Using depth of field to guide attention and convey narrative structure
Royal Holloway, University of London
National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Studentship
Supervisor: Dr Szonya Durant
Ever since the 1910s, when Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov experimented with the effect film editing has on the audience’s emotional reactions to different sequence of images, film editing has attracted scholarly attention in Film Studies as well as in Psychology. In his seminal book In the Blink of an Eye (1995), American film editor and sound designer Walter Murch proposes the most important criteria for an ‘ideal cut’ are ‘emotion’, ‘story’ and finally ‘rhythm’. As Valerie Orpen argues in Film Editing: The Art of the Expressive (2003), ‘this insistence on emotion challenges the impression that editing is a pragmatic and rational craft’, whereas in fact montage ‘favours emotion to attain a specific end: to make the audience react’. This interdisciplinary PhD project draws on the fields of sensory neuroscience, in particular, the experimental study of eye movements, and Film Studies, notably cognitive film theory (Bordwell 1989; Carroll 2008; Persson 2003), and here in particular the study of visual perception, narrative comprehension and affective response in relation to film editing. The novelty of the proposed interdisciplinary approach promises to yield original insights that will expand the knowledge and understanding in both disciplines. It expands the new discipline of psychocinematics by looking at how audiences perceive (and thus how filmmakers can use) a new element of film grammar- the ability to vary depth of field within in a shot which has been developed by our industrial partner Cinefade.