Advanced Video Camera and Editing


Movement on Screen

When you shoot footage, it's important to understand how motion can drive the audience's point-of-attention. Motion may be defined as the camera in motion or when objects in the shot are in motion. But motion also includes where the audience looks on the screen.

Motion may also be described as Simple and Complex, borrowing terminology from Bruce Block's book, The Visual Story. Block describes the difference between real world and screen world motion. In the real world, movement occurs in both two and three dimensions. But in the screen world, movement occurs in two dimensions because the screen exists in only two dimensions. There is no real depth in a two-dimensional screen, however, photographers can create the illusion of depth by the way they compose their shots and exploit motion in the frame.

  • Simple motion on the screen occurs when an object moves horizontally, vertically, diagonally, and even circularly. 
  • The movement becomes Complex when objects appear to be coming from depth, such as moving towards the viewer, because it combines the several simple moves onto a single moving object.

In the real world, the students are walking in three-dimensions. In the screen world, their simple moves are combined: the top of their heads are moving up, their feet are moving down, their left side is moving left and the right is moving right. The more that simple moves are combined, the more complex the movement. Although there is no depth in two-dimensions, the illusion of depth is created based on visual cues, such as the object getting larger as it gets closer, or when there is a change in speed or textures.

Point-of-Attention Movement

Just because it's a wide shot doesn't mean that audiences are able to concentrate on everything in the picture. Human vision can only focus on one small area at a time. To see the different faces in a crowd, we must shift our attention from face to face. It's impossible to concentrate on more than one face at a time.

The focus is sharpest within our central field of view. But remember, the eye is always moving and we can only fixate on one small area of the screen at a time. The photographer's job is to control where the audience looks through the use of composition and motion. And viewers will always be drawn to motion. But if there is no motion, then our attention is drawn to the brightest area of the shot. Our attention is drawn more easily if the object in motion also happens to be the brightest in the frame. We are also drawn to contrasts or differences in parts of the image. When we see a person's face, we are always drawn to their eyes, but we'll especially move our eyes in the direction people are gazing. And finally, any on-screen vanishing point will get our attention quickly. 

Photographers can direct where the eye will look

How photographers guide our eyes

  • Movement in the image
  • Brightness of the subject
  • Contrasts, or differences in the image, especially in stark contrast
  • The subject is in focus whilst the rest of the image is blurred (shallow depth of field)
  • Leading lines, such as footpaths that move towards the vanishing point.
  • When the subject has the most visual 'weight' in the image (the subject is dominant) 
  • We move our eyes in the direction people are seen gazing

The above picture demonstrates contrast. Our eyes are drawn immediately to the girl not only because the blue jumper stands out against the green and grey environmental tones, but also because her apparent motion appears horizontally against the apparent vertical motion of the trees and students walking in the background. 

The image above demonstrates the vanishing point. Our eyes are directed along the diagonal. which drives our attention towards the building in the distance. Also, the diagonal creates the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional frame.

The Principle of Contrast and Affinity 

This principle may be used to control the visual intensity that is generated by point-of-attention eye movement. 

  • Affinity occurs when the image contains similar elements, or is limited in colour and tone. 
  • Contrast occurs when there is a greater difference between portions of the image. 

As a general rule, when contrast in the image increases so does the visual intensity.

Intensity may be defined as anything that stimulates reaction in the audience. Usually, the more intense the visual stimulus, the more intense the audience reaction.

We perceive the image above to have less intensity than the image below. The pigeon lacks intensity because there is not as much contrast in the image (in tone, texture and motion) compared to the campus walkways below, which have more contrasting lines, textures, and even colour.

The video below provides further insights on how to use motion in the shot to create motion. Produced by The Slanted Image.
Camera Movement Tutorial: How to Create Emotion  2013