Exercises in visualising subjective POV

Brief:

Imagine the situations described below. Place yourself in the scene; don’t think about what is there objectively, but what you would see if you were there.

  • You are talking to someone in a shop
  • You are knocking on a door
  • You are a soldier in enemy territory

I began by making brief notes outlining what I could ‘see’ at various points within each of the three scenarios. Then, for each of the scenes, I imagined a series of frames, sketched basic impressions of what I ‘saw’, and annotated the pictures detailing what was included, what was excluded, and why I had made those choices.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Logbook 1 – 12/4/17

 

You are talking to someone in a shop

The person is facing you talking in an animated way, using their hands.

 

Knocking on a door

You knock on the door. You wait. The door is opened.

 

You are a soldier in enemy territory

You see ahead of you a group of enemy soldiers. A sudden sound behind you causes you to glance round.

 

The exercises became more demanding as I worked through the three tasks. The first task, a scene in which I was talking to someone in a shop, was fairly straightforward and required only three frames to tell the story. Extending on from this, the second task required five frames to tell present the scenario of knocking on a door and waiting for it to open. The third task required considerably more images to present the scenario of a soldier in enemy territory in which, due to the introduction of a ‘complication’, a sudden sound taking my ‘gaze’ away from the enemy soldiers within the scene.

This was a very useful series of exercises. It demonstrated how, when adopting a subjective point-of-view, the camera can become a ‘character’ in a moving image. In addition to showing how to use storyboards to help visualise a subjective point-of-view, it highlighted the importance of carefully considering what should be included in and left out of each frame, and why; the things I deliberately choose not to ‘see’ within the frame, and why; and whether or not the viewer would be aware they were there. All of which shows how it is possible to manipulate the way in which the story within a moving image is told through a careful and considered use of framing.

 

Exercise: Building a story – Take 2

As in my previous attempt at this exercise, I found a picture of a scene, identified several frames and put them together in a sequence to create a new story. This time my canvas was ‘Triangular’ (1962), a black & white photograph by Chinese photographer Fan Ho. I found this picture interesting for its use of high contrast lighting and the intriguing dark-clothed figure standing with his back to the viewer, lit by sunlight streaming into the subway from the street above.

Before selecting the frames for the story, I cropped the picture down, creating a new master shot that further emphasised the standing man in the background and the lower half of a walking man in the foreground.

I selected three frames, of three figures rendered in different degrees of light and tone. Then added captions to each image to help tell the story.


Fig. 1. Fan Ho (1962)

 

Frames

1. The Standing Man
2. The Sunlit Man
3. The Hidden Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captions

1.

The Standing Man
steps serenely, upward
into the morning crowds

2.

The Sunlit Man is in
no hurry to catch the
eastbound train across town

3.

From a distance, the
Hidden Man watches as
people pass by like spirits.

 

This was a very satisfying exercise to do. Where the frames in the previous attempt at this exercise appeared looser, a little disconnected, and even slightly surveillance camera in style, the frames in this attempt are tighter, connected and more cinematic, and there is a stronger sense of character and place.

This time I looked for a way to incorporate shot size into the selection when framing the images. Frame 1 is a medium shot (MS); Frame 2 is a medium shot (MS); Frame 3 is a wide shot (WS).

What this exercise has shown me is that the connection between how you convey information, meaning, feeling, ideas within a frame and your choice of shot size can have a strong impact on the way in which an audience views a moving image.

So, how can I use this to plan for the future? By asking which shot size works best for each frame, as well as thinking about conveying information, meaning, feeling and ideas, when making my own moving images.

And how can I use this to plan new learning experiences? By looking at how other moving image practitioners and cinematographers use framing to portray information, meaning, feeling and ideas within their work; by experimenting with ideas using the same exercise through moving images; and by using this exercise as a follow up to exercises 7 & 10 on developing ideas.

 


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. ‘Triangular’ (1962) Fan Ho

Exercise: Building a story


Fig. 1. Chris Yunker (2008)

Exercise Brief:

  • Choose a picture of a wide scene.
  • Identify a series of frames within the picture that you can use to create a new story.
  • Place your new images in order and accompany them with notes outlining your new story.

A wide shot of pedestrians walking in ones, twos and threes along a street in Milan provided the large canvas for this exercise on directing attention in a scene. The bright, overcast sky casts a diffused, even light throughout the street.

The five images selected from within the wide shot were chosen for the different ways in which the characters were portrayed within the scene. The images were cropped to exclude other people where possible, so as to direct the focus of attention to the main characters within the frame.


Logbook 11/4/2017

Each frame was also given a caption that described in some way the character within the image.

The frames were then sequenced according to an implied direction of movement within the images and the number of people within the image.

Frames 1, 2 & 4 imply a left to right movement; frame 3 implies a movement towards the viewer; frame 5, though static, implies a movement from right to left, which acts as a bookend to frame 1.

The number of people within the opening frames increases sequentially from 1 to 2 to 3. The final two images have one person within the frame, with the final one again acting as a bookend to the first frame.

 

Frames

 

Frame 1. ‘The unobservant man…reflects on peaceful times’

Frame 2. ‘The two colleagues…persue the benefits of stone’

Frame 3. ‘The man in a black suit…extols the virtues of his wealth’

Frame 4. ‘The woman glancing sideways…quietly rejoices’

Frame 5. ‘The pensive man…conceals a fear of rain’

 

Reflection

I am pleased with the result in isolating five frames from the original picture that are different in content and meaning. I’m also pleased with the way in which the captions add an imaginative dimension to the result.

This exercise taught me that the primary function of the frame is to define what the audience sees on screen, and that to achieve this I need to carefully select frames that present information, convey meaning, create feeling and express a feeling within the scene.

If I was to do this exercise again, I would crop the picture selections using a 16:9 aspect ratio. This would help give a better sense of how directing attention through framing can affect the look of a shot on screen.

By asking myself what information needs presenting, what meaning should be conveyed, what feeling should be created and what idea needs expressing within each frame, I have become more rigorous and creative in my approach to framing shots. In future, when planning shots for a moving image, I can ask these questions of each frame to help define what the audience sees.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. October afternoon on Via Dante in Milan, Italy (2008) Chris Yunker. [Flickr website] At: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris-yunker/13583927 (Accessed on: 10 April 2017)