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Using Artistic Elements In Cinema To Manipulate The Audience

A lot of you guys liked my last post I guess, so I wanted to broaden the topic a little bit and discuss some filmmaking technique.

Depth of Field (selective focus)

This allows you to guide the audience’s eye, making them focus on what you want them to, but it can also be used for mood – making a scene more tense, allowing the audience to go “What is that?” which in turn grips them and makes them go through the journey ALONG WITH the characters. THIS is really what I’m interested in – GRIPPING THE AUDIENCE.


I’ve noticed that DOF is not the only thing that can accomplish this. Obviously we know that lighting can affect mood, but I want to comment specifically on something. I want to draw a parallel between SHADOWS and FOCUS.

Think about this for a second — A scary dude with a mask comes out of the DARKNESS. He is now illuminated by a dim light, not enough for us to completely see him.

Okay, now let’s think about focus — A scary dude with a mask creeps out of a room into a dim hallway. Our main character is in focus with our masked villain behind him. But our masked villain is out of focus. WE CAN’T COMPLETELY SEE HIM.

Similar to the lighting situation, right? So in this example, we see how focus can be used the same way lighting can be used in order to make this scene more tense. It adds to our FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN when we can’t see our masked murderer in clear focus and in bright light. Which one you use depends on the scene and how you envision it, but that’s up to you.


Man, I used to think vignettes were stupid and a waste of time… until I used one. For an example, you’ll have to go back a few posts to —


— and notice Case Study #2. Here, we have a before and after picture. The second picture is with color correction. Notice how the vignette in the BOTTOM PICTURE draws your attention off the background and the back of Charlene’s head and focuses your attention on our Bar Dude looking to get some from Charlene (whether or not he does… well… you’re have to tune in to ON THE HUNT the web series in order to find out!).

A little DOF would have helped in keeping the audience’s eye on our Bar Dude, but since I own a DVX (GRRRRRR, BUT I DO LOVE IT) and not a RED ONE, well… the vignette helps. Both shallow DOF and a vignette would have been nice, but beggars can’t be choosers.

So this is just a quick observation on some methods that can be used to bring the audience deeper into your world created by your film.


Of course there are more methods out there, and I would love to talk about them! What did I miss? Leave me some comments and let me know. I’d love to talk to you all about it!

UPDATE: FURTHER READING Here is a blog post/scene study from John Hudson’s blog. Here, John breaks down a scene from ALIENS. In particular, check out the section where John analyzes the sequence in the hallway. He breaks it down really well how James Cameron used focus to hide the ceiling from us until the idea that the aliens might be in the ceiling pops into someone head. Here, we are taking the ride WITH the characters in the movie. Great example. Check out JOHN’S BLOG, he’s definitely got some awesome stuff there.

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