Chapter 1 Media Aesthetics: Life and Art
I. Defining Aesthetics
a. Dictionary definitions: “the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty.”; “the branch of metaphysics concerned with the laws of perception.”; “the study of the psychological responses to beauty and artistic experiences.”; “a conception of what is artistically valid or beautiful.”; “an artistically beautiful or pleasing appearance.”
b. For us, aesthetics is a study of visual and auditory perceptions and how these perceptions can be most effectively clarified, intensified, and interpreted through television and film......or other visual mediums. c. Why study it?
i. In the digital age we are all capable of being media producers.
Before you begin any project, you must have a vision, or an
ultimate goal for that project.
ii. You must communicate info to an audience through choices on how your media looks, sounds, and affects the senses.
iii. Will help you understand how media is made, even if you are not making it.
iv. Understanding how media producers design their messaging will make you more critical media consumers.
v. Can help to develop understanding of the ways in which aesthetics are used to shape opinion in a variety of fields and public arenas.
II. Fundamental Media Elements
The study of these elements should provide you with an aesthetic vocabulary and language that will allow you to speak with clarity and impact about the media you both consume and create.
c. Twodimensional space
If you want to learn more check out What is the vibration or waves in music terms?
d. Threedimensional space
g. We will use these elements to analyze media, rather than just the literal content or message.
a. Encoding translating an idea into a message for a specific
b. Stuart HallEncoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse c. Our experiences and backgrounds shape the ways in which we encode messages and decode messages.
d. Empowered the audience – active role in decoding, can interpret based on knowledge and social context.
IV. Applied Media Aesthetics is different than normal studies of aesthetics b/c of three things:
a. Relationship between art and life
i. Considers art and life mutually dependent and essentially
ii. Art shapes our daytoday experiences: architecture, fashion, music, television, events. Artists clarify, and interpret certain
aspects of life If you want to learn more check out What genre refers to?
iii. Art draws on life for creation. The inspiration for all art exists within the real world – no matter how abstract the work is. We also discuss several other topics like What is the default judgement?
iv. Not all of life’s experiences are art...But there is an intimate, purposeful relationship between art and life. Everyday experiences serve as the raw material for the creation of art. In turn, art shapes our everyday experiences. If you want to learn more check out What are the components of the marketing mix?
Don't forget about the age old question of Who proposed germ plasm theory?
b. Medium is the Message
i. Marshall McLuhan: “the medium is the message.”
ii. The medium not only distributes the message, but also shapes it and affects the way it is perceived.
iii. Ex: Mark Wagner Dollar art If you want to learn more check out What is entropy in layman's terms?
c. You study the product and the production
i. Studying production a critical aspect of media literacy. How does the soundtrack of a movie affect you? What emotions do the
movements of the camera convey?
ii. Each facet of media is a choice made by a production team; we can try to understand why those choices were made.
1. Aesthetic vision of director
2. Topdown control
a. The environment in which we perceive and evaluate perceptual phenomena. Every aesthetic element operates within, and is dependent on, the context of all others.
b. Aesthetic Contextualism
i. How we perceive an aesthetic experience is greatly influenced by its context. We should evaluate art within its historical epoch
according to what the artists felt and experienced while creating. ii. Producers of media (and artists) are responsible for interpreting the experiences of life so that others can participate in the
communication experience on a deeper level. This enables viewers to become more aware of themselves and their surroundings.
iii. Some symbols, although not universal, may be common enough that we can use them and be reasonably sure they will be understood. People react in similar ways to aesthetic variables like light, color, sound, time, motion, and space.
1. Red ball more appealing than a gray one
2. Sleep better in a very quiet room
3. Certain kinds of music more likely to result in dancing.
1. Contextualism stresses the close relationship between
aesthetics and ethics. We must be careful, because the
technology of television and film gives us the ability to
2. Be concerned about the people who are viewing your
messages, and what influence those messages may have
3. As media consumers, it is our responsibility to not be overly
persuaded by mass mediated messages We can do this by
learning and understanding the basic principles of
aesthetics. By knowing how pictures and sound can be
manipulated and distorted, we become less open to blind
a. Selective perception An automatic reduction of unnecessary details during the perception process
b. Selective seeingOur tendency to see or hear only the things that we are interested in or that confirm our expectations and prejudices.
c. Each unique individual has their own perceptions and ways of seeing things based on their experiences and unique sensitivities.
i. Two people seeing the same event from the same location can actually see two very different things depending on point of view.
d. We can guide what viewers see through the ways that we capture, edit, and contextualize the media.
Chapter 2 The First Aesthetic Field: Light
I. The Nature of Light
a. Light is a form of radiant energy. Part of the electromagnetic spectrum that includes radio waves, Xrays, satellite transmissions, and microwaves. b. Video, film, and computer images are simply light controlled in various ways. A beam of light is invisible until it hits a reflecting agent.
c. Light is referred to as having color temperature:
i. Sunlight: Blue
ii. Artificial Light: Orange
iii. Fluorescents: Green
II. Light Purposes and Functions
a. Light is essential to life. Light orients us in space and time. It affects our emotions.
b. Television, film, videos, animation are pure light shows.
i. Lighting in television and film is the deliberate manipulation of light and shadows for a specific communication purpose.
c. What Light HAS to do:
i. Provide for sufficient illumination to record a film and make up for differences in contrast for the eye.
ii. Provide distinction between two and threedimensional objects. iii. Give context to space
iv. Lighting reveals: what objects look like, where they are located, what textures they have
d. What Light CAN DO
i. Affect you emotionally
ii. Tell a story
e. Creative Light
i. Used to manipulate and articulate our perception of the
ii. To establish a context for what we are seeing.
iii. To establish a framework that tells us how we should feel about a certain event.
f. Always consider what you want to show your audience. How can you intensify or clarify a scene using lighting? OR consider the lighting decisions made by the producers of the media you consume. Are their lighting choices manipulating your perception?
III. Nature of Shadows
a. When we design lighting, shadows become very important. You can’t intensify and clarify the shapes and textures of people and things through simple illumination – you do that with shadow.
b. Shadow (or the lack of shadow) is essential for creating mood.
c. Attached Shadow (or core shadow)
i. is fixed to an object. They are created from absence of light on part of an object.
ii. Attached shadows help us interpret the basic shape and texture of an object. No amount of moving or wiggling will remove the
shadow from the object (same
d. Cast Shadows
i. Help us locate the object relative
to its surroundings, provide
drama, tell a story.
ii. A cast shadow can be independent of the object causing the shadow or connected to it. It becomes independent as soon as you move the object away from the surface on which it is resting.
iii. Created when the positioning of the light source is such that the shadow of one object is cast across another object or part of the setting. It has quite a sharp or more definite edge to it.
i. the change from light to shadow
ii. The brightness contrast between the light and shadow sides of an object.
iii. The rate of change from light to shadow.
iv. Fast FalloffDrastic contrast between what is lit and what is not Sudden change of light. Used for dramatic or suspenseful shots v. Slow Falloff Gradual change from light to dark. The contrast between light and dark is not very great. Just regular lighting in film. vi. No Falloff results in a flat image (think about when using flash with your camera). Often used in news and talk television programs.
vii. Controlling falloff.
1. Most lighting is dedicated to controlling falloff rather than
eliminating it. Falloff can be controlled by using highly
directional or diffused light for the basic illumination and by
manipulating the amount of fill light.
2. Directional beams cause fast falloff
3. Diffused lights cause slow falloff
4. Flood lights can eliminate falloff
5. Keep the subject at least 6 feet away from walls
IV. Outer Orientation
a. Lighting gives us clues that help us identify the exterior, visible characteristics of the objects and environments we see on screen. This is called outer orientation.
b. Is a major factor in structuring screen space. There are three types of outer orientation:
i. Time (orients us to the time of day, time of year, etc.) lluminate backgrounds in day and mute them for night. Day has highkey
lighting usually from sun or window inside and night has typically lowkey lighting.
1. At night, light in outdoor scenes must come from a particular source, such as a street lamp. Indoors, light comes from
lamps, and windows must be dark.
2. Winter lighting is less direct than summer sunlight and
shadows are longer. Summer sun strikes the Earth from a
higher angle than winter sun, so summer shadows are
ii. Tactile (orients us with the texture of the object) Appeals to our sense of touch. Helps us to give detail to the scene.
1. To show texture, directional light is used. To hide texture, a
more broad, diffuse light is used. The same principle applies
to lighting faces – men’s faces are more likely to be lit to
show wrinkles (indicating ruggedness), while women’s faces
are more likely to be lit to eliminate contour (youth, beauty).
iii. Spatial (orients us in a particular space) Lighting reveals the basic shape of an object and where it is in relation to its environment. The key light and attached shadows it produces show shape.
V. Inner Orientation
a. Lighting can be used to articulate feeling and emotion, set mood, foreshadow events, or create drama. Establishing mood and atmosphere b. Highkey lighting – an abundance of bright illumination, slow falloff and a light background.
c. Lowkey lighting – lighting is selective, and most of the scene is dark. Usually fast falloff.
d. Eye level is considered normal lighting
i. Below eye level key lighting is also known as reverse modeling or under lighting. Attached shadows are opposite of their expected
position, which translates into surprise, suspicion, or fear,
depending on context.
e. Predictive Lighting
i. Helps to preview an event for the audience.
ii. Gives us a clue as to what’s coming
1. Sudden change from highkey to lowkey or from above eye
level key light position to below eyelevel key light position.
2. A change in lighting while all other aesthetic elements
remain the same.
3. Usually, predictive lighting is not the only indicator of future
events. It works with sound effects, and music most often.
iii. Light and Lighting Instruments as Dramatic Agents. In some cases, the light source itself is shown to create an aesthetic intensifier in
the scene. For example:
1. The camera starts on the flashing blue and red lights of a
police car and then reveals a crime scene. Flashing lights at
a rock concert. Searchlight of a prison or a helicopter as a
search is underway. Scifi movies use lights heavily as
a. Humans are very sensitive to light and shadow—they affect our perception of events, people, and locations.
b. Media makers use their knowledge of the ways in which light affects us to create specific moods, emotions, and responses in the viewer.
Chapter 3: Structuring the First Aesthetic Field Lighting
I. Lighting is the deliberate control of light and shadows to fulfill specific aesthetic objectives.
a. But lighting rarely works alone to generate an effect
II. Standard Lighting Techniques
a. Three Point Lighting Triangular arrangement of
key, back, and fill lights. Also known as Lighting
triangle or The Photographic Principle
i. Key Light provides the main light source of
illumination. It should be directed towards
the subject. Placed on a 45 angle off the
axis between the camera and the person.
ii. Fill Lightused to add light to the side opposite the key light. Reduces the shadows caused by the key light. Half the intensity of the key light.
iii. Back Light Also called the rim light. Used to create the illusion of depth by separating the subject from background. Light shines
directly on the talent’s shoulder. Creates depth.
b. Additional Lighting:
i. Kicker – placed low and behind off to one side, provides further separation from background.
ii. Side light – comes directly from the side, another source of
illumination that reduces falloff.
iii. Background light also called set light, illuminates background, extension of back light.
a. Lighting that emphasizes contrast between light and dark is chiaroscuro lighting.
b. Chiaroscuro Lighting with the intention of producing fast falloff and high contrast between light and dark.
i. Articulates space
ii. intensifies 3D properties
iii. provides an expressive quality
iv. creates volume
v. adds drama
vi. Examples: the work of Rembrandt and Cameo
1. Rembrandt Lighting Major characteristic is selectivity, fairly fast falloff, enough fill light to render attached shadows.
a. Separation of background & foreground. Carefully
illuminated, some areas purposefully un/underlit.
b. Dark background but carefully illuminated to highlight
the contour of the foreground figure
c. Adds volume and drama.
d. Less dramatic than cameo.
e. Backgrounds usually somewhat illuminated.
2. Cameo Lighting Illumination of the foreground, background is dark.
a. Very dark shadows.
b. Highly directional.
c. Fast falloff.
d. Dense attached and sharply defined cast shadows
c. Chiaroscuro lighting should work toward at least one of the following functions:
i. Organic function Chiaroscuro can be used to make a scene look as realistic as possible.
1. The light should come from the actual direction of the light
source in the scene.
ii. Directional function Chiaroscuro can be used to guide the viewer’s attention toward the important parts of the scene.
1. Used very often in theater, painting and still photography.
Less important in TV.
iii. Spatial/compositional function When the light and dark areas are distributed in a way that creates a sense of compositional balance. iv. Thematic The contrast between light and darkness emphasizes the theme of the piece, all other aspects are deliberately de
v. Emotional Designed to affect us on a visceral level, regardless of the content of the image.
IV. Flat Lighting
a. Lighting that deemphasizes light/dark contrast is flat lighting. i. Similar to 3point lighting but uses highly diffused light from many directions.
ii. It has very slow falloff and nearly transparent attached shadows. iii. Flat lighting does not emphasize any principle light source.
iv. Flat lighting is usually considered highkey, or bright.
b. Functions of Flat Lighting
1. Flat lighting shows the entire scene equally illuminated –
more or less.
2. The camera is able to shoot from a variety of angles without changing the lighting setup.
3. Flat lighting is characteristically boring, but can be useful in
some settings, such as sitcoms, news, and game shows.
ii. Thematic and emotional functions
1. Flat lighting suggests efficiency, cleanliness, trust, an upbeat feeling, and fun.
2. Can also suggest mechanization, depersonalization, or
3. Devoid of human warmth & compassion.
4. News broadcasters not just hides their wrinkles, assures
“enlightened” accuracy of news.
5. Easy handling of Audio source.
V. Silhouette Lighting
a. Characteristics of both chiaroscuro and flat lighting
i. Opposite of cameo.
ii. Emphasizes contour over texture and volume.
iii. Background is welllit and figures remain unlit.
b. Be careful of accidental silhouette… or awkward ones…
VI. High and Low Key Lighting
a. High key flat lighting: expresses energy & enthusiasm.
i. Whiteout nothingness, emptiness
b. Low key flat lighting: Calm, loneliness, nothingness.
VII. Lighting Effects
a. Manipulation of lighting, colors, brightness contrast etc. in the post production phase.
i. Reducing the brightness value of an image to only a few steps. c. Solarization
i. Combining the positive and negative images of the same subject d. Softlight
i. produces a diffused area of light creating subtle shadows and slow falloff.
ii. Lights a wide area, but the area can’t be easily controlled.
iii. some filmmakers do not like to use softlights because they produce a flat image where the eye sees the basic contour of an object.
iv. Some filmmakers use softlights to create a base level of light, which they then add more structure to with directional lights.
v. Uses of Softlight:
2. Where sharp shadows interfere or are distracting
3. For an “upbeat” look
4. Product shots
5. As a base light
i. Directional light that can be controlled.
ii. More control of area that is lit.
iii. Gives more dimension to the object. Highlights texture.
iv. Usually causes a sharp distinction between the illuminated area and the dense attached shadow. The result is fast falloff.
v. Many spotlights have two settings to control area and intensity of light output:
1. Spot: When beam is at its narrowest and most intense
2. Flood: When beam is at its widest and least intense (more
like a soft light)
f. Reflector – a device that bounces light from a light source toward the subject.
i. Silver, gold, or white reflectors (depending on skin complexion). ii. Can make your own with poster board, aluminum foil.
1. Convenient outdoors in sunlight to bounce sunlight off the
reflector and back on the subject to even out the light.
2. Indoors you can bounce light from a window or other light
source onto the subject.
3. Creates a natural fill, will never be brighter than the key light (because it is usually a reflection of the key light)
4. Quick, inexpensive method.
VIII. Multiple Camera Lighting
a. Less precise than single camera lighting.
b. Accommodates multiple camera angles and longduration action. c. Suited for game shows, sitcoms, talk shows, or actors in studio dramas. d. Lighting instruments are usually suspended from a grid on the ceiling to allow for camera and human traffic below.
e. Examples: Price is Right, Jeopardy! Dateline Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory studio sitcoms (laugh track)
IX. Single Camera Lighting
a. Film lighting or filmstyle lighting.
b. Intended for shortduration action.
c. Each scene and even each shot in a film may be lit independently, and lighting control is extremely high.
d. Typically not flat, subjects are lit precisely.
e. Examples: Most movies, Sitcoms like Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, Veep, Community, Louie, The Office
X. Notes to Artists:
a. These things are all guidelines.
b. Getting creative with lighting can be effective.
c. Avoid overusing creative or unusual effects.
d. Know the rules before you can break those.
e. Must have a reason for breaking the rules.
Chapter 4: Color
I. What is Color?
a. Color is a property of light, not material (not objects or liquids)
b. Color is made up of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum c. The waves themselves are not colored, they reach our eye and we perceive them as color
How do you perceive color?
a. Rods and cones: light sensitive cells of the retina (photoreceptors) i. Cones Don’t function in lowlight environments. Are color sensitive ii. RodsWork in the dark, lowlight environments. Are not color
III. Basic Factors of Aesthetic Perception
a. Three color attributes: hue, saturation, brightness
i. Hue: color (describes the color itself). Only spectral colors are pure hues.
1. Our whole color perception is based on 4 hues: red, green,
blue and yellow.
2. All other colors are combinations of the 4
ii. Saturation: (or Chroma) the relative strength or purity of color. It represents the amount of white light or white, gray or black paint,
mixed into hue.
1. Highly saturated colors are rich, low saturation gives a
“washed out” look
2. Complete desaturation leads to black, white and gray, or
3. Desaturation can happen by adding white to the image (tint),
adding black to the image (shade), or adding grey to the
iii. Brightness: how light or dark a color is
1. Lightness vs. brightness
2. Lightness is how bright we perceive a color to be
3. Brightness is how much light is actually reflected off a
IV. Color Filters
a. To create colored light, color filters called gelsare used.
b. The gel subtracts from the white light of the bulb all colors except the color of the gel.
c. Filters can also be used on the camera to tint the overall color of your movie or show.
V. Color Models
a. Grayscale – steps between white and black
b. Brightness value 0256 for different shades
c. "Television" black and whitenColor models
d. Blackandwhite or color (compatibility)
i. Black and white is higher resolution
ii. Monochrome scene is very different
VI. Mixing Colors
a. Additive vs. Subtractive
i. Additive: mixing color through light
1. Primary colors: red, green, blue. When all mixed, you get white.
2. To create a colored light in theater, photography and film we use gels
3. When mixing all primary colors, you get white light. When mixing variations of combinations, you get different colored light
4. Complementary colors: mixing a primary color with its complementary color results in white light
5. Video screens display color through additive mixing.
a. In older TVs, cathode rays emit red, green and blue color signals in combination at each pixel on the
b. The colors are not actually mixed, they are just
displayed side by side at a miniscule size so that our eyes only see the combination of light.
ii. Subtractive Mixing Subtractive –Mixing color (Yellow, Cyan and Magenta) through material (like paint)
1. The color of any object we see is actually the only color that the object is not absorbing. A blue ball is absorbing all of the light waves other than blue, which it is reflecting.
2. How does a blue ball reflect blue?: it has color filters that block or subtract any other colors in the spectrum from reaching your eye
3. So subtractive mixing is a process of filtering out
4. Subtractive primaries are cyan, magenta, and yellow, when all mixed you get black
Relativity of Color
factors that influence how we perceive colors:
i. Light environment
ii. Surface reflectance
iii. Color temperature
iv. Surrounding colors
v. Color juxtaposition
vi. Constancy of brightness and color
b. Light environment: the amount of light shining on the object we look at i. Too little light and light cannot be reflected back for us to perceive, the color looks black
ii. Too much light and we mostly see the reflection of the light itself c. Surface reflectance
i. how much light the surface reflects
ii. Matte vs. satin
iii. Our perception of a paint color is different if we paint it on a wall vs. a piece of fabric
d. Color temperature: relative redishness or blueishness of white light, measured in Kelvin
i. The more bluish the light, the higher color temperature nsunlight at noon is very blue
ii. Standard lighting for outdoor is ~5,600K
iii. The more reddish the light, the lower the color temperaturenmost regular light bulbs are red
iv. Standard indoor lighting is ~3,200K
v. White balance is the way that photographers, filmmakers balance for different color temperatures
vi. Tells the camera what white is (otherwise, the camera might pick up the blue or red tint).
vii. Because white indicates the presence of all additive colors, white is the standard for what all the other colors look like.
viii. As long as white is correct on the camera, all other colors will be correct
e. Surrounding colors
i. A color will look different to us based on the other colors it is surrounded by.
ii. Sometimes a brightly colored object will reflect onto other objects around it, affecting our perceptions of those other objects
f. Color juxtaposition
i. Two colors side by side can “compete for attention” causing distortion
ii. One type of distortion is moiré effect or color vibrations caused by narrow, highly contrasting patterns
iii. Avoid Color Juxtaposition – when two highly saturated complimentary colors are side by side, you run the risk of causing “color vibrations.”
1. These two colors compete for attention, creating an artifact, or an undesirable color distortion.
g. Some rules for using colors:
i. Avoid using the same or even similar colors for the foreground object and the background it will make objects hard to see. ii. Don’t wear blue in front of a blue chroma key or green in front of a green screen.
iii. Avoid narrow, highly contrasting patterns.
iv. On TV they produce moiré effects, which are caused by a conflict between the scanning pattern of the TV and the pattern of the material.
v. Such patterns include: herringbone, houndstooth, tight plaid, small stripes, etc.
h. Constancy of brightness and color
i. Our brains want to stabilize what we see even when the lighting conditions change
ii. Brightness and color constancy examples
iii. Our eyes make this adjustment but cameras cannot. This is why white balance is necessary.
i. Colors and Feelings
i. We are affected by colors emotionally
ii. Not always uniformly, but definite trendsnLess saturated colors lead to relaxation
iii. Bright red grabs our attention, light green is said to be soothing, warm colors tend to make us eat faster.
iv. Other colors seem low energy (blue, green) and calm us down. v. The green room in the theater is supposed to make performers feel calm and relaxed before going on stage.
vi. Understanding color energy allows you to use color effectively in communicating messages through media
j. Color energy: the aesthetic impact of color, dependent on
i. the 3 aesthetic perception factors (hue, saturation, brightness)
1. Warm hues are high energy, cool hues low
2. High saturation is high energy, low saturation low energy
(e.g. Violet is warmer than blue, yet still cooler than red).
3. Bright is high energy, dark is low.
ii. The size of the colored area
1. greater the area = more energy
iii. the contrast of the colors (foreground vs. background)
1. Greater contrast = greater energy.
iv. The psychological property of color which we call warm and cool has nothing to do with color temperature.
v. As far as hue goes, warm colors have more energy than cool ones. 1. A bright yellow, for instance, has more energy than a brown.
vi. The saturation of a color contributes to its energy
1. If equally saturated, a warm red will have more energy than
cold blue, but if the red is desaturated or faded, the blue will
become more energetic.
vii. The benefit of translating colors into aesthetic energy is that you can integrate the effects of color more readily with other aesthetic
elements to produce a variety of specific emotional effects. (music, sfx, angles)
viii. This knowledge allows you to effectively conceptualize and use color composition in moving images
VIII. Tasting or Hearing
a. Synesthesia – a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sense (e.g., taste) produces experiences in a totally different sense (e.g., sight).
Chapter 5 Structuring Color: Function and Composition
I. Functions of Color
a. Structuring Color: To use color for clarifying and intensifying a media event. Can be done by following three functions:
i. Informational Function of Color: Color tells us more about an event than we would know without color.
a. Colors make events more realistic and give us
specific information about conditions (distinguish the
green car from the yellow car, the red wire from the
b. Colors help us distinguish among objects and
establish an easytoread code.
c. The informational function of color is useless when using black and white.
2. Color harmony, or colors that go together, are generally a secondary concern to TV and film practitioners.
3. The main objective of the informational function of color is clarity – be clear about what meaning the colors you use are conveying.
4. Color Symbolism: Color has been used throughout human history to symbolize events, beliefs, and behavior.
a. Color associations are learned differently depending on individual upbringing and culture. Some color
symbolism is subjective (depends on color) but some is universal (stop lights, roses, etc.)
b. Color of mourning black, white
c. Color of Wedding red, white
d. Blue means sad in US, heavy intoxication in Germany 5. Symbolic Function of Color: You can introduce a new symbolic color code or color/event association, but you MUST provide the audience with enough clues to learn the new association.
a. You could do this by having your actors explain it to one another, show action that explains the new color relationship, or use signage in the shot.
b. Some directors prefer subtlety when it comes to color coding, a reward for the careful observer:
ii. Compositional Function of Color: Color helps define screen areas: they emphasize some areas, and deemphasize others. An effective composition never has random colors. Each one has a purpose
1. Color energy
a. Rather than making sure colors go together and
coordinate, it is much better to focus on bringing
different color energies into balance or purposeful
b. Color energy is determined primarily by saturation: highly saturated warm colors carry more aesthetic
energy than desaturated cold colors.
2. The most common approach in interior design is to place small areas of high energy color against a low energy background.
a. Many movies highlight this technique, specifically
those that use realism.
b. Used to draw attention to one area of the screen.
c. Many veer away from this technique, as it is very
iii. Expressive Function of Color: Colors make us feel a certain way. 1. They express the essential quality of an object or event. 2. Certain colors can add excitement and drama to an event. 3. Certain colors can help establish a mood.
4. Expressing the essential quality of an event.
a. If we adhere to basic symbolic meanings of colors, we can code events, objects, locations, etc.
b. Red sports car
c. Red flowers
d. Purple robes
e. Orange jumpsuit
5. Adding excitement and drama.
a. Colors excite us or calm us down and they can
dramatically intensify scenes.
b. Gangs of New York
c. Warmlycolored scene may communicate affection or passion
d. A coldcolored scene may indicate mystery, sorrow, or disillusionment.
e. You can use postproduction software to adjust levels in your scene and convey different feelings.
6. Establishing mood.
a. Color can be very effective in establishing or
b. This has much to do with the warmth or coolness of a color.
c. High energy warm colors suggest a happier mood than low energy cold colors.
7. You can use colors harmonically or contrapuntally
a. Harmonically – high energy event matched by high energy colors or low energy with low color energy.
b. Contrapuntally – low energy event matched with high
energy colors and vice versa.
iv. Most films now have a “color profile,” to guide filming and also manipulated in postproduction.
II. Desaturation Theory
a. Bright, highly saturated colors are great for high energy scenes (races, sporting events, and action sequences)
i. What about an intimate love scene, or a very emotional death of a family member?
b. Highly saturated colors may actually detract from “internal” or more emotional events, making them more external.
i. Saturated images make viewers look at the event rather than into the event
c. When a scene is rendered more lowdefinition, the audience is required to apply psychological closure (mentally fill in the missing elements, e.g., color).
d. Generally, for more intimate or an internal event, lesser use of color to intensify the sense of being there.
e. More external, landscape movies more use of color allowed III. Color Correction and Color Grading
a. Before digital manipulation, some change possible in chemical development process.
b. Digital color correction allows much freedom
c. At this point in time, no film doesn’t use color correction.
IV. Colorizing Film
a. A debate raged years ago about whether or not to colorize films originally made in black and white.
i. Pro argument was that colorization made the films more attractive and realistic.
ii. Con argument was that any colorization would destroy the integrity of the original work.
iii. Video on the colorization of Night of the Living Dead
b. The question is: is it right to tamper with the finished work of a filmmaker? i. For people in the TV business, the answer is yes.
ii. Films have been edited for content and length for many years so that they can be shown on TV.
iii. Some films would have been made in color if it had been available. c. Other films were made in black and white on purpose, and to change that would be a serious violation of the filmmaker’s vision
a. The bottom line is that you have many choices you can make regarding color. Make your color choices intentionally: your colors and color
composition should work with all other aesthetic elements of your
production to produce the message you want to give.
Chapter 6 The Two Dimensional Field: Area
I. Three structural factors of screen space: aspect ratio, object size, image size a. Aspect Ratio: the relationship of screen width to screen height. i. Painters and photographers have free choice of orientation
of their works.
ii. In TV, film, and on computer displays, we don’t have many
options. We are restricted by the area within the screen, no
matter what area that is.
iii. Horizontal Orientation
a. TV, film, and computer screens are horizontally
b. We live and operate in a horizontal plane. In our
everyday lives, we perceive the world as flat. The
horizon defines our visual space.
c. Gravity allows us to walk upright and move in our
horizontal environment, but going vertical takes more
work. Our peripheral vision is greater than vertical
iv. Standard Ratios: Early motion pictures had a 4 x 3 aspect
ratio, and soon, TV and computer monitors assumed the
format. The standard aspect ratio is also expressed as
1.33:1; for every 1 unit of height, there are 1.33 units of
a. HDTV screens have a widescreen ratio of 16 x 9 or
1.78:1 Widescreen motion picture format is 16.65 x 9
or 1.85:1.Cinemascope or Panavision 35 has a ratio
of 21.15 x 9 or 2.35:1.This is commonly referred to as
“two four O” format.
v. Panavision and Cinemascope
a. Panavision is the brand name...They’re in and out of
debt every few years, but they seem to find their way
b. CinemaScope is also technically a brand name, but
they’ve both come to mean any anamorphic lens
(used to project images on a camera lens): Shooting
a widescreen picture on standard 35 mm that does
not have a native widescreen aspect ratio.
a. Anamorphic widescreen is different...it’s when
a widescreen image is compressed horizontally
for storage. If you watch it on the stored
medium, it makes everyone all long and thin,
but if you project it in a theatre, it corrects the
image back to its original widescreen aspect
vi. Framing Standard vs. Widescreen.
a. Why did the film industry eventually adopt the widescreen aspect ratio? At first, competition
with television. First attempts pricey but
successful so found ways of using technology
to create a wider screen.
b. 4 x 3: The 4 x 3 aspect ratio does not
emphasize either width or height.
1. A horizontally oriented scene (e.g.
sunset) doesn’t have too much wasted
vertical space. A vertically oriented
scene (skyscraper) won’t have too much
empty space on the sides.
2. Closeups and extreme closeups work
very well. Because no emphasis on
height or width of frame, less powerful
c. 16 x 9: Wide shots work very well, particularly landscapes.
1. Also, you have the freedom to have your
action take place laterally without having
to pan the camera. Panning is relatively
underwhelming on a 4 x 3 screen, but
can have a powerful effect on 16 x 9.
2. The wide aspect ratio gives the panning
movement time to develop and play out.
3. Also easier to shoot two people at once.
4. The 16 x 9 aspect ratio demands more
attention to elements on the sides of
your shots than 4 x 3.Closeups must be
framed carefully so that there aren’t too
many “dead zones” or areas of empty
space. This often requires extras to be
very believable, but unobtrusive at the
5. Directors and Directors of Photography
must be careful about the edges of the
6. Difficult to capture the scale of tall
objects like skyscrapers, trees, etc from
the ground. Sometimes a tilted camera
d. Networks now offer HD versions of their
networks on cable and satellite. Some are just
using SD programming and calling it HD
(discussed further later on).
1. Most TV shows are shot in widescreen
to accommodate HD standards in the
vii. Changing Aspect Ratios: Broadcast movies (16 x 9 or other wide screen) on standard definition (4 x 3) TV sets method: a. Letterboxing: The original aspect ratio is
preserved, and the empty areas above and
below are filled with black (dead zones).
1. On a large screen, the effect is not too
annoying, despite the fact that a lot of
the screen is black: the images are large
enough. On a small screen, the black
areas dominate and the film loses its
impact. More severe if the film was shot
in Panavision or a very wide aspect ratio
b. Panning and scanning (another method for
16:9 to 4:3 conversion): Many movies have
been cropped on the sides, but not in a uniform
location. “This movie has been modified to fit
c. Squeezing the image (16:9 to 4:3): cutting the image. Not ideal.
d. Windowboxing (showing 4:3 on 16:9 screen): The simplest way to accommodate 4x3 onto an
HDTV. Reduce the size of the picture and
place it in the center with the leftover space
1. Problem reduced size of the 4x3
e. Pillarboxing (another way to fit 4:3 on 16:9):
The 4 x 3 picture is simply inserted into the
center of the screen, and the empty sides are
filled with black vertical bars (so no bars at the
top) similar to the horizontal letterbox
technique. The dead zones look like pillars...
so, pillarboxing. This is the most common
solution Sometimes networks will fill the dead
zones with graphics.
f. Stretching(4:3 to 16:9 method): The dead
zones are eliminated, and everyone in the
frame gains about 25 pounds. It tends to look
unnatural, but some people get used to it
1. Also “center cut” which is even
worse...just takes out the center of the
image and keeps it with no regard for
what’s going on the sides.
g. Zooming (4:3 to 16:9 method): This leaves no black spaces on the screen but the top and
bottom of the screen are cut off and the
resolution is fuzzy. This method is used often
in TV when SD channels are broadcast as HD.
Lose top and bottom of image.
viii.Moving the Camera
a. Moving camera is another technique that can be used to overcome the restrictions of the screen.
b. A tall building can be shown through tilting, and a panoramic scene can be shown by panning the
camera. Sometimes, gradual revelations are more dramatic than a long shot of the same scene. Day After Tomorrow clip
v=js183HfE91Q&feature=relatedThis clip uses a lot of gradual revelation of New York city being covered in water.
ix. Secondary Frames or frame within a frame.
a. Artificial Masking Changing a horizontal frame to a vertical or balanced frame creating a secondary frame b. Organic Less obvious method of masking. Filling the sides of the screen with natural scenic elements such
as buildings trees or furniture. An effective technique
when framing closeups or vertical scenes in a wide
c. Screens within the screen creating a secondary
aspect ratio within the original aspect ratio.
a. News, ads, video presentations
d. Split Screens: Allow multiple locations or times to be in frame at once.
b. Object Size: How do we know how big an object on screen actually is?
i. We have to have some point of reference.
ii. Comparing something to a human being is probably the best indicator of how big something is
iii. We can also use the size of the object in relation to the screen to figure out how big it is
iv. If we are familiar with an object, we assume the object is the size we are familiar with.
v. We also establish a scale by making continual judgments about an object’s size. These judgments are made by comparing the object to other objects in the scene. As long as what we see fits our scale, we believe it. This is why films can use scale models so effectively. Ex: Lord of the Rings forced perspective
c. Image Size:
i. Sometimes physical size has a lot to do with how we perceive and feel about certain screen images. Many audience members choose to see blockbuster movies in the theater for this very reason.
ii. We perceive people and their environments as normal size whether they appear on a large screen or small screen, whether they are in a long shot or closeup. But, just
because we perceive things as actual size does not mean screen size doesn’t matter.
iii. The size of images on a huge panoramic screen carry more energy and feel more overpowering than the same images on a small screen. Some movies that emphasize the
landscapes and battle scenes can only be fully appreciated on the big screen. ex: Lawrence of Arabia
iv. Mobile media, particularly media on cell phones, have changed the way we think of cinematography.
a. Horizontal and vertical possible on cell phones.
Shorter attention spans. Smaller image means some
things work better than others.
b. Close ups are better than wide shots or landscapes.
Shorter running times. Audio is still very effective on
cell phones, despite less screen space.
c. Inductive sequencing (don’t move from establishing
shot to detail shots. Use a series of close ups). Used
a lot in advertising
Chapter 7 The Two Dimensional Field: Forces Within the Screen
Six major types of screen forces: Main directions, Magnetism of the frame, Asymmetry of the frame, Figure and ground, Psychological closure, Vectors
I. Main Directions
a. Horizontal and Vertical: Horizontal directions are easier to manage, and they suggest tranquility and rest. Ex: landscape
b. Vertical directions are harder to manage, and seem more dynamic, powerful, and exciting. Ex: skyscrapers
c. Our environment is a combination of horizontals and verticals, so we feel a sense of stability when viewing images that have horizontals and verticals that are perpendicular to the level ground.
d. We have an uncanny sense of horizontal and vertical accuracy – we can tell if a picture is hanging crooked just by eyeballing it. unstableness = uneasiness/psychophysical discomfort.
e. Tilting the horizontal plane on screen or canting the camera may add a dynamic element to the scene or suggest extreme physical or mental stress.
II. Magnetism of the Frame
a. The borders of a picture field or a screen act like magnets: they have a tendency to attract objects near them.This is called magnetism of the frame, and it can be so strong that it can counteract our natural reactions to forces like gravity.
b. Pg. 112(108) The closer an object is to the top of the frame, the more it will seem that it is attached to the top edge of the screen. Placing a person or object near the top edge of a frame can have the effect of suspending that item from the sky.
c. The sides of a frame have a strong pull as well. The corners of a frame combine magnetism from two sides (side and bottom or side and top depending on where the object is), and therefore exert a very strong pull.
i. The pull of the side edges can be used for your advantage positive pull of side edges
ii. Negative pull of side edges When you frame someone’s head in a way that it looks larger than usual
iii. Objects that appear at a normal distance in a long shot, appear too far apart in a tighter shot
d. It is important to avoid compositions which have dominant lines leading to the corner of the screen, because object will appear to be pulled toward the corners.
e. The most stable position is screen center (neutralized magnetism)¡The force of the pull of the edges and corners is relatively weak and equally distributed.
f. Even in the center, size can change the effect of the edges and corners: g. A large object that fills the frame is subject to the magnetism of all edges. A smaller centered object is not subject to the magnetism.
h. Headroom space above your subject’s head
i. No headroom, and the frame will pull the head against it.
ii. Proper headroom counteracts the pull of the upper screen edge. iii. Too much headroom, and gravity takes over, making the shot look bottom heavy.
i. The key is to use the magnetism of the frame to your advantage – use it to tell your story if the opportunity presents itself.
III. Assymmetry of the Frame
a. The two sides of the frame, film, TV, or computer, seem structurally unequal to us. Humans read from left to right.
b. Screenleft and screen right asymmetry: We pay more attention to the right side of the screen rather than the left side.
i. Similar to how we read diagonals, we tend to start our visual
process near the middle of a frame, then quickly move to the left
side and finish on the right.
ii. Given this phenomenon, you should place more important events and subjects on the right side of the screen, since they will get
1. Notice how web sites are set up, and you will see that the
navigation buttons typically go on the left, and the text and
images go on the right.
IV. Figure and Ground
The figure/ground principle helps us organize our environment into stable reference points.
a. The figure is thinglike. We perceive it as an object. The ground is not, it is merely part of the “uncovered” screen area. The figure lies in front of the ground.
i. The line that separates the figure from the ground belongs to the figure, not the ground.
b. The ground seems to continue behind the figure. The figure is less stable than the ground, the figure is more likely to move.
c. You MUST opt to pay attention to either the figure or the ground, you cannot perceive them both simultaneously.
d. Startling effects can be achieved by using ambiguous figure/ ground or by reversing figure/ground relationships. Creating ambiguity in the figure/ground relationship can also give you starling effects ex: ying and yang symbol
V. Psychological Closure
When faced with a chaotic or unstable environment, our minds try to stabilize it for us by filling in gaps in visual information.
a. Our minds always try to organize seemingly random shapes, the patterns that result are explained by gestalt theory explains how we see and organize information into a meaningful whole.
i. The configuration matters more than the elements that go into the configuration. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
ii. Same element, different “whole” vs. Same whole different elements b. Our eyes group various elements according to proximity, similarity, closure, or continuity. These groupings help us separate the figure from the ground.
i. Proximity: Objects that are closer together tend to be grouped together.
ii. Similarity: Objects similar to one another tend to be grouped together. The similarity can be in terms of any visual property or dimension:
1. Shape, Size, Color, Luminance, Motion.
iii. Closure: Closed shapes tend to be grouped together.
1. Law of Continuity Elements that form continuous lines or
curves are grouped together.
c. High and low definition images
i. A lowdefinition image requires more closure, or more work on our part. Using lowdefinition images may have a desirable
intensification effect: they make your audience work harder, pay closer attention, much like desaturation or using black and white. ii. HDTV and film use highdefinition images that make it easy for us watch.
The most powerful forces operating within the screen. There are three types of vectors:
a. Graphic Vectors: Created by stationary elements that guide our eyes in certain directions. Ex: highrise building
b. Index Vectors: Created by anything that points clearly in a particular direction ex: someone pointing or an arrow pointing
c. Motion Vectors: Created by an object that is actually moving ex: a motorcycle driving down the street. HAS TO BE IN MOTION. A still shot is an index vector
d. Index and Motion Vectors can be:
i. Continuing two or more index or motion vectors point in the same direction.
1. Can be done with the same vector type of a combination of
ii. Converging point toward each other in a single shot or series of shots.
1. Ex: Two cars racing toward each other.
iii. Diverging index or motion vectors pointing away from each other. e. Watch: Matrix lobby fight scene pay attention to the vectors in this scene. Take note of the graphic and index vectors, as well as the continuing, converging, and diverging motion vectors.