With high-definition video, the close-up may — or may not — be less critical

Small tech: The culture of digital tools (2008) includes includes a discussion by Jim Bizzocchi on the impact of high-definition video on the home viewing experience.

Films for television have in the past avoided long shots, and have favoured close-ups, according to Bizzocchi.

This was a natural response to the small screen size and low-definition image resolution of early television.

The subsequent emergence of large-size digital screens displaying high-resolution images has changed the viewer’s experience of content. As a result, says Bizzocchi, the wide shot will be used more often, and the close-up may be less critical.

Previously, television’s devaluation of the long shot had prompted faster cutting for visual storytelling, Bizzocchi asserts. With high definition images appearing on larger screens, however, we can, he believes, expect a more leisurely appraoch to cutting.

The author also predicts a renewed emphasis on the split screen, layered transitions, lighting and composition, slow motion imagery, and the moving camera.

All of which is great, I would say, so long as it moves the story forward.

With regard to the effect of screen size on the close-up, I was interested to read in this article about Imax that the large-screen format can in some cases be absolutely ideal for close-ups.

As well, a discussion in Bloggers Boot Camp (2011) has prompted me to question whether the close-up is really going to be less important in the future.

The book is co-authored by Charlie White, with over 30 years of experience as a television producer/director, and John Biggs,  a writer who specializes in technology.

White and Briggs provide valuable, up-to-date advice about videography. With regard to close-ups they remark:

“The classic beginner mistake is to shoot a wide shot of a scene, forgetting that video is an inherently close-up medium.”

“Get in close,” they add, “where the emotions happen.”

They also note that while it’s true that one can bring a high level of sophistication to video editing with the currently available software, “we’ve found that video to be posted on YouTube, Vimeo and other video-hosting websites works best when it’s simple.”

“Remember,” they add, “ideas are more important than technique when it comes to shooting video for the web.”

The authors’ discussion of videography offers a good introduction to the subject.

Bloggers Boot Camp also addresses related topics including lighting and sound recording equipment.

The context in which television exists has changed on many levels. A February 2012 article in the New Yorker offers a useful overview of the influence of YouTube on television.

Does screen format have anything to do with how frequently close-ups are used in editing of video for a range of viewing environments?

What would be useful is data from quantitative research. If you know of such research, please let us know.


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