Low-Level Features of Film: What They Are and Why We Would Be Lost Without Them

James E. Cutting, & Jordan E. DeLong Kaitlin L. Brunick

in Psychocinematics

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9780199862139
Published online May 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199332755 | DOI:
Low-Level Features of Film: What They Are and Why We Would Be Lost Without Them

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Film theorists have historically examined narrative as the primary influence on the viewer’s experience of a film; however, the growing trend in the cognitive study of film is the study of quantifiable variables and their effect on the viewer experience. This chapter examines research on five of the low-level features present within film: shot duration, shot structure, luminance, visual activity and color. Shot duration has meaningfully decreased with implications for visual momentum. Filmmakers use shot structure (the relative positioning of a shot with a particular duration to other shots within the film) to cater to shifts in viewers’ attention to the film. On-screen activity is examined with regard to how viewers perceive tempo, shifts in time and space, and genre. Like activity, luminance affects viewer perception of the genre of a film, as well as within-film understanding of event boundaries. Color also assists in viewer perception of spatiotemporal shifts. The research in this chapter eschews the traditional view that low-level features are simply an artifact of the narrative; instead, it is unlikely that viewers would be able to fully understand or attend to the narrative without strategic use of low-level features by filmmakers.

Keywords: perception; attention; shot duration; shot structure; luminance; color; movement; events; low-level; segmentation

Chapter.  8258 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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