Objects, shapes, sizes communicate subconsciously and build a narrative in our minds.
Here are some of the ways films have used the power of visuals to communicate.
It states that the size of any object in your frame should be proportional to its importance to the story at that moment.
Example: Look at the size of Kingpin as he enters the frame — its figure covers almost 95% of the screen. It shows the importance and in this case, fear inspiring characteristic of Kingpin.
Consider Disney’s Up summarized in this short, 4 minute clip:
The recurring images that are used to reinforce an idea relevant to the story-line and enable recall.
The recurrence of the wedding scene in the context of Ellie’s absence reinforces how alone Carl feels at this point.
The repeated occurrence of ties: Ellie, without fail, fixes Carl’s tie every morning, all along the lifetime of the couple, that symbolizes their harmonious ritualized life.
Shape and Lighting
An abstract meaning is assigned to shapes in order to trigger emotions in response. Evil characters generally have sharp features — eg. Pointed nose!
Here, Ellie’s and Carl’s sides of the scenes are quite contrasting. A few examples:
The difference in mugs, chair, table and even the lamp — Ellie’s being more curvy
Brightness: Ellie’s side is brighter with sun shining the light at her.
Face: Carl’s face is shown to be square which depicts his steadfast and rule abiding nature. While Ellie is shown to be carefree, in sharp contrast to his husband’s boring and old fashioned character.
This way, just one single frame communicates the differences in characters and allows the audience to connect with them. Pictures do speak a thousand words.
Here’s a video on how geometry affects our perceptions in movies:
Colours are another tool which is used to set a tone to the film.
Danielle Feinberg, director of photography at Pixar, describes herself as “color obsessed”. “I think about it nonstop. Lighting and color are part of the backbone of emotion.” She points to the scene in The Incredibles (2004) where Mr. Incredible works at his desk at Insuracare — the colors are dulled and gray to communicate a sense of depression.
Consider Wall E, the movie:
The world appears to be in tans and oranges to communicate to the audience that the earth is polluted. The colour green appears only when Wall-E meets a plant for the first time and because the audience’s eyes were tuned to the tans, the colour green appears amplified and makes a difference in how we perceive that moment.
Some Examples of Visual Storytelling:
This lacoste ad shows visually how the heart gets racy when we embrace someone we love —
Volkswagen focuses on the simple, yet effective message of ‘force’ in its remote keyless cars by showcasing a young boy dressed in a Star Wars’ Darth Vader costume and his futile attempts to use the dark arts
An unexpected twist..
Another masterpiece on weaving stories with visual cues for the viewer to decode —
This compelling story has a straightforward message —” look for the signs”. However, it doesn’t outrightly tell us to look for the signs, it places those signs tactfully in the frames and deliberately takes our attention away from it in what seems like a cute romantic story.
We can communicate so much with so little :)
Source: Prof Nandita Roy’s in-class discussions