Onto the Big Screen

We’re finally moving on from dealing with solely photos to working with video! For class we read an article by Herbert Zettl titled, “The Two Dimensional Field: Forces Within the Screen”. It was a good introduction into the topic of video.

Zettl discusses what he believes to be the “six major types of field forces” in video. These six forces are as follows:

1.) main directions

2.) magnetism of the frame and attraction of mass

3.) asymmetry of the frame

4.) figure and ground

5.) psychological closure

6.) vectors

The most basic element, which I believe to be the most important, is the main directions of video footage. By this he means whether a scene is shot horizontally or vertically. As we all know from watching television, YouTube, Netflix, or whatever it is we are all watching our favorite shows on these days, most footage is filmed horizontally. Zettl says this is because horizontal scenes “are in keeping with this new attitude of glorifying the human spirit,” which was introduced to us in the 1400’s during the Renaissance (102).

An example of this horizontal footage and its wide use in television is pretty much any interview you see on a talk show or morning news program. Here is a still shot from the LIVE with Kelly & Michael daily talk show:



It’s in our nature to view horizontal video footage as the norm. An excerpt from Zettl’s article illustrates this further:

“Our sense of vertical and horizontal accuracy is so keen that we can, for example, judge whether a picture hangs straight or crooked with uncanny precision even without the aid of a level” (103).

Sometimes tilting an image can be beneficial, however. For example a high-energy video or photo can be made appear to have even more energy when tilted. The best example Zettl uses is the image of a rock concert:

“There is no video of a rock concert that does not have the horizon tilt at least a dozen times. Because this adds intensity to the already high-emery scene, such an aesthetic device is usually justified” (104).

Take the photo below, for instance:



When it comes to the magnetism of a frame, Zettl discusses “graphic mass”. Images with a larger graphic mass tend to have “highly saturated colors” and they also have a greater “graphic weight” (109). Hence, the greater the graphs mass, the more power and image or video will have. 

The last thing I want to make note of in Zettl’s article is screen-left and screen-right symmetry. Zettl says, “even if the screen is not divided symmetrically, we tend to pay more attention to the right rather than left side” (110). I notice this in myself when watching movie, reading a magazine, or looking at an advertisement. Zettl concludes by saying “if you have a choice you should place the more important event on the right side of the screen” (111).

Questions to Ponder:

1) Do you notice advertisements or billboards placing more important information on the right side?

2) What do you think the most important part of shooting a video is?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s