Post post mortem I present the shot that inspires the shot. I concepted my shot for the Belisaere project to be a vista of the palace road from the top of the aqueduct, showing the expanse of the city the archers can survey from atop and the sheer size of the palace on the hill.
Then I considered where I had subconsciously picked this up from, and came to some kind of approximation I could draw elements from to get the shot framed just right from the establishing shot of Minas Tirith in ‘Return of the King’.
Lord of the Rings is king among high fantasy, it contains tropes and overarching themes that translate well to almost every fantastic setting. So what makes this shot so well composed, and how can I apply that to my own? Let’s begin with the obvious.
Colour and Tone
A rather obvious example in this case but it does fit well with what I ultimately want in an inverted sense. Minas Tirith and Gandalf are our two standout points of interest in the scene. Gondor is under a blanket of shadow being cast from Mordor, our source of evil just off screen. To contrast this, the city is cutting through the gloom in a like a literal blade, the only true white in the image being caught from the white of the stone and the white of Gandalf’s robes. The light itself has no direct source, vaguely blooming from the upper right of the shot in such a way that it’s almost being cast by the city itself.
The importance of this is the symbolic value of white as representative of purity, goodness and safety. Light itself is associated too with the same values. From this we can infer without even knowing who and what the scene is depicting that we are viewing a bastion of the ‘good’ is a shadowy world, and it’s champion.
In my own scene I can turn this around a bit. The city and palace in shot is controlled by the undead and therefore strong use of shadow within the scene can imply their control, a dark bastion to the hostile force.
Figure to Ground
This is the concept that you can create a strong sense of scale and importance within the composition of the image by having a human figure placed strategically within the shot. In the Minas Tirith shot Gandalf is our figure, and together with the mountains in the background creates a grand sense of scale from the city, as well as the distance that still lays between the two.
Not too much to clarify there, I have a lone figure in almost the same position as Gandalf, a huge structure in the distance and a standard sized mid-ground object (the houses) for a sense of distant scale.
Leading lines don’t actually have to be a line as such. In the Minas Tirith scene the leading lines are the slopes of the mountains, the turrets at the base of the city, even the mud on the planes and the blades of grass are all directing the eye to the centerpiece of the city.
In my scene the leading lines direct towards the palace. The walls, the peninsula, the slope of the buildings and the kings road all direct the eye to the palace, the ominous centerpiece.
Simply from an aesthetic and framing point the still final positions the shots come to rest upon the correct positions for the rule of thirds, major points of interest landing at third quadrants if the image were divided.
Overall the Minas Tirith shot creates a grand scale scene which immediately paints a world with good and evil struggling for dominance. By effectively using the elements listed in this analysis I can hope to achieve similar themes in my own shot (or that I have).
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Creating and Using Leading Lines. (2014). Photography Life. Retrieved 28 August 2016, from https://photographylife.com/creating-and-using-leading-lines
How to Analyse Movies #2: Signs, Codes & Conventions. (2013). Film Inquiry. Retrieved 28 August 2016, from http://www.filminquiry.com/analyse-movies-signs/
Static and Dynamic Composition, Lead Room, Rule of Thirds | Elements of Film Photography. (2016). Elementsofcinema.com. Retrieved 28 August 2016, from http://www.elementsofcinema.com/cinematography/composition.html