A miscellany of weekly ramblings on comics, art and film by Ted Mathot, storyboard artist and writer/artist/self-publisher of graphic novels and comics
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Storyboard Q&A : 03

I found a question and answer from a while back that had never been posted. Here it is:

What's your take on showing depth and perspective vs. straight on and flat composition? I certainly like dynamic composition where the camera's a bit lower and things aren't totally symmetrical, but sometimes composing things right in the middle of the frame and at eye level can be really powerful.

I'm still trying to figure out how these things interact. Any thoughts?


Four things to talk about here:
  1. Deep space
  2. Flat space
  3. Symmetry
  4. Asymmetry
Deep space is what's most familiar and common in movies, with flat space being more of a stylistic and/or deliberate choice. Most directors by nature do not film things in flat space or use symmetrical staging/composition. Many of you who read this blog are familiar with the work of Wes Anderson, who uses almost exclusively flat space staging (I have posted a number of screenshots from his films here) and limited space staging (combinations of flat and deep space).


This is a stylistic choice because the majority of his films are shot this way. The Royal Tenenbaums is told as if it were a storybook, thus the flat/limited space. Parts of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon were shot to represent the paintings of the time and used zoom lenses (which are flat, since everything in the frame moves proportionally to the camera lens) instead of push ins and pull outs. The Shining uses deep space but has a lot of symmetry in its shots, a really interesting combination of visual elements. Tenenbaums' shots often are the opposite, flat and asymmetrical.

Deliberate usage of flat and/or symmetrical staging can be used as counterpoint or for emphasis in a film that is predominantly deep or limited space.

The reverse is true as in the fight scene in Barry Lyndon -- the handheld moving camera really creates a jarring feeling compared to the static camerawork that surrounds it.

5 comments:

Michael Mercer said...

Interesting. I will keep my eyes peeled (but not asymmetrical) when watching my next films...

Ronan McDermott said...

Thanks for posting. Very interesting.

Lucy said...

you surely know what you're talkin about! as you internalize in the subject and make examples, it came to me as images every film and these certainly appear in the way you expose!

Thanks for sharing! (and sorry for my bad english)

Gracias y saludos!

Brandon said...

I love this type of info. Keep it coming.

Quentin Lebegue said...

There is an awesome book which covers some of the things you talk about : The Visual Story by Bruce Block. It's really great, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, this is a great post Ted, once again. Thanks for sharing !