Textbook extras

I've made some modifications and additions to my textbook comparison post. I know it's against blog ettiquette to keep modifying a past post, but given the topic, it makes sense to keep my textbook comments centralized.

Now, publishers are starting to bundle supplementary material. Actually, of the exam copies I received only two had extras:

Film Art (Bordwell/Thompson). Comes with a CD-ROM and Film Viewer's Guide. The CD-ROM is at best perfunctory - it's Flash-based, with a small image window. Essentially it compiles clips that Bordwell and Thompson's text glosses. Honestly I don't see any advantage over just showing the clips separately. The Film Viewer's Guide is more useful, but even here I wanted more. Bordwell is such a sharp reader of form that you wish he could more clearly effectively communicate to students how to watch attentively and take notes. And I have the same complaint about the writing model here as I do about the sample readings in the text itself: analysis in the Film Art world refuses interpretation.

Looking at Movies (Richard Barsam). I had some reservations that kept me from adopting the textbook itself, but the extras - two DVDs and a writer's guide - almost made me change my mind. First, the illustrative DVD, created by Dave Monahan, lives up to the multimedia promise that never gets delivered in textbook extras; the lessons illustrate concepts like the Kuleshov effect, the 180-degree rule and the actuality film with a clarity impossible in a written text. Second, the writer's guide is excellent. It guides students through the process of discovery as they move from general impressions to well-honed thesis.

One obvious impediment to fuller multimedia pedagogical tools is copyright. Film Art gets permission from studios, presumably by making images playable only in lossy, small format. Looking at Movies gets around restrictions by relying on still images rather than moving ones.


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