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Quantifying visual storytelling


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#1 scott tebeau

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 02:02 PM

I have been thinking about the idea of visual storytelling and the marriage between the intellectual ideas/technique and the emotional/ intuitive aspect of creating story through imagery. I am wondering what approaches and processes some of the other storytellers here use when trying to find a visual language when working on a story.
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 08:25 PM

You gotta' have a story first. That means a finished script. Without that, you can't really decide what look will serve the story. I know that sounds obvious.

The script will determine just how much and what type of human psychology you will want to employ. As far as how to handle or communicate the story's points and features is always a matter of artistic or craftsmanship interpretation. That probably sounds obvious, too.

The point is, that even though stories tend to fall into regular categories in the movie biz, the interpretation you employ to see the movie in a certain way on behalf of your viewers is where the artist in you comes in. In this respect, every movie is a blank canvas awaiting your particular vision and style. I guess that's obvious, as well.
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#3 scott tebeau

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 11:19 PM

Sorry, I think that my original post was a little vague (I?m new with these forums).

You know that strange area where a nuts and bolts approach crashes into artistic interpretation?

I?m curious about people?s individual process. When receiving a script, how is it that you approach the story and begin developing the elements and formulate ideas when approaching the given material? How do you begin to conceptualize framing, emulsions, composition, lens choices, camera work, etc??

I?m sure some people are very intuitive and others might have a developed technique and refined process to the way break down a story and find what works for them?.

This is a very general and broad question and I would love to hear about even small details that you find important to your process.
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#4 Mark Allen

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 12:28 AM

I'll have to just skim the surface on this one due to time, but I'm compelled to respond...

I think the approach might be what defines an artist in any field, so I'm not sure you'll find any consistent rules.

For myself, there are a lot of things to figure out about the movie.

What's the mood? (Frantic, Serene, etc.)

What are some major themes in the movie? (Is there an underlying sexuality (ALIEN) or stillness (THX1138) or etc)

I try to identify story archs and character archs and then figure out if there is a way to present this. If the character is going from owning the world to being lost and desolute - perhaps I'd lean twoards shooting him low and slowly move the camera up slightly during the movie.... will that read? David Mammet would say no, he might have a point. But if it doesn't take anything away from the movie... maybe it will help. If nothing else it gives something to work with.

Does the mood (mise-en-scene) change during the film? Would it help the movie if I made it change?

I could go on and on, but I think the basic goal is to reach underneath what is on the page and create an environment out of that and let it enhance the experience of the movie. I'm not into secret messages and codes and intellectual symbolism as much as what the audience *feels* from the shots (or production design in general).
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#5 Gordon Highland

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 12:34 AM

This is probably not the creative-type answer you were looking for, but I start with the budget and work backwards. Are sets able to be built? So you can work with production design and limit your color palette more effectively. Should the "look" of the picture change with the character arc?

Must you work in free/cheap/existing locations? That a lot of times will impact camera movement and placement. Should certain ensemble scenes play out mostly within one wide shot? Can you afford or do you need lots of coverage? You might need/want to light a room so the actors can feel freer to experiment with the stage blocking. Or you might want specific pools of light. Are actors attached and what are their strengths/weaknesses? (unfortunately a lot of my coverage decisions end up being a function of actor skill and time.) Ideally, you might base your angles on what each character wants from the other in the scene. Are they in agreement, in opposition, antagonistic, affectionate? I love the psychology of the camera, and learned a lot by watching movies with the sound off.

Will you be able to do a DI, how much CGI, must everything be practical in-camera? Do you have the crew resources to move at the desired speed? What's your page-per-day goal? Where can you cut corners? Etc. Can you tell I'm a low-budget guy? ;)
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