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Vision: Color and Composition for Film by Hans Bacher

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Is from: Southold, US
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Sat 11-Jun-22 08:23 AM
Vision: Color and Composition for Film by Hans P. Bacher and Sanatan Suryavanshi

I’ve read several books about applying design principals to photographic composition in the last few months. I found them all useful, but I didn’t really feel they made a significant change in my approach. Then I read this book, and I instantly found I had a new pair of eyes.

Bacher has been responsible for film design of much praised movies, both animated and live action. The book consists of a little bit of text but mostly stylized sketches that resemble comic books. There are no images from actual movies. This format does away with the details in the drawings so that the reader’s attention is directed to the design elements being discussed. Most of the pictures involve just a few elements, in a limited number of colors and tones. The approach is rather traditional, beginning with a quick look at the psychology of images and then proceeding with a densely illustrated text going from line and shape and ending with a summarizing chapter on composition. Throughout, the emphasis on each of the tools and elements is the old Aristotelian idea that every element in the picture should be aimed at telling the story.

It might seem from the title and the form that the book would be aimed at animated films. One soon realizes that the same considerations that apply to cartoons also apply to live action movies (even documentaries), photographs, paintings, the stage- indeed any visual art where the arrangement of what is seen can tell the story. I use the word cartoon reluctantly because I don’t want to trivialize these illustrations, but I can’t find a better word. Boiling down the visual ideas to their simplest form drives home the ideas portrayed with incredible strength.

As I read and looked through this book, each page made an image in my current project and my entire past portfolio pop into mind. I could see how all of these images could be made more effective in telling the story I was trying to construct.

The more I read about the visual arts, the harder and harder it is for me to add the ideas to my mental construct. Then suddenly this book came along, and my ideas about composition were thrown into clearer perspective.

Approach the book with an open mind. Don’t try to put it into some niche. It may be that this format struck a chord that others will not hear. But, especially for more experienced photographers and videographers, this may provide an important clarity to composition.