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"Strech out with your feelings" Part I

Among all the things that really stick to my brain when thinking "visual storytelling", "cinematic" or "filmic", I can only jump to a single word: composition.

Now, with all that's being written in books or said in interviews by our admired film masters, it's clear that composition isn't merely a technical execution or even a process limited to image framing, as far as film is concerned, composition is the craft itself, composition is cinema, and once understood as a layering process of narrative and visual decisions does this statement begin to make sense.

I will go over some the elements that come to mind when strategizing a compositional approach to my projects, these are a combination of ongoing researched and learned principles and theories that date back to my first digital photography workshop about 8 years ago. So I would expect it to be still a work in progress.

Throughout this section, I will mention and cite some of the mentors I've had over the years, their work and their research, particularly from a cinematographer called Rafael Marziano, whose careful insights and research into composition helped give a sense of direction to my work process.

First things first, if composition is a layered procedure of choices, how to we start talking about image composition in film? Well, there are two elements to consider, Temporal and Spatial composition.

Film, to me, is the perfect marriage between the performing and the pictorial arts, and it should be obvious to assume that the idea of narrative is present in both, unexclusively. So we will consider film as an inverse pyramid, where the tip, and the smallest constructing element becomes, in all obviousness, the image frame. The photograph.

This singular image frame might contain choices of lighting, character placement, angle of view, lens, focus, depth of field and image proportion or aspect ratio. Once it becomes 24 frames a second, and over a long enough running time it will become a shot.

This singular shot might contain choices of camera movement and changes in focus. All adjusting to a controlled or spontaneous change in character movement or shift in mood or performance.

It so happens that this shot will be juxtaposed with a similar or dissimilar shot, and through match cuts, transitions and overall editing, these shots will layer and become scenes. Scenes that will cause specific reactions on the viewer according to genre and theme.

These scenes, once organized will become part of a larger narrative construct that will serve the purpose of keeping a viewer engaged, invested and eager to complete the story. And story, for that matter requires a layered understanding of character arc and character development, so these scenes will add up and become sequences.

And finally, once organized into a timeline adhered to what some consider and understand as Acts, we finally have the final combination that will be welcomed as the final Film, the cinematic piece.

So, essentially, composition is but a layering of specific elements in order to build an aesthetic piece, pertinent to its place in the narrative structure, it merely changes its considerations when dealing with either temporal or spatial compositions.

A visual storyteller, cannot expect to successfully compose a beautiful film frame without being mindful of its place in the overall construct, the film as a whole.

And so, with all being said, from my experience but mainly drive as and aspiring cinematographer or director(hopefully) I will cover my learned elements for Spatial Composition, and progress to a image-maker's take on temporal composition the next chapter, of course. My fingers are numb from all this phone typing while on a subway ride.

Maybe I need some form of social life...

...or a life, for that matter.


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