main character is the one who makes the decisions and you are forced to play along, but because of the story and its extremely dynamic world, these two opinions Matter, and it is with this technique that people can take sides for the character and how to perceive the story. One person may feel morally obliged to be on Ellie’s side, trying to fight for the well-being of Joel coming back to a some what more humane state, but others may be rooting for Joel; his brutal instincts are what has kept him alive for 20 years in a world which kills hundreds every day.
However, the infected are only half of the issue. The world has become home to some of the most ruthless banditry and lone wolf survival that story telling has seen. Assault, traps and torture are all methods used by the cannibalistic bandit group we see throughout the story, yet are these methods wrong in the world they live in? Naughty dog has done an exceptional job of allowing the viewer to be fully immersed in a story that has survival at its brink, the bandits within this group aren’t cannibal because they want to, they are cannibal because they HAVE to to survive. It effectively is tipping moral implications on its head, and this is something that Naughty dog does explicitly well throughout the entirety of the story.
The aesthetics of the story are simple, a bleak desolate world that hides the shadow of its peaceful past, Cities have been overrun with the rusted wrecks of burned out vehicles, whilst the streets and buildings are in the process of being reclaimed by nature itself. Outside the cities is a different story, nature continues to flourish and animals are making a comeback in their heightened numbers due to the mass hunting of livestock being something of a past time for the previous world.
The colours used are dark and cruel, going from darker greens of nature that flourishes through the cracks of the road, to the black abyss of underground sewers and tunnels that need be carefully traversed to preserve their own life. The story follows through the year, allowing the colours and saturation to change depending on both the weather and the season. The hot summer humidity under a large blanket cloud of rain will grey out the world as the characters are pelted with water, yet the snow and cold brings in a misty atmosphere of blue and white, where even the flames of a raided cafe’ appear cool in the thick mist.
In comparison to many other video games of the action adventure genre, none to date hit the margin of story telling that The Last of Us does, with the reasonable contender being Uncharted (Also developed by Naughty Dog, go figure). The game-play is as solid as it is brutal, with the use of melee weapons excelling over guns and their exceedingly limited munitions, something which many survival games attempt but rarely succeed in doing, and whilst the game is one of the most gorgeous and technologically advanced in this generation, with a clean use of Anti-aliasing and SMAA HDR to create realistic refraction, it is without a doubt that Naughty dogs final Ps3 specific release certainly had the effort put into it, and the game has received praise above any other in its generation, with many reviewers scoring 10/10 when they had only done so once or twice before in the hundreds of game reviews to date.
The product itself was marketed in a number of successful ways, might i add. Naughty dog does an exceptional job of teasing the public to things that they don’t expect, and the initial uproar of people excited over the game was created when the main character was highly vulnerable in actual game-play and Ellie took initiative to throw a brick at the man who threatened him. To see a character that proceeds through the game that isn’t a “Tour guide” or a general nuisance is something that is loved, but when that character is executed in an exceptional manner, it brings a lot of opportunities and development to the table.
There is also a deep meaning behind the two characters and the world they live in. After months of traveling and living in each others company, they move towards the center of the stick that they are two separate ends of. Ellie becomes more familiar with weaponry and is generally a little more unforgiving in her ways with other people, often reacting with issues of trust or a fail safe plan, whilst Joel seems to be moving to a stage where he is regaining part of his sanity that makes him human, often showing serious concern or affection for Ellie, as a replacement for the daughter who passed from the initial outbreak 20 years prior. It is with these connections that bring about not only more love for the audience toward the character, but also more and more controversy as to if they like these changes. The audience response to the product was incredible, as stated before. Meta critic was completely full of reviews that hit between the 95 and 100/ 100 mark, and public reviews were surprisingly around that as well. Overall, the game was received exceptionally well, and it is definitely one of the things which will stick within our current generation of story telling for an exceedingly long time.
Next post will be two reviews explicitly focused on the game play aspect and the game itself, as “the last of us” is more a “cinematic experience.”