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Character introductions are one of the fundamental skills needed in storytelling. Every story is made up of characters, and how you choose to introduce them in your films can say a lot about who they are. Putting thought into how the characters are portrayed in their introductions will shape how the audience sees them for the rest of the film. Today, director of photography Andrew Kowalski teaches us three different ways to introduce your action / adventure character, using creative techniques from your favorite franchises.
In this video, Andrew shows us three different methods for introducing your character.
In our first setup, he uses a shadow of the character projected on a wall to show their recognizable shape without actually seeing them. In our second setup, he shows a character walk into focus similar to something you would see in a spy movie. In the third and last setup, he creates a generic hero reveal shot as the character comes storming through a door.
The main techniques that we will be discussing today are projecting shadows, silhouette lighting, and dynamic motion. Projecting shadows is when you place a point source light behind someone so that they make a shadow against a wall. The closer you bring the light to the subject, the larger the shadow will be. Silhouette lighting is when you have a strong backlight on a subject and no key or fill light. This will cause you to only see the black shape of the subject, without any detail on their body. Dynamic motions is when there is camera movement paired with a subject’s movement. In this case the character runs towards the camera while the camera moves forward towards the subject, creating heightened intensity.
At the end of the day, making stories is all about characters. How we show our characters will allow us to tell a lot about them without using any words. The first time we see them, or the moment we see them after a long absence, tells so much about the character and their place in the scene. Knowing how to be intentional about using light to tell something about your character will make your stories more impactful. Every character is different, but thinking about how you want your audience to see the character will greatly improve your storytelling ability.
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