Movies – The Art of Visual Storytelling

kids16When The Jungle Book movie released a few months ago, The Guardian in its review wrote that ‘hyper real digital animation meets old-fashioned storytelling’.

Many wondered what the point was in remaking an old Walt Disney classic from the mid 1960s which was undoubtedly a brilliant musical masterpiece. Rudyard Kipling’s tale about a jungle boy growing up in the jungles of India was simply fascinating enough in the book version and the original animated version lived up to expectations. So the question was raised simply because the modern version of 2016 left the old fashioned animation and the songs behind and embraced live-action computer graphical interfaces to tell the story better. And the results have been mind-blowing seeing how well the movie has been received world over. In the context of the battle that mankind is facing over environmental issues and the constant debate over human-animal coexistence, the movie although based on times gone by, has equal relevance to present contexts.

Many of us have watched movies based on best-selling books and novels or on real-life incidents and have never failed to be touched on an emotional level about the effects of visual story telling.

Visual Storytelling is the art of telling a story or plot or conveying a message through images. People are wired different to receive stories which they hear and hence, the visual impact of a story is manifold. The human brain instinctively puts the images together to make better sense of what is seen. One of the supreme formats of storytelling is the visual medium or ‘video’ as we call it. To ensure that a story or message is retained in the audience’s mind, the visual medium is the perfect one. However, on the flip side, the wrong visuals can end up contradicting the story when words or dialogues, lighting, music or props send wrong messages that create the wrong images in the mind.

Here are ten simple rules of visual storytelling.

1. Show, don’t tell – effective stories are conveyed through good visuals that don’t depend on words. The silent movies of the Charlie Chaplin era were equally effective.

2. Context is everything – situations are better conveyed when contexts are shown – an office atmosphere, a home scene, a playground etc. Sometimes the absence of a context heightens the mystery.

3. Show people – we tend to relate to people better than brands or products

4. Be true, be personal – human stories and actual events forge better emotional connect.

5. Show contrast and conflict – these factors establish the plot or storyline and provide the impact

6. Reveal hidden things – extraordinary people, places and circumstances add to the visual effect

7. Focus clearly – rambling or getting lost in the details makes the audience lose attention.

8. Keep moving – this means that the story should flow through timelines

9. Don’t follow obvious paths – the surprise element is the obvious path to audience engagement

10. Carrying a message – teaching something or conveying a message is very important and storytelling is a great way to do it.

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