Monday, November 28, 2011

Leading Lines

In a composition there are a variety of techniques that can be utilized to explore the piece. One of the most dynamic means of guiding the audience through a piece is through the use of leading lines.

Leading lines are one of the top rules of visual composition and are used to great effect to guide the viewer's perspective through the piece, drawing attention to focal points and creating narrative rhythm. These lines are also can be used singularly or with additional supporting lines.

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A narrative composition is led by leading lines as much as any visual composition, however unlike a visual composition the leading lines are not only visual based on the narrator's perspective but also a product of dialogue.

The narrator's perspective has a strong influence on the composition through the depth of field, viewing angle and the leading lines. Through the narrator's perspective it is possible to guide the audience through the piece in a similar fashion as a visual composition. The narrator's perception can create tension, emotion and dynamic depth through their perception of the scene. As the narrator examines a particular scene, their view will follow the same leading lines as an audience would with a visual composition.

Ex: I forced the weathered metal door open and stumbled out onto the platform. The tile was cracked and broken, covered in disturbing stains that led to the tracks. The tracks were rusted, long forgotten as they ran down the tunnel and back into the real world.

The narrators eye follows the leading lines as the audience would view it in the visual composition. The eye follows the lines of the tile in the foreground to the tracks which prominently guide the eyes down in a linear direction.

Dialog leading lines are often more clearly defined as character movement within the environment or lines that begin or end a scene. These lines convey movement not only through the visual composition but through the story as well. Often these lines are used as indicators for scene and settings change.

Ex: "Well, that's not going to matter anyhow." I heard her let out a sigh. "Fine, let's do this." I stopped and looked at her. "That's the spirit. Ready?" She nodded. I turned the knob.

The audience's perception of a narrative composition is subject to the same rules of visual compositions. Through dialogue and scene leading lines, an audience is guided through the piece in a fluid, dynamic manner that keeps the piece interesting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Filtered Perspectives

Perceptions, Tones, Filters…

A writer's challenge in crafting a narrative is conveying the piece they envision to an audience that has no concept of the piece. The creator has to balance the elements of the piece, the settings, characters, thrills and the visual elements that can affect the perceptions of the piece.

Even as a piece is painstakingly balanced between the elements, it still may not convey the vision that the creator desires. It may not have the appropriate tone or saturation.

Conveying the appropriate tone for a piece can often be the most challenging due in-part to the preconceptions that audiences carry. Every individual has differing experiences and most often what one person perceives is not what another understands.

Ex. "She let out a sigh and leaned against the damp brick wall. Somewhere down the alley she could hear the rats fighting."    

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The setting in this example may convey a gritty and dark tone to some, to others that have lived or experienced this type of setting only conveys a night-time city neighborhood. The piece fails to utilize the preconceptions and carry the appropriate tone.

Drawing the appropriate saturation for an audience can be an equally strong challenge. The saturation of a piece is dependent on how long the audience is exposed to a setting or scene. Certain individuals will require longer time in the scenes to reach the appropriate saturation levels to convey the envisioned composition.

Adjusting the tone and saturation of a composition is similar to the visual arts. In photography and cinematography, when all of the elements are drawn together and the composition is still not what was envisioned, the artist typically applies filters to create the vision. Red filters to 'warm' a composition, 'blue' to cool and still more to affect the saturation levels in the piece. The more the light is controlled through filters, the more artists are able to control the audience's perceptions of the piece.

In a narrative it is possible to control tone and saturation through this same 'filter' concept. Adjusting tone is possible through filtering the narrator's perception. Expanding on the previous example with a 'filter' it is possible to ensure that the right tone is conveyed.

Ex. "She let out a sigh and leaned against the damp brick wall. It was hard to believe it had come to this. Somewhere down the alley she heard the footsteps over the fighting rats."

Through filtering the narrator's perspective it is possible to adjust the tone to a perceptible level. Extending the scene through a few slight details fully saturates the audience. Attaining the envisioned composition is not only an assemblage of the right elements but often the right application of filtered words.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Sound Design

Any narrative composition is an assemblage of elements from the relationships between characters and their interactions, to subtle details like lighting, depth of field and narrative angles that are all designed to control the audience's perceptions of the piece.

In cinematography, a primary element that is necessary to unify a composition is sound. Whether it's the audio levels for a given scene, the subtle use of background noise or even music, audio creates the gestalt composition.

Controlling the audio levels in cinematography, while challenging, also yields the most dynamic results and brings the composition to life for the audience.

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Audio levels typically consist of two subset levels and four operating levels. The two subsets consist of the dynamic range, the full range of sound in a given recording; and the operating range, the actual range of recording. Within these subset levels are the operating levels; the Noise floor, the Reference level, Headroom and Maximum output.

The Noise Floor, also known as the background noise, is most responsible for creating a unifying tie between scenes even when the scenes take place in dramatically different settings. Most often a cinematographer will create a steady white-noise that they can underly to subtly tie together all of the scenes in a piece.

The Reference Level quite frequently is the 'talking volume' in a piece. This is subject to the direction that the sound is coming from in regards to the input. Individuals talking in frame or background music that alter from scene to scene. This is the primary level for action and interaction with the main composition.

The Headroom and Maximum Output levels are typically only utilized for 'peaking,' that is, the times when the music will swell or a particular noise will be emphasized over the previous sounds. A number of compositions utilize this to great effect for startling the audience.

A narrative composition utilizes sound design just as well as any cinematography effort. While the cinematographer needs to rely on the actual sounds and levels of their work, the writer has infinitely more control over the sound but has a greater challenge. Every narrative setting has audio levels that can be subtly used to create the desired effect and control the audience's perceptions of the scene.

 Ex. She paced along the walkway under the warm glow of the park's lights. She needed answers and he was going to be the first step.

In the narrative, the sound design is not always overt and quite frequently the audio is dependent on the audience's preconceptions of the scene. While it is not overtly described in this scene the audio levels are inferred. The sound levels are very low with footsteps on the wooden walkway and a quiet undercurrent of nocturnal sounds from the park. While the implied sounds are adequate the audio does not utilize the full operating levels for the scene. The composition feels incomplete.

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. The winds picked up, rustling the bushes and carrying small bits of litter across the grass.

The additional details not only add to the visual composition but also succeed in generating full operating levels for the composition. The Noise Floor is filled with subtle shifts between the ocean and winds. The Reference level is filled with footsteps on the walkway while the Headroom Level is filled with swelling winds and rustling bushes.

Just as in Cinematography compositions, a Narrative composition relies heavily on sound design to control the perceptions of a scene. Understanding and utilizing the audio levels to great effect can be the difference between an average scene and a dramatic scene that influences the audience. Sound is integral creating the optimal composition, world building that immerses the viewer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Juxtaposition of Relationships

Every narrative composition is about the dynamics of relationships, the interactions between characters that drive the piece forward. There are however, more elements to conveying those relationships than just the interactions between the sculpted characters.

As with any visual composition, the elements of a piece can be juxtaposed in a manner that can convey the specific dynamics of relationships. Through a manipulation of perspective and the details of a scene it is possible to emphasize ties or relationship dynamics, convey emotions and shared feelings, reveal occasions and shared history.

Ties and relationship dynamics in a composition are primarily a revealed through actions of the subjects but the details can clearly reveal similarities of physical characteristics, similar thoughts and perspectives. Choosing the appropriate details, it is possible to create a sense of unity between characters.

Ex. She pushed her way through the crowd when she saw Nick talking with someone at the back of the bar.

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In this example the atmosphere is crowded and suspicious but does not carry an emotional impact. If the perspective and focal points are adjusted it becomes significantly stronger.

Ex. She pushed her way through the crowd and stumbled to a halt. Nick was sitting with some redhead at the back of the bar.

Utilizing the relationship between subjects and the setting makes it possible to convey emotions and shared feelings in a subtle cohesive manner that prevents any jarring disconnections between the audience and the piece. When conveying a specific subject matter the composition is arranged to a 'telling-effect' that reveals the emotional impact rather than reactionary from the subjects.

Ex. The struggle caused the camera to slip and tumble over the side of the boat. We bolted to the railing and watched helplessly as it splashed into the water.

The entire scene is predicated on actions and the relationship between the subjects and objects in the scene. While no dialog or emotions are revealed the juxtaposition of the elements creates the emotion. The same can be created with the use of objects alone in a composition.

Ex. The light followed the red droplets along the darkened corridor only stopping when the source was revealed. A simple folding knife with dark stains on the glinting metal.

 Often compositions utilize occasions such as holidays, birthdays or other special occasions to create a sense contrast for the subject material. A more subtle use of objects and subjects in the composition is utilizing and emphasizing the shared history of the subjects. Referencing a single previous event, high school slogan years later or other telling moments.

A narrative composition is no different than a visual composition, the relationship between objects, details and subjects affect the overall piece. Choosing the appropriate emphasis, focal points and providing the right juxtaposition between the elements creates a stronger composition. Any single element can be enhanced to affect the overall piece.

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