Thursday 5 March 2009

Capturing in film criticism: Digital Poetics on frame grabs

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959): A Classic 'Frame Capture Film'?

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post. If you are a film studies teacher searching for more good ideas for student assignments, Film Studies For Free would like to recommend a little more weblog reading about classroom applications of film criticism exercises.

Today's gem is the 10/40/70 exercise invented by Nicholas Rombes (Chair and Professor of English at the University of Detroit Mercy- also see here) at his great weblog Digital Poetics. What is the gen on 10/40/70? According to Rombes, it's
[a]n experiment in writing about film: select three different, arbitrary time codes (in this case the 10 minute, 40 minute, and 70 minute mark), freeze the frames, and use that as the guide to writing about the film. No compromise: the film must be stopped at these time codes. What if, instead of freely choosing what parts of the film to address, one let the film determine this? Constraint as a form of freedom.

Rombes has posted three such experiments of his own to date (10 / 40 / 70 (Ocean's Twelve); 10 / 40 / 70 (The Conversation); (10 / 40 / 70): The Grudge and The Terror of Determinism). The results really show the benefits of the creative constraints involved: some rich and insightful writing is generated on the three very different films.

It strikes FSFF that this would be a very rewarding exercise to set for students.

For more on the practicalities, legalities, and methodological advantages and disadvantages of using frame captures in published or public work, see the following:


Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine,

Thanks for this great and helpful post. I'll be trying out a version of the 10 / 40 / 70 experiment as an assignment for my film class next semester. For frame grabs, I use a free and simple program called Capture Me. It's not fancy, but it's easy to use. All best, Nick Rombes

Catherine Grant said...

Thanks for your comment, Nick, and for 10 / 40 / 70 , too. The Capture Me programme is indeed a great one for the Mac OS X (

I look foward to following more on your blog.

MT said...

This is quite cool stuff, this blog. Not just for film classes, but film students on their own...