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  • Writer's pictureIbrahim Er

Decoding the Subconscious: How Cinematography Influences Perception


The art of filmmaking is a symphony of decisions, each meticulously chosen to guide a viewer's emotion, cognition, and, ultimately, their understanding of the narrative. While dialogue, acting, and plot structure play significant roles, there's an under-explored domain that subtly crafts our movie-watching experience: cinematography. Let's dive deep into the subconscious effects of cinematography on audience perception.

Director framing a shot with a cinema camera on set.
Director and his cinema camera

1. The Power of Color: Beyond Aesthetics

Emotion Through Color: It's widely known that colors evoke emotions. For instance, blue can be calming while red can signal danger or passion. Filmmakers, like painters, use color palettes to set the tone and mood of a scene, guiding the audience's emotional response.

Memory and Color: Recent studies suggest that specific color tones can either enhance or diminish our ability to recall scenes. Ever wondered why certain movie moments stick? The color palette might be a significant factor.

2. The Rule of Thirds: Guiding Gaze and Focus

By dividing the frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, filmmakers can emphasize or de-emphasize characters, objects, and backgrounds. This principle doesn't just make scenes aesthetically pleasing; it subtly directs viewer focus, determining what they consider important or secondary in a scene.

3. Depth of Field: Crafting Consciousness and Subconsciousness

A shallow depth of field, where only the subject is in focus while the background is blurred, can simulate human vision and attention. It draws viewers into a character's personal space or mindset. On the other hand, a deep depth of field, where both the foreground and background are in focus, offers a more objective, detached view.

4. The Subtlety of Transitions: Time, Memory, and Association

Consider the fade, dissolve, and match cut. These transitions aren't just about moving from one scene to the next; they're powerful tools that can depict the passage of time, draw parallels, evoke memories, or establish associations.

5. Camera Movements: Mirroring Emotions

A shaky, handheld shot can communicate urgency, instability, or rawness. In contrast, smooth tracking shots might provide a feeling of stability, continuity, or flow. These movements aren't mere technical decisions but carefully chosen methods to mirror and evoke specific emotional responses.

Conclusion: The Unconscious Impact of Cinematography

As viewers, we often absorb films at face value, engrossed in the storyline. Yet, beneath the surface, a world of carefully crafted cinematographic decisions are at play, influencing our emotions, perceptions, and memories in profound ways. By appreciating the depth and intention behind these choices, we not only enhance our viewing experience but also recognize the power and magic of cinema.

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