Whether you’re developing a corporate or commercial video production or a feature film, every single shot should support or enhance the mood and tone of your project.
And make no mistake, there are a lot of ways to use the camera to help convey emotion, whether it’s through the angle you use, the frame composition, the distance, etc.
But take it from us as longtime NY and NJ film and video production experts, you need to have an idea of the effect that different angles, distances, movements, etc., will have on the viewer before making properly motivated decisions.
So, let’s go over the basics of conveying and/or enhancing mood and emotion with the use of cinematography so that your next film or video project won’t just look good, but will also support the overall objective of the project at every level.
Frame Composition and Background
First off, you don’t need to be a NY / NJ video production expert to know that where you choose to put the camera and what you choose to place in the frame are artistic choices in themselves and should be treated as such.
In corporate video production particularly, many videomakers choose to go with a subtly colored background to reduce distractions, and while that approach has some merit, with some thought and effort, your backgrounds can do a whole lot more.
You can control the emotion or mood of the scene by where you choose to compose the shot and you can use the mise en scène to give viewers additional information about the subject.
Even the subtlest of clues, which may not say all that much to the viewer at first, can help to beef up your characters and the viewers’ understanding of them as you continue to tell your story. And remember, empty spaces carry meaning too.
You can also use symmetry in your framing, or the lack thereof, to clue the viewer in on the mood or context of the scene. Many film and videomakers adhere to the rule of thirds, which suggests splitting the frame into three vertical and three horizontal sections and then placing subjects or other important elements at the intersections.
Whether you use the rule of thirds, keep things perfectly symmetrical, or go your own way with it, the point is that you can give viewers a sense of balance or, conversely, a sense of imbalance, depending on what’s happening in the scene.
You can also convey mood and emotion to the audience through the distance you place between the subject and the camera. Close-ups are commonly used to show a character express emotion because they allow viewers to form a close attachment to the subject.
On the other hand, wide shots are commonly used to establish space, but they can also be used to give viewers a sense of where the character in the scene stands relative to that space.
For instance, in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece The Conformist, the legendary director used wide shots to convey how fascist architecture was made to make people feel smaller or somewhat helpless.
You can also use changes in distance, mid-shot, to tell the audience something about your characters and/or their relationships.
If a subject starts relatively far away from the camera but then moves into a close-up or if the subject moves away from another subject mid-shot, that can say a lot about the characters’ inner states and/or their relationships with each other or with the space around them.
There’s a reason you become disoriented from certain angles in films and videos, and you can use that effect to support or enhance the emotions in your films or videos as well.
Low angle shots can lend subjects a towering, even sinister look and tend to work well when trying to empower the subject or designate him or her as an antagonist or evil figure.
High angle shots, on the other hand, make the subject seem weak or vulnerable, and eye level keeps things equal.
So, trust us as veteran NJ and NY video production pros, you should choose your angles for a reason rather than simply the look because they do, in fact, convey different emotions.
Another way to clue the audience in on the emotion or mood you’re going for in your film or video production is through camera movement.
If movement makes sense, you may need a steadicam to limit the inherent shakiness, unless you’re working on a project in which the unsettling feeling that handheld movement results in fits, like The Blair Witch Project for example.
Also, just as characters changing distances mid-shot can tell the viewer something about their inner states and relationships with each other or with the space around them, the same goes for the camera moving to different distances mid-shot.
If you move in and drop down on a subject with a crane shot, for example, the viewer will feel like they’re entering the character’s space or mind frame. If you start close and then pull away, the viewer will get a feeling of how vulnerable the character is or how large the obstacle he/she is facing is.
A quick push-in will have a jarring, somewhat shocking effect, whereas a slow dolly-in creates tension and brings the viewer in closer to the character’s inner state.
You can also dolly or tilt to reveal a change of emotion mid-shot, if that serves the scene, or if you want to give the viewer an otherworldly, almost dizzying feeling, a dolly-zoom works great.
Think of all these factors as tools and weapons in your arsenal.
You can use color and the depth of field in your cinematography to help convey or enhance mood or emotion as well.
The bottom line is, you need to make motivated decisions when it comes to the camerawork on your film or video projects and, in order to do that, you need to have a firm understanding of the effects that different compositions, distances, angles, movements, etc., will have on viewers.
That’s why you may need to enlist some help when it comes to film and video production, but however you do it, remember, these kinds of cinematic devices and tools are too important to ignore, and if used incorrectly, they can detract from the mood or emotion you’re trying to convey.
About Us: KVibe Productions, a longtime leader in NJ / NY video production, can handle every aspect of the production process. Whether it’s a corporate video, a commercial, or a feature film, at KVibe, we create to inspire.