Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: The Visual Story

The Visual Story, Second Edition: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media, is written by Bruce Block. Though it had a quite attractive cover, I found the book disappointing.

One thing that is problematic is the media itself: it is hard to describe how to create a visually interesting moving picture with text and still photos. It is not something particular to this book, it is just a general problem. What I found surprising was the feeling that the author did not see this problem. The book was vastly populated with boxes with arrows, fields and lines showing camera moves and disposition of the frame, without really catching the fact that the film is a moving image. As a matter of fact, it was even unappealing.

There were several valuable tips about use of color, shadows, focus and placement of actors and items to build up an intriguing image, so the useful information was not missing. At least not for still photos.

Another thing that made me confused was the mixed level of the assumed reader. The book starts at the very basic - you could easily read this book without any experience about holding a camera when it comes to composition. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Just the same there are quick comments about lenses and camera settings rushed through in a way that made me think that if I had a clue what those terms were, I would not need this book. If a reader knows when to switch lenses, then he or she will likely know the basics about composing an image as well.

Who am I to read this book then? The title "visual story" and "visual structure" appealed to me, since I'm doing a graphic novel, love animations and somewhere have a hope of doing one myself one day. I felt that even if I will not hold a traditional camera, the visual story and its structure will be the same.

The author takes us through chapters about contrasts, space, shapes, tone, color, movements and rhythm. All useful things. I found them too basic, and as I said, I missed the feeling of how to use it in a moving image. Not even the chapter about movements added much about this.

There were lists with films to watch, but it had been far more interesting to have moving and commented examples on a disc sent along with the book. The theories in this book will only come alive if you get a chance to see, and not only read, what it is all about.