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CMS 397 A: Special Topics in Cinema and Media Studies

Meeting Time: 
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm
DEN 303
Sarah Ross

Syllabus Description:

Video Essay Production:
Writing with Audiovisual Materials
CMS 397 - DEN 303

Sarah Ross
Office hours: W 1:30-3:20/PDL C-522

Digital technologies have opened the way for film scholars to “write” engaging essays using the very images and sounds that structure the film(s) and media they study. Videographic criticism, known as the “video essay,” refers to the process of re-editing and re-mixing film images and sounds as a means for analysis and critique of cinema and media texts. The video essay format enables a closer study of cinema within its own audiovisual, temporally-based medium, and provides new ways of communicating critical and analytical ideas.

In this course, we will explore what it means to “write” a video essay. We will examine the formal and rhetorical strategies for effective communication within this medium, studying the relationship between aesthetics and knowledge production, form and argument. By studying and producing video essays, students will learn what it means to interpret, analyze, and argue using audiovisual materials.

This is a hands-on course, in which students will complete a series of exercises using digital video editing software, show their work in class, and engage in peer-to-peer reviews/discussions. The class will culminate in a video essay “film festival” that will showcase final projects.

Previous editing experience is not required, but you must be willing to devote time to learning and developing these skills. We will mainly be working with Adobe Premiere Pro, but Final Cut Pro is also acceptable.

Required Materials, Software, Tutorials:

1) External hard drive for saving work

Recommended Specs:

  • Connection: USB 3.0, USB-C, or Thunderbolt
  • Speed: solid state (non-spinning)or 7200 RPM
  • Storage: minimum 1TB
  • Bus Powered: Portable (powered through USB cable)
  • Format: ExFat (if using both Windows and Mac)

2) Access to film editing software:

3) – online tutorials for Adobe Premiere Pro; Final Cut Pro; etc.

Options for access:
1) Free 30-day trial directly through website; then payment to website

2) Free access through Seattle Public Library (requires getting a library card, if you do not already have one)

Recommended on Lynda:

-Learning Premiere Pro CC 2015 (1 h 29 min) – will give a quick refresher or introduction
-Premiere Pro CC 2017 Essential Training: The Basics (6 h 36 min) – in depth, slow-paced training

4) Readings and films will be posted to Canvas.

5) You are responsible for producing media files – i.e. ripping from dvds, downloading, etc. The handbrake tutorial for ripping dvds is included in the course files in the "Resources" folder.

You are expected to know basic film terms. For reference, please use the Yale Film Studies Analysis Guide:

Course Requirements:

  1. Regular attendance and preparation for class. Irregular attendance will negatively affect your final grade. Active participation will help improve your final grade. Readings, tutorials, and viewings are to be completed by the date listed on the syllabus.
  2. Short written and/or videographic responses to the reading and viewing assignments each week. Questions or prompts will be announced in class the week prior. Please be prepared to present your text or video response in class. You are expected to participate actively in workshop sessions. You are allowed no more than one missing assignment; late assignments (i.e. assignments received after class and up to 7 days afterwards) will count as half-complete (i.e., you are allowed no more than two late assignments). Assignments received more than 7 days late will not be accepted.
  3. Final videographic assignment – due by 11:59 pm on Sunday, May 27.

Changes in Syllabus:

This class, as part-workshop, part-seminar, requires some degree of flexibility, so some changes may be made in assignments and/or other activities during the course of the quarter for a variety of reasons. I’m attempting to make all of the required course readings and viewings available within Canvas. If we do encounter a title that is not online, I’ll make it available for free within the library.


30% Class Participation
40% Weekly Assignments
30% Final Project


Catalog Description: 
Varying topics relating to film in social contexts. Offered by resident or visiting faculty.
Department Requirements Met: 
Cinema & Media Studies Elective
GE Requirements Met: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:13pm