Class notes – Visual Grammar

There are many elements to a story, and when you are trying to tell a story they are things you must consider first. The script, sound, music, visuals. We discussed and explored some of them in class today. The plot, character and dialogue are all important to the script, they are the bones of the piece. And if they are the bones though, there are many other elements or body parts that make up the whole animal..

When it comes to sound you can vary volume, bass, treble and sound effects. The music can be broken down into the instruments, notes and melody. All of which can complement or jar with a scene, character, etc. When it comes to the visual there is a lot to consider; space, line, tone, shape, colour, light, movement and rhythm.

When it comes to lighting we can control what is in the frame – what will be lit, and the light itself. Objects and textures will have different reflective properties – how you play with exposure will be an important element to controlling the tone.

Coincidence and no coincidence is the relationship between the tonal balance of the shot and the subject of the shot – like a character stepping out of a shadow into the light. Using the different between those two ranges to reveal the subject.

You can use tone to show contrast or affinity –  this is often true for all the elements.

Colour: Hue, saturation, value (brightness). In animation you have total control of what is in the frame so all these elements should be considered when decided what goes into each frame/animation.

When thinking about Movement we have to think about the object, camera, and the viewers point of attention.

With Object movement – focus on Direction, Quality, Scale, Speed.

And with Camera movement look at the direction, scale, and speed of the camera. The cuts between shots are important as well and the camera movement combined with the right cuts can be very effective when telling a story. Chase scenes are normally good examples of where filmmakers will use movement to its full to tell the story.

A camera pan is a 2D movement, movement is at a uniformed rate. Track is a 3D movement because it has scale – things closer change scale quicker than those further away.

Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. The term is derived from the Greek word παράλλαξις (parallaxis), meaning “alteration”. [1]


Point of attention – where the viewer looks and why they might look there. Movement and brightness are what the eyes are drawn to. The viewer’s attention will move within a shot and also from shot to shot.

Rhythm. We can only discern a rhythm between its silence and a beat. Its that repetition that allows us to identify it is a pattern and tempo allows us to tell the changes to that rhythm.

How things enter and exit the frame, moving in front of each other, changing direction, starting and stopping.

Every frame a painting – Akira Kurosawa : Composing movement

When you’re judging a shot what’s the first thing you look for? Movement! Shots have visual interest with the weather elements that Kurosawa uses in most of his shots.Even with a still subject the frame is still visually interesting with the movement of rain or snow, etc. Kurosawa using individual movement in a bit of an exaggerated style. Every camera move has a very clear beginning, middle, and end. Kurosawa cuts on movement – the audience is focused on movement and the rhythm is changed to keep them guessing.

When animating a character, how are they feeling? Can movement help to convey that to the audience. What about other objects in the frame, how can their movement enhance the shot? For kurosawa lots of variation and subtlety is key, matching the right motion with the emotion can lead to some amazing cinema.

George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola all called Akira Kurosawa “The Master.” [2]

I was reading a random blog (it’s in my references) about Kurosawa and came across this video of the man himself giving advice to aspiring filmmakers:

He says if you want to make films – write screenplays. You only need a pencil and paper. It is not easy though, and takes hard work. Patience is essential (even more so for animators imo!) You cant create something nothing – you must have something inside yourself -so live and experience and read and explore.

I suppose when you are writing a screenplay you must considers all the different elements of the piece and what will work and write it down – you must create that world and put yourself in it – and the more you do it the more realistic the world will appear to the audience and yourself.


 Wes Anderson – Mise en scene and the visual themes of wes anderson

What it adds up to be is always sort of a surprise, you know, even if you planned every thing, when you add it up it’s never what you quite expected because you never could quite fully picture it. -Wes Anderson

I think here Wes Anderson is talking about how he worries about all the smaller elements, he knows those elements and what is needed/ what eh wants, but its very difficult to imagine all those components and how they will work – he knows that they will work.


Wes Anderson goes on to say he is drawn to long takes – seeing the actors play the scene through – not having cuts, like the theatre, it creates a tension and excitement. He uses a flat look to create a sort of storybook feeling, almost a theatre set look in his movies.

Wes actually made an animated movie adaptation of the Roald dahl book – Fantastic Mr Fox. And btw its brilliant! It seems that Wes is turning his attention back to animation with an upcoming film about dogs! From imdb it is starring Bryan Cranston (malcolm in the middle, breaking bad), Edward Norton (Fight Club, American history X ), Bill Murray (Groundhog day, Zombieland) and Jeff Goldblum (independence day, Jurassic park). [3 & 4] So get hype people!



1a-“Parallax”. Oxford English Dictionary (Second ed.). 1989. Astron. Apparent displacement, or difference in the apparent position, of an object, caused by actual change (or difference) of position of the point of observation; spec. the angular amount of such displacement or difference of position, being the angle contained between the two straight lines drawn to the object from the two different points of view, and constituting a measure of the distance of the object.





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