These Cinematography Tutorials Will Help You Put Some Brains Behind Your Cinematic Choices
This 3-part tutorial series by Julian Melanson entitled Thought Experiments delves into the psychology of cinematography, namely how to speak to your audience through framing, camera movement, and editing. You can watch all three videos below:
Melanson's series gives quite a lot of information to digest, especially if you're new to cinematography and editing. In the first video, he talks about framing, and we've certainly talked at great length about aesthetic theories of composition. Probably the most important concept to understand when you're preparing to set up a shot is that all images have the potential to give off aesthetic energy; a value that can be raised or lowered based on your cinematographic decisions. Compositions that are sloppy -- too much head room, "outgrowth", inaccurate frame size -- will decrease the amount of aesthetic energy of your image (i.e. make it boring). Conversely, compositions that are well thought out and clean will increase the amount, making your images exciting and beautiful to look at.
Camera movement works the same way. Camera movement will increase aesthetic energy (as will subject movement). A slow pan, tilt, or slide can engage your viewer so much more than a static shot. That's not to say that every shot has to include camera movement; knowing what your scene needs to communicate will help you discern whether or not you even need camera movement. Remember: your cinematographic choices should never be arbitrary; they should always be motivated.
Finally, Melanson talks about basic concepts of editing in his third and final tutorial, like the Kuleshov Effect. This is the basis of editing as a storytelling technique, as explained by the contributors of the Soviet montage theory (Kuleshov, Pudovkin, and Eisenstein). Their theory expresses that editing itself -- two or more shots cut together -- can communicate ideas to an audience. Here's Kuleshov's original experiment to demonstrate this concept:
Eisenstein formed his own theory that focuses on 5 "methods" of editing, which help give meaning and motivation to each cut. For example, one method he mentions is "rhythmic" editing, which we see all the time in music videos when each cut is made to the beat of a song.
In the end, editing, just like framing and camera movement, has to be motivated. If you find yourself cutting a shot for no reason, then you might want to go back and figure out why you're making that cut.
Do you have any advice for making cinematographic decisions? Let us know down in the comments!