Video Space


Sometimes, we feel that watching a video screen is like looking through a window - we are simply observers of what is happening "out there". But the world we see on a television or a movie screen is not the same as our world. Video space is very different than real space. It can be manipulated to suit the needs of the video maker and show the viewer an alternate reality. By the end of this unit, you will be able to:
  • Explain the Four Laws of Video Space and demonstrate how you can use those laws to create the image you want.
  • Demonstrate how "framing" or "framing off" can change the perspective of your viewer.
  • Consider the use of the Z axis in creating a sense of movement and depth.



Four Laws of Video Space:

  1. What is outside the frame does not exist unless it is implied.
  2. Height and breadth are determined by the frame and depth is only an illusion.
  3. Size, position, distance, relationship, and movement are not fixed.
  4. Direction is determined solely by the frame.



1. What is outside the frame does not exist unless it is implied.

When you film, you choose what your camera shows. The viewer only sees what you choose to show. When you see this man standing alone in a forest...

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... you don't see what the camera operator chose to "frame off". Framing off means to exclude something from the image by ensuring that it does not show in the camera. This man could be standing in a public park or next to a busy road but, because those details are "framed off", he appears to be alone in the woods.

You can refer to something off screen by implying it's existence. The image we see might be a man alone in the woods, but if we hear traffic rushing by we know he is near a road. Even if we can't *see* the road, we can still *hear* it. The cars are outside the frame but they still exist to the viewer because they are implied by the sounds they make.

2. Height and breadth are determined by the frame and depth is only an illusion.

When you are looking at a video on a screen it is a two dimensional screen. When things are smaller, we perceive them to be farther away. When things are larger, we perceive them to be closer. The girl in green is larger and so we know she is closer to us. The woman in blue is smaller so, normally, we would know she is farther away. However, because of the way she is positioned, it creates the illusion that she is standing on the girl's hand.

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We can also use our cameras to create illusions about what is up and what is down.
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(Click on the image above or scroll to the bottom of the page to see this picture as it was photographed.)


3. Size, position, distance, relationship, and movement are not fixed.


When your camera is set to a neutral position things appear in the same proportion as they do in real life. When you zoom the image becomes compressed - this means that things in the background appear closer than they really are.

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In this first picture, we can see that the glass of milk is close to us and the barn is much farther away.
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In this second picture the camera is moved farther back but then zooms in. The glass of milk looks the same to us but we can see that the barn appears closer.
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In this third picture the camera is moved farther away again but zooms way in. The milk still looks the same but the barn now appears to be quite close.
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You can use this distortion of space to create effects. Adjusting the distance of the camera and the zoom simultaneously is called "contra zooming" or "The Hitchcock Effect".




















4. Direction is determined solely by the frame.

When we watch video we see motion moving across the screen from either left to right, or right to left. How they move in real life may be very different. You may film a scene in several different locations moving in many different directions. On screen, however, the viewer will only know whether the movement moves left to right or right to left. Which way is up? Which directions is gravity pulling from? All of these factors are controlled by the camera operator.









These guys have lots of video tutorials involving different techniques. Explore some of their tutorials for more ideas on effects to try.










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boys by river