The Difference Between Artificial and Primal Control in Film Composition
Understand the Difference Between Artificial and Primal Control in Film Composition
It’s not the first time that we talk about composition on the site, or that a video essay is made on the topic, but I really enjoyed Lewis Bond‘s video on composition in storytelling as it talks about a variety of ideas related to composition, including its evolution through time, as opposed to a micro treatment of one aspect.
Bond asks the question What can we say with composition?. As he explains, composition is the skill of knowing what to show and what not to show. How to show and how not to show it.
Through his video essay, Bonds also demonstrates how filmmakers can use composition to achieve artificial control and primal control.
Artificial control is the control you have through the image’s aesthetic. It’s the first layer of composition, the one everybody will think about. Where to place the different characters and elements within a frame so it reads. Where you place your elements to guide the viewer’s eyes and make sure they look at what is important.
Primal control is about where the power dynamics lies within a scene. Primal control is about subtext. It’s not only achieving a clear and/or pleasing aesthetic but also about telling the story with finesse. Showing who or what has the power during a scene through placement, size and scale.
The video offers plenty of food for thoughts, but also a wide variety of examples of great composition that use artificial and/or primal control to advance storytelling. The trick being: now that we all know the codes of storytelling so well, that our eyes are trained to find what to look at, and even capture what lies in the background, in the corners and hear the sound design, what can you do to use composition to push your storytelling forward?