Continuum of Movement

The Principle of Contrast & Affinity can be used with continuum of movement, allowing control of the visual intensity generated by the audience's eye movement as they watch the screen. Like any visual component, affinity of continuum decreases the visual intensity, and contrast of continuum increases visual intensity. Continuum of movement occurs within the shot and from shot to shot.

Using contrast of continuum of movement requires knowing what area of the screen the audience is watching, or their point-of-attention. The visual components that will attract the audience's attention are:

• The brightest object

• The most saturated color

• The object with the most visual component contrast

To indicate what area or quadrant of the frame the audience is watching, a nine-area grid can be drawn over the screen or frame.

This is called a Continuum Grid.










For reference, the quadrants are numbered 1 through 9.

Continuum of movement is less critical on a small screen. Hand-held digital devices have tiny screens measuring only an inch or two, so continuum of movement is barely an active visual component on these screens. Since the average television or computer screen is only 21 inches, the physical range available for contrast of continuum is limited. Home theatre screen televisions provide a greater opportunity for using continuum of movement, but theatre screens and giant formats like Imax (with screens in the hundred foot range) use contrast and affinity of continuum of movement to greatly affect visual structure.

Continuum of movement deals with two concepts:

• How the viewer's point-of-attention moves within a shot

• How the viewer's point-of-attention moves from shot to shot

Continuum within the Shot

Affinity of continuum within a shot can be created without any camera or object movement.

Here are two people engaged in a conversation. As the dialogue alternates between them, the audience's point-of-attention will shift from one person to the other. The continuum grid superimposed over the frame shows that both people are in the same quadrant. This means that during the conversation, the audience's point-of-attention will remain in only one quadrant of the continuum grid. This creates affinity of continuum of movement.

Contrast of continuum of movement can also exist within a shot.

Point Attention

The same two people are now further apart. Contrast of continuum of movement is created, because the viewer's point-of-attention must shift between quadrants Q3 to Q6 as the two people talk. The audience's point-of-attention is not visually guided by a moving object from person to person (affinity of continuum), so the audience must abruptly move their point-of-attention each time the conversation changes speakers.

As the distance between the two people increases, the contrast of continuum increases. In this widescreen frame, the audience must shift their point-of-attention a greater distance. As the screen size shrinks, the range of contrast or continuum decreases. Small and micro-sized screens eliminate contrast of continuum as a visual component choice.

Contrast and affinity of continuum of movement within a shot can also occur using object movement.

Affinity of continuum occurs when the moving objects hold and lead the viewer's attention. A man enters frame and walks to a waiting woman. The man stops next to the woman and after a moment the woman walks away.

The audience's point-of-attention is smoothly transferred from the first to the second object, because the second object begins moving in the same quadrant where the first object stopped. This affinity of continuum moves the audience's point-of-attention across the screen in a choreographed pattern, following the first, then the second object.

Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939) and the long continuous takes in many Martin Scorsese films like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino take advantage of affinity of continuum of movement in the staging of complex scenes.

Contrast of continuum using moving objects can also occur within a shot.

In this example, there are two moving objects. The man in the BG enters and stops. Then, after a moment, the woman in the FG enters the frame. The audience's point-of-attention will shift, moving diagonally, from the man to the woman. There is no on-screen movement to guide the viewer's point-of-attention from the first object to the second object. This change of quadrant is contrast of continuum of movement.

Continuum from Shot to Shot

Continuum of movement becomes even more important when shots are edited together.

Here are two shots: one is a wide shot of an actor standing in a doorway, and the second is a close-up of the same actor. In the wide shot, the point-of-attention is the actor in the doorway, and in the close-up, the point-of-attention is the actor's eyes.

If the two shots are superimposed, the different attention points are visible. Editing these two shots together will create contrast of continuum of movement because on the cut, the audience's point-of-attention jumps from Q3 (screen right) to Q4 (screen left). This generates contrast of continuum of movement.

One of the shots can be recomposed to create affinity of continuum of movement from shot to shot.

Superimposing the shots shows how the points of attention match. This creates affinity of continuum of movement because the audience's point-of-attention will not move on the cut or edit. The point-of-attention remains in the same quadrant for both shots.

The continuum of movement within a shot or in a series of shots can be planned in a storyboard. The following storyboard panels illustrate these contrasts and affinities.

Shot #1 indicates an object's movement (a moving car, a running actor, etc.) beginning in Q7 (lower left) and moving in a straight line to Q9 (lower right). The curved movement in Shot #2 begins in the same spot where the movement ended in Shot #1.

When superimposed, the continuum of movement is revealed. The audience's point-of-attention will move with Shot #1 and smoothly transition into Shot #2. The two movements when edited together will merge into one continuous track or line. This is an example of affinity of continuum of movement from shot to shot.



Shots #3 and #4 illustrate contrast of continuum of movement from shot to shot. In Shot #3 the object moves from Q7 (lower left) to Q9 (lower right). On the cut to Shot #4, the audience's point-of-attention must quickly move to Q3 (upper right) to find the next moving object. The audience's unaided shift of attention on the cut creates contrast of continuum of movement.

When Shots #3 and #4 are superimposed, the contrast of continuum of movement is apparent. There are two completely separate lines or tracks generated by the moving objects.

But the combination of Shots #3 and #4 actually has three lines. Two are created by the moving objects in frame, and a third line is generated by the audience's point-of-attention moving from the first object in Q9 (lower right) to the second object in Q3 (upper right).

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