Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Analyzing the Angle

Composition, Framing, Angles….

In any composition there are a variety of facets that can impact the composition as a whole. Elements such as lighting, perspective and depth of field for the piece can adjust the overall tone, perspective and even objective for the entire composition.

As with any composition in the visual arts, one of the most significant facets of to keep in mind is the angle of the 'shot.'

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While there are many conceivable angles to approach a scene from the two most important framing angles are the 'low shot' and the 'top down' shots. The low shot is commonly used in compositions where emotion is the principle objective. Focusing on a subject from a low angle creates a sense of overbearing pressure, authority or menace. The opposite is true for the 'top down' shot. Often used in compositions to show scale and distance the audience from subject matter, it is possible to convey a sense of insignificance.

In any narrative, each scene is perceived from a specific angle and perspective. As with most instances of first-person narratives, the angle of the scene is restricted to the available and logical perceived approaches by the narrator. The narrator is restricted to human perspectives, angles on scenes. This perspective may appear limiting but as the creator of the composition, it is possible to move the scene to accommodate a stronger impact.

Ex. I jogged down the hallway towards the figure looming over the latest victim. I was too late.

In this example the angle of the scene is perceived at distance on the same plane, the same level as the scene. Adjusting the angle and scene to create a better impact…

Ex. I jogged to the stairs and started up until I found the next victim. I knelt on the landing and cursed myself. Too late, again. Lifting my gaze, I saw the figure looming at the top of the stairs watching me.

As the angle on the scene changes so does the emotional impact and tone of the scene. If the scene is reversed and the angles change again so that it is a 'top down' angle then the perceptions change with it.

Ex. I jogged to the top of the stairs. He was standing over his next victim on the landing below. I was too late again.

In these examples the tone and perceptions of the scenes change giving a completely different tone to the composition each time. In the first example, the perceptions range from the antagonist may be caught, fight or flee. The second example, the perceptions range from sadness to fear that the character may be the next victim and in the final example the perceptions are that the antagonist may flee or be caught.

While the composition may have many facets that impact the overall tone, the angle of the 'shot' is one of the strongest elements for controlling the narrative perceptions. In a third person perspective, it is far easier to control the angle of the shot but it is also more difficult to convey the same level of emotion as the 1:1 ratio of the first person perspective. Every detail, perspective and angle has attributes that lend itself the certain compositions. It's the director, the creator's challenge to understand these and create the ideal composition.

How do you perceive the angles?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Establishing Perspective

In any composition there are a core set of elements needed to create the composition and each element can be adjusted to reflect the desired effect on the entirety of the piece.

The composition can be adjusted through the subtle shifts to subjects, lighting, settings and especially focal points. A shift in perspective can change the entire composition. In most narratives perspective is long-regarded as first person, second and third person in reference to the narrative perspective.

The narrative perspective is actually the 'narrators perspective' and not necessarily the visual perspective for a scene. In the visual arts the concept of a perspective is defined as the relationship between objects within a composition.  Simply put, a three-dimensional scene is compressed to a two-dimensional depiction of that scene but through the illusion of perspective it is possible to convey a three-dimensional scene.

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Taking the concept of the visual perspective and applying it to the narrative composition allows for similar control of a scene through different visual perspectives.

The Linear Perspective is the most common perspective for most narrative scenes. As objects and details are perceived further from the focal point, the fewer details are visible and smaller the objects are perceived to be in relation. The narrator's perspective as an individual is subject to a visual perspective within the environment.

Most instances of visual perspective in a narrative are subject to the subconscious Rectilinear Perspective through interpretation. This means that what is actually straight in the scene is perceived as straight. The perceptions of objects and subjects in a scene will shift however depending on the visual perspective. Illusions like overlap, dwindling size and volume will influence the perceiver within the scene.

When perceiving the perspective of a scene it is important to understand how visual perspective works. Through the eyes of a character, the objects and subjects in a scene can be unintentionally deceptive. Controlling the specifics of the perspective can provide a narrative with a stronger connection for the audience and more opportunities to affect the atmosphere of each scene in the composition.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Abstracting Exposure

Exposure, Bracketing, Compensation….

In the visual arts, particularly photography, the exposure of a composition determines the amount of detail and contrast in that composition. Traditionally, the longer the exposure the more detail and darker the overall composition.

The concept of exposure is not limited to the visual arts, a narrative composition is subject to the same rules of exposure as any medium. The longer the reader is exposed to a composition the more details are clear to them but if they are exposed to the same scene for too long it may all blend together (Over-Exposed). The same is also true if the exposure is too short. There will be too few details (Under-Exposed).

In order to achieve the Optimal Exposure the perfect balance between light and shadow, detail in the composition, it is necessary to sample the right saturation for each scene. The optimal exposure is, of course, the right exposure that achieves the desired effect. This approach may be entirely subjective however, there is a 'correct exposure' for every scene.

Photo Credit
Obtaining the correct exposure is a balancing act in any composition, obtaining the right level of detail while obtaining the desired effect. This can be achieved through a process called Bracketing. In a visual medium this process entails adjusting the exposure to increase and decrease the exposure and ultimately taking the best of the series. Through a narrative, the process of bracketing is a bit more complex but ultimately has the same results and centers on controlling the exposure in the scene.

Controlling the exposure in a narrative can be achieved through a few specific elements, the lighting, depth of field and speed of the composition. The most important concept to consider in the process is Reciprocity. This is a simple principle that states that the longer the exposure, the reciprocally smaller aperture required. In a narrative sense this means the longer the scene the fewer details of the scene and more focus on the subject. As each change in exposure adjusts the overall composition it creates a different exposure for the reader. Through reviewing each exposure it is possible to create the optimal exposure for the scene, the perfect balance of details and focus.

A different means of bracketing the exposure in a narrative scene is to use scenes of differing exposures to bracket the selected scene. Use a slightly darker scene before the darkest scene and a slightly lighter scene leading away from that scene to achieve an exposure balance.

To prevent an over exposure in a composition it may be necessary to provide a means of compensation for the scene. If the composition is too dark it is possible to compensate for this overexposure by adding more light to the scene or just an additional lighting source. The narrative composition can find compensation in added details, lighting sources and subtle shifts in depth of field that can change the exposure.

Finding the optimal exposure of a composition can be a difficult practice but often creates the best overall compositions whether it is bracketing the composition in a single scene to find the right balance or using the surrounding scenes to bracket a single composition. It is important to recognize when the audience becomes over-exposed and under-exposed to a composition.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lighting the Narrative

In any composition, details can control the tone and atmosphere of the piece more than any overt elements. The strongest of these elements is also most often overlooked due to it's rather commonplace nature, lighting.

While settings and even weather can influence the atmosphere and tone of a piece, these are direct elements that an audience can perceive as cliche and can become a detriment to the overall composition. Using the lighting of each scene, each setting can be a subtle means of controlling the audience's preconceptions and perceptions of the composition.

As with photography and cinematography, controlling the lighting of the scene allows the creator to bring their vision of the piece to life. Through controlling the direction, quality and quantity of light in a scene it's possible to control perceptions of a scene.

Through the subtle manipulations of directional lighting it is possible to convey specific emotions and manipulate audience perceptions of the scene.

Ex: She paced along the ocean walkway under the warm glow of the park's lights. She needed answers and he was going to be the first step. Her pacing quickened until another gust rushed her and the rolling waves sprayed higher than the railing.

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The streetlight provides the directional lighting and offers a sense of security, safety, that the audience can perceive. This light source conveys the emotional tone of the scene, it's night, there's an anxiety about the scene and most details are washed out highlighting the primary subject in even greater detail.

Controlling the quantity of light in a scene is another means of controlling tone although it is far less subtle than simply adjusting the quality of the light and the direction of it.

Ex: The sun was warm as she drew a breath of determination and pulled open the heavy fire-door. Inside was a long dirty hallway lined with neglected and abused doors. Light was a precious commodity with a number of the ceiling lights broken. The fire door closed and left her in the pathetic lighting.

The transition from sunlight to a poorly lit interior reflects the oppressive emotions of the scene. The sunlight offers warmth, safety and comfort while the interior lighting reflects something darker, harsher than the outside world. This also demonstrates the differences in the quality of the lighting. The sunlight carries natural preconceptions and emotions while interior lights reflect a different set of emotions. Even if the lights were simple florescent lights there would still be a shift in the perceptions associated with the lighting.

Ex: I stepped out into the pure white florescent light. White eggshell walls reflected the light off the white tile floor in an empty wide hallway lined with cream colored doors and wire mesh windows down it's length. I stopped at the first large glass window to look at the sun-lit parking lot.

The distinction of the florescent lights emphasizes the sterile nature of the environment and carries a sense of cold detachment while the sunlight carries the warmth. The contrast between these two different qualities of light distinguishes two different sets of preconceptions and perceptions of the settings.

Through the subtle manipulations of lighting it is possible to reflect the desired narrative tone of the scene. Adjusting the depth of field, the focal points and emphasized details of a composition allows for a more dynamic composition that carries more emotional weight for the audience.

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