Film language and visualization

In this class you will look at the basic elements that are essential to each and every film, discussing issues related to creating an image correctly based on the principles of framing, narrative continuity and storytelling.

Over the course of the ten meetings, we will look at the various aspects that affect how film images are perceived, such as the field size, perspective, lens selection, and the choice of how to handle the camera, etc.

This course combines theoretical knowledge backed up with examples from well-known films to give you a full understanding of the issues covered, with the ultimate aim being to broaden your knowledge about shaping an image, and its impact on the film narrative, so that it is easier for you to put into practice.

How to imagine a film

This introduction to the class includes an explanation of the topics that will be featured in the lessons and their purpose. It contains an overview of some of the basic terms, such as 'action’ and 'drama’, and builds a glossary of terms that will come in useful throughout the course. There is also a section-by-section discussion of the basic elements of film language and visualization.


A summary of the theory surrounding image framing, it provides an overview of the issues involved in choosing the correct aspect ratio, and the impact that can have on how the film is received by the viewer. It also contains an introduction to the principles involved in constructing an image based on the different approaches to composition adopted in the visual arts, and considers their influence on the film’s narrative.

Field size

A lesson that expands on and systematizes our understanding of film shots, including their division into wide, medium and close-up shots, and establishing and emotional shots. It also contains a discussion of the dramatic values that are identified with specific shots.


An overview of the importance of perspective in film, and an introduction to the distinction between flat, linear (geometric), aerial and colour perspective. It explores the additional possibilities for shaping an image that come from changing the perspective from the camera to the protagonist’s perspective (POV), and other visual variants related to perspective that affect the narrative of the film.

Static camera

An overview of the possibilities for image shaping afforded by use of a static camera, it is also an introduction to the different types of camera settings and the possibilities they give for creating layers of meaning within a film. The lesson recaps the key information about film lenses, and summarizes their impact on the sense of space in an image and the associated possibilities for shaping the narrative.

Dynamic camera

An overview of the different types of camera movements that are possible in a film, and the tools and mechanisms required to implement them. The lesson describes how these camera movements are divided into three types: the rotation of the camera around its axis, the camera placed on a moving object, and transfocation. That is followed by an analysis of the dramatic possibilities afforded by all these types of camera movement, with a look also at the various pros and cons of using a moving camera.

Axis of action

A description of the axis of action as a narrative and editing tool, it also gives an overview of the different options for setting up the camera based on that axis. It provides an introduction to the different types of the triangle principle, and their visual representation, as well as an analysis of the impact of the axis of action on the way the viewer interprets the space. Finally, it reviews the difficulties connected with breaking the axis of action during shooting.

Two-shot and three-shot scenes

An overview of the importance of two- and three-shot scenes in a film, this lesson analyses these scenes using selected examples. It provides an introduction to the various ways actors can be set up for two- and three-character scenes, and explains the importance of the 'attention arbiter’ in scenes with three characters. It gives a narrative analysis of two- and three-character scenes based on the patterns learnt, and highlights the opportunities and risks that can arise when creating these types of scenes.

Scenes with four actors or more, and group scenes

A lesson that looks at the ways of handling the camera in multi-character scenes, and which illustrates the narrative difficulties associated with choosing this type of scene. It provides an analysis of scenes with four actors, based on the patterns of two- and three-actor scenes, as well as an overview of the importance of the direction of a character’s gaze in large scenes with multiple actors. Finally, it highlights examples of group scenes filmed correctly, analysing them in terms of the camerawork and dramatic effect.

Lens selection

An introduction to the basic classification of film lenses, with a look at the visual capabilities of each type of lens. It analyses the scale of the space and image distortion in relation to the use of different optics, and discusses cinematographic visual effects such as glare, lens flare and bokeh. The lesson ends with an explanation of the differences between spherical and anamorphic lenses.