Visual language in television, an integral part of the silver-screen art, has always interested researchers as both a transforming dynamic structure, and a complex synthetic organization carrying ideas and content. Specifically, M. I. Andronikova writes about reciprocal compatibility of word and image (1). N. L. Goryunova looks into artistic and expressive means of the screen (2), while R. Ilyin explores its visual resources (3).
More closely the topic has been approached by V. I. Mikhalkovich researching the visual language of mass media at large (4), as well as by V. M. Monetov who examines expressive aspects of computer-based technology employed by television artists (5). N. I. Utilova, in turn, analyzes the nature and quality of audiovisual art (6), while S. D. Shumilova addresses the problem of color solutions for television programs (7).
Driven by technology that facilitates the generation of innovative ideas and concepts, the television industry, besides traditional visualization methods, has now increasingly employed tele-design, web-design, CD design, computer-aided graphics and animation that have enriched its imagery with all kinds of mixes of shape and colour. These also include the metamorphoses of different visual devices, such as colour, light, aspect, scale, perspective, line, spot, and silhouette, servicing the polyphony of image domains.
The usual associations combined with different artistic production solutions realizing the emotional stance of a set designer (architect, painter, sculptor, make-up artist, costume designer) create an appropriate sentiment and the right atmosphere for the action.
Technological advances, professional mastering of screen production methodology in dynamics and transformation, software upgrades, as well as professional skills of artists, TV designers and experts dealing with screen visualization keep opening new opportunities for creative inquiries, thus contributing to the evolution of the multi-dimensional and multifaceted visual language of the television.
Today, computer-based technologies remain the principal means to implement a screen image that involves the input from different experts shaping their own style of communicating with audience and the intonations that define the character and emotional starting points in a program.
On a TV screen increasingly often one can see “software-generated titles, combined frames, two- and three-dimensional graphics and animation; specialist drafting, architectural and design applications to develop layouts, scans, and three-dimensional images of sets and props, costumes and logos; all-purpose processing software” (6, p. 3).
However, even the most masterful use of sophisticated technological developments cannot replace the soulful input, talent, wit, artistic intuition, taste, sense of proportion and style lent by the author of a graphic concept; it requires intensive work of visual memory and imagination, skills in balancing the line, tone and colour, as well as unconstrained compositional thinking. Incorporating technological innovations into traditional dimension is a very relevant issue for the early XXI century television.
Increasingly complex art design score prompts television artists to master the expressive means of related professions: motion, montage, audiovisual counterpoint, pace, rhythm, and dramatic structure, which actually belong to the domains of directing, sound engineering, photography and composition.
Yet in the perception of a particular piece as a unity of form and content Monetov distinguishes two substances: (1) material in which it is implemented: what the viewer immediately sees (stone, metal, glass, paint on canvas, coloured shadows on the screen, the luminophore glow of a cathode-ray tube, or colour pixels of a computer monitor) – something that is given a particular art form; and (2) “ideal” material that gives rise to images in the soul of the artist – something that is awaken by emotional and visual memory and prompts the emergence of the “ideal” images (6 p. 17). Having studied the work of TV practitioners and theorists, and based on her personal observations, the present author draws the following conclusions:
a) If a theme, a story, or characters lend ideological and emotional charge to the piece, then the communication of that experience to the audience requires re-coding of the imagery and emotions with their own values and associations into the structure of the material in which they are implemented, providing a vivid example of unity and interaction of the two elements;
b) The material that has recorded, coded and encrypted the images has to be read by the viewer through associations (keys) developed in the culture where the art form functions, allowing one to see the habitual, characteristic features in it;
c) The joy of recognition – the most important emotional component of perception, when the viewer (depending on the image type) is experiencing his own feelings associated with the past. It is exactly at this moment that the qualities of “ideal” images are translated into the new material medium that takes appropriate forms, rhythm, motion, colour… Then, spiritual contact and rapport is born between the artist and the viewer on the emotional level, what may be seen as the meaning of art. Due to arrival of modern digital technology and multimedia programs on television, set design solution in productions is no longer fixed to a particular place (scene, site, studio, outdoor or indoor setting). Losing its original “set design” essence, the solution is actualized through digital media in a virtual reality, bringing a complete sensation of what is happening on the screen.
Art design is most often used in documentary-feature programs structured around informational and documental qualities and authenticity of the original source and events; as well as in staged projects and television drama shows where it can serve as a background, an illustration, or a material that develops, clarifies and complements a theme.
Visual language of the television is related to sonic and verbal components that enhance associative and emotional perception, whereas the weakening of this perception, in turn, can be explained by the mismatched rhythm of information streams engaging in complex relationship with the viewer, awaiting sensual solidarity of interests and sentiments. Image-related features and playback sequence thereof are guided by art director/producer.
Dramaturgical organization of relationships, transformations, various metamorphoses, and different elements of screen composition are governed by the will, character, emotional state, frame of mind and personal qualities of the artist, designer and director, exposing his artistic creed, professionalism, worldview and moral values, which are inevitably reflected in the ideological and artistic content of a TV production.
Since a composition is made of an image, a sound and a word, montage plays a major role, defining it all – the rhythm, the metre, the rhyme, the dramatic development, and the style of a television program. The past experience suggests inevitability of the following developments:
a) Increasingly technology-driven art processes, including television productions in different genres, the work of art directors and producers, TV designers, animation artists, CD designers, web-designers, as well as painters, graphic artists, sculptors, architects, and cameramen;
b) Computerization of programs and broadcasts as an opportunity to bring in new materials and artistic devices while preserving and making efficient use of the traditional ones;
c) Searching for latest methodologies that can push every boundary of imaging in terms of contextual, conceptual, semiotic, and colouristic saturation of the imagery system.
Television shows, dramas and films of different genre and thematic focus create not only visual, but also audio-visual image traditionally worked on by sound engineers, music editors, and composers. High-quality recording with the optimal mix and balance of sonic and visual components can be achieved only by a highly professional sound engineer skilled in using the whole range of modern recording devices.
1. Андроникова М. И. Слово или изображение // Вестник Московского университета. Серия 11. Журналистика. М., 1969. № 3.
2. Горюнова Н. Л. Художественно-выразительные средства экрана. М., 1998.
3. Ильин Р. Изобразительные ресурсы экрана. М., 1973.