Drawing & Composition for Visual Storytelling

Want some recommendations for directors and movies that are very compositionally aware? Do yourself a favor and closely study some of my personal favorites…

  • Pixar Films: Pixar movies are carefully planned scene by scene. One particularly strong movie from Pixar is ‘The Incredibles.’ This film features exceedingly well done compositions, great use of color and lighting, and fantastic insight in the commentary from both the directors and the animators who worked on the film. Also included on the DVD sets are wonderful storyboard animatics from cut parts of the film. These are worth watching to see how everything that was displayed on this website comes into play.
  • Akira Kurosawa Films: Kurosawa makes great use of context rather than objects to tell a story. The concepts of “less is more” apply for his works more than any other. The way a character is standing or acting within frame tells the story without cramming many events into one picture. His films inspire the use of simple body lanuguage to tell what’s going on rather than brute action.
  • Sylvain Chomet Films: One of the world’s most acclaimed animation filmmakers of our time. He uses exquisite design sense for characters and layouts with beautiful lighting and colors. He structures detailled and marvelous compositions to develop the locations, characters and the plot in his often wordless stories.
  • Hayao Miyazaki Films: Miyazaki makes great use of foreground, mid-ground and background. Rather than showing all of each character all the time, very often characters are blocked by objects in the forground and middle ground, helping to place the characters within the situation, making them part of their environment and the story.
  • Wes Anderson Films: Anderson has a bit of a magial touch in his approach to filmmaking. He makes very careful use of color and size relationships of different characters and objects within many shots. Anderson likes to use shallow compositions where most of the scenes are flattened into a middleground. His movies almost always reserve the color red for things that he wants to have most attention in a shot. His strong visual style is worth studying and appreciating.
  • Master Cinematographers: John Toll, Roger Deakins, Bruno Delbonnel, Tonino Delli Colli, Vittorio Storaro, and Conrad Hall – these are just a few of many directors of photography that are responsible for the shot composition of the best looking live-action films from the past few decades. Watch and learn from their movies.
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