Visual Storytelling

Our task is to create a scene which has a narrative, although we already agreed on our overall theme of a bar brawl, I wanted to have a look at how we can ensure this narrative is obvious. Therefore, I looked into how this is created in film.


Human beings are unique creatures in the way that we are able to process information to create a story or narrative. Each day we are bombarded with the images we see; places people. But, in film, it is the manipulation of these images from information into a story.

Screenwriter Bill Wittliff, who wrote “The Perfect Storm” and “Legends of the Fall,” once said: “You do not want to explain to the audience, because that makes them observers. You want to reveal to them little by little, and that makes them participants, because then they experience the story in the same way the characters experience it.” 

That proves what this story telling it about- no words, telling the story solely through images. However, visual story telling does not just really on the eyes to guide us. It requires all 5 senses to aid the story itself- as we visualise and identify what is going on.

To create this, we have 4 main tools to use; Framing, Lighting, Camera Movement, and Editing.


Director Martin Scorsese-“Cinema is a matter of what is in the frame, and what is out.”

This is the most basic visual information that a director shows- what is in the frame and what is out. The artistic freedom creates the mood that is needed. For example; a tight framed shot can give the sense of mystery through confinement whereas a widely framed shot gives the feel of freedom.

Lighting (this may not apply in our current scene but it will later on)

A crucial element in visual storytelling, what is lit and not lit has a decision as to why. Lighting can create stark, contrast and shadows that can reveal the psychology of a character or even the genre of film. Lighting can force the audience to focus on whatever detail the filmmaker wants them to see. Colored light can indicate a character’s mood, the time of day, or even the theme of the film.

Camera Movement

The process of camera movement can change the tone drastically in film. Pans/tilts can give control of information reveal, creating mystery and building tension. Using a dolly to push in on a subject gives a more intimate feel. The point is to get the audience to be in the film, as if they are part of the story.


Visual storytelling does not end after a film wraps up. The editor must piece together the bits of video in an order that makes sense, responsible for how the story is conveyed to audiences. Most films are shot out of order, beginning with a scene from the end, then going back and working forward. The editor, along with the director, must know how all the parts fit together, and how they fit together in a way that serves the story best. The editing also effects the pacing of the story; the choices can do things like cause tension within the scene or building suspense or excitement, or reveal information to the viewer. (Medium, 2016).

Hitchcock talking about cutting in editing. (YouTube, 2016).

I found the video (below) also very useful when discussing visual storytelling. It talked about an effect called the Kuleshov Effect.

Visual storytelling. (YouTube, 2016).

The Kuleshov Effect

Russian film maker Lev Kuleshov (1899-1970) conducted the below experiment with audience members.

Watch the video and try the experiment. (YouTube, 2016).

He placed the same shot of a well known actor, cutting to slips of soup, a woman etc. Audiences in 1921 identified the expression of the actor as hungry, lustful etc despite the shot showing the same, bored looking face.

What does this actually mean, you ask? It shows that in film, the tone and meaning can both be controlled. This is based on two things; the material itself and the series in which the shots are sequenced and organised. They can be manipulated to create new meanings. Tell new stories.

Kuleshov effect explained by Hitchcock. (YouTube, 2016).


YouTube. (2016). Visual storytelling in film. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2016].

Medium. (2016). Visual Storytelling in Film and Television. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). Hitchcock explains about CUTTING. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). Kuleshov Effect / Effetto Kuleshov. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). El efecto Kuleshov explicado por Alfred Hitchcock. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2016].


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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