Why I love math! Visual storytelling is fun!
So many people ask me what I studied as an undergraduate while at Clemson. Yes…this creative person has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics…YES. I also studied statistics and art and architectural history. How in the world did I end up doing creative work telling visual stories. Hmm. If you sit back and think about it for a second…math, art, architecture, and even philosophy are interrelated. I also have a Master of Arts in Professional Communications where I studied audience analysis, usability testing methodologies, and classical rhetoric. This all plays together…in some twisted far off universe called Bobby’s world!
I am a visual storyteller. When I pull out the camera, I assess the audience. When I look through the viewfinder, I look at the screen in proportions. The eye is attracted to perfect numbers. That is why you see cathedrals using the rule of thirds and even sevens. The screen to me is divided into thirds where this “theatre” allows the eye to flow naturally top to bottom, left to right (in the western culture). If what is on the screen is not appealing to the eye and the senses, then you have lost the first battle in engaging the audience. I try to avoid centering the main focus of the screen, I try to either left or right justify. I also like to edit shots together in sequences of thirds so that the cadence reflects the natural tendency to think in thirds.
A visual storyteller uses sound. When I pull out the expensive camera, I use the expensive microphones and headphones. I like to “shoot for sound”. When I am acquiring an image, I am listening to my surroundings looking for the opportunity for the sound to enhance the image. When I am “shooting” a waterfall, I want the microphone to get as close as possible to the waterfall to capture that crisp image. Then I like to edit these sounds together in a cadence of some logical sense. Sometimes with quick actions, I will edit a sequence together using sound in a series of threes. In order to have an effective sequence for the audience to follow, the sound must be crisp. ***Rule of thumb, if editing together a sequence does not work visually, use some type of sound during the point of the visual edit to distract the eye.
When I create a video, I want to create a visual experience. I want you to forget that the editing process has happened and you are guided through this little documentary. Using proportional shots with sound editing provides a clear path to engage the audience. People want stories, people want an experience, people want rich media…but this media can only be acquired by the audience only if you can make them forget they no longer have their peripheral vision. Think of the best movie you have seen in the theatre. If you are really enjoying the movie, you forget your surroundings. Your peripheral vision has been “forgotten” for that brief period. You have engaged with the story-line. What made it go away?
You only have one shot to engage today’s audience. User-Centered Design tells us that audiences are jumping through online content faster than the synapses in our brain can tell us to click somewhere else. What allows the audience to engage with that piece of rich media. What makes our bounce rate go down? We have only one shot, just one shot to get it right. People will click away. So we have to create media with the same creative fashion we create beautiful pieces of fine art. We have to use the knowledge we have of the human eye and senses. We know the eye likes warm images, images that keep you from looking away. Fine proportions and and clean images that seem so natural to be unnatural. We have to use rich sounds that feel crisp enough to flow right next to us in our seats. We have to edit in a parameter that lends to a cadence that appeals to the visual cues the eyes and ears desire.
Using math is fun. Creating rhythm is fun. Telling a story is fun.
FYI…if you want to learn more about how engineers and mathematicians came up with 16×9 widescreen television, here is an article: CLICK HERE.
Yes, yes, yes!
If I may add one more quick tip. Detail.
A key marker in creative writing is description; the writer tries to form mental images with words. The images are already in place with video, but you have to show the detail.
The visual of a flower is much different when a lens is pressed against its petals versus standing three feet away. Establish your scene with the wider shot first. Then provide the detail with tight, detailed imagery. Avoid zooming with your lens in order to achieve such shots, zoom with your feet.
Speaking of zooming, stay away from it on and off camera, always. Establish the shot –> Record for seven seconds –> Stop –> Move –> Repeat
Great article, Bobby.
I love it when photojournalists get in a room and talk about their passion of telling a story! It is so much fun.
The ole Mark Anderson way to describe this exercise: Wide/Medium/Tight/Super Tight/Get The Moment/Shoot & Move