Monday, 22 July 2013

The Visual Story by Bruce Block

It is great book about visual and story structure. I really enjoyed that book because it made some things about visual (story) structure clear than I had been thinking about it before.

Some notions from the book:
Pictures can be broken into three building blocks:
- Story: building blocks of plot, character, and dialogue
- Sound: building blocks of dialogue, sound effects, and music
- Visuals: building blocks for all visuals are the basic visual components

The basic visual components are space, line, tone, colour, movement, and rhythm. Every visual component can be described and used in terms of Contrast & Affinity.
Contrast = Greater Visual Intensity
Affinity = Less Visual Intensity

Here are greatly explained perspective elements, space and composition. Terms like Flat Space, Camera movement, Textural Diffusion, Aerial Diffusion, Depth clues,  Limited Space (Background, Middle ground, Foreground), Ambiguous space are explained by illustrations and pictures. I have never noticed such as thing like surface divider. Contrast & Affinity is used in Witness (1985) - contrast between the rural Amish community (flat space) and the urban police (deep space).

Other visual elements are also greatly explained but were described in the course before. Bruce offers great films as examples of all components at the end of every chapter.

A story is here described by three basic parts:
- Exposition (beginning)
- Conflict (middle)
- Resolution (end)

Conflict and Climax:
Conflict can be internal (emotional struggle) or external (physical situation). A story conflict can be both internal or external. The Climax is the most intense part of a conflict. At the climax, the main character must choose a path and win or lose. The internal or external conflict must end.

The resolution provides a place for the story to finish.

There is explained The Story Structure Graph and as a example is used Hitchcock's North by Nortwest. There is a Story Sequence List which helped me to understand that there can be Exposition part after a Conflict and a Conflict can be at the beginning of a story. Resolution of that film is only 20 second long at the end of the film e.g.

The point-of-view created by the writer is a critical element of the story, because it's the main clue to choosing the visuals components.

Choosing components
The picture maker can select visual components that best communicate that point-of-view. FOur methods are instinctual, arbitrary, researched, and analytic choices.
To choose visual components, begin by answering these question:
- What is the story about?
- What is the point-of-view?
- Where is the story's location?

An example of Touch of Evil (1958)
1. Story: An honest cop uncovers corruption in a small town
2. Point-of-view: The unlikable characters (except for the cop), the location, and the situations are sinister, grimy, corrupt, and dangerous.
3. Story Location: A seedy little border town between Mexico and The United States.

Space: The entire film be deep space, making visuals dramatic and imposing. Deep space stands for the town's widespread corrupt activity.

Line and Shape: A wide range of lines and shapes will be used to give the movie visual variety. Shape differences will be emphasized, such as curved arches in contrast to rectangular doors and windows.

Tone: Every shot will exploit dark, dramatic shadows and tonal contrasts.

Movement: To increase the sense of deep space, the camera will crane and dolly, and the actors will move perpendicular to the picture plane.

Rhythm: The visual rhythms of the compositions and the editing will have as much contrast from sequence to sequence as possible. Some scenes will be filmed in a single continuous take, and others will be highly fragmented  . The idea is to add visual variety and strong visual intensity to each sequence.


  1. If u give download link then it will be more like it. Thanks for info :)

    1. or you can download into iPad. I have both versions.