Discover Video Games Visual Composition: Rule of Thirds, and Cinematography – Shadow of the Colossus
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Discover Video Games Visual Composition: Rule of Thirds, and Cinematography – Shadow of the Colossus

September 11, 2019


If you have played Shadow of the Colossus… -you know there are so many things to praise
about this game. The soundtrack, game design and philosophy – they always stood in the spotlight. There is a
multitude of analysis in regards to these topics however it is very rare to
see anyone talking about the camera and cinematography which I believe was the
main reason as to why the game feel as majestic as it is. If anything the camera
got a lot of hate and it is also a point most negative reviews will always
mention: the camera always get in the way or the camera is an enemy as much as the
Colossus is. And of course, they’re not wrong for that matter –
the camera is at times does not work as intended it is often reset itself aggressively it
always got stuck behind a wall and when you are in a middle of a battle it can
get really annoying. But I firmly believe that a few of these
errors did not discount the fact that the game features an amazing feat of
cinematography – a camera is pretty much a narrative tool as much as the music and
the mechanics are. So in this episoede, we will learn as to why the game
has the sweeping epic feel and discover why it is an epitome of cinematography in video
games. Hi my name is Eddie welcome back toAngkasa – and this is Critical Breakdown. I’m sure that some of you might have
noticed that I used the term cinematography to classify the overall
visual of the game. To those who were unfamiliar the cinematography is the art
of capturing an image mainly in filmmaking. Cinematography is also about
understanding the rules of composition and it is a rule that has been developed
and refined throughout the llong generation of filmmaking. So why do I
insist on using the term cinematography for a medium that is purely interactive
and young such as videogame? I still remember the old argument that games
should never try to be movies and that is very true. Games has his own way of
telling story it is unique that no other media can do what games are capable of
but at the end of the day any kind of games do need to resort to utilizing
cutscenes as part of narrative. Sports games uses cutscenes to transition
between matches and real time strategy use it to move between chapters. I believe that we can consider how closely related video game cutscenes are to
animated features they are all based on 3D construct of specific scenes – the
camera and lighting are manipulated within the 3d environment. The more you
think about it you’ll realize how the lines are getting blurry between games
cinematic and animated feature. Tounderstand cinematography we also need
to understand the fundamentals of composition and the rules that come with it. Rules of composition come in many forms
it can be the Rule of Thirds, The Golden Ratio, …Center Symmetry, Leading Lines – they
are inherently based on both nature and mathematics, hence has become a part of
human psyche. This is the reason why some faces are more pleasing to the eyes than
others great architecture and natural wonders are amazing to look at to. These
rules are written and agreed upon based on hundred years of discovery and
experimentation – you can always break this rule but only if you understood why
it exists in the first place Lighting plays an important part in
cinematography as well to the point that it can either make or break your scene.
An efficient approach to illumination can effectively create certain moods and
can be used for dramatic effects. Lighting is fundamentally the approach
by filmmakers to tell the viewers what they’re supposed to feel emotionally.
Framing is a part of composition the overall presentation of visual elements
in an image it affects both what’s in the frame and outside the frame.
Cinematography can be literally translated to recording motion – it refers
to capturing a sequence of photographs which give it the illusion of movement:
from being just a static shot of performers onstage to a full-blown dolly
shot and crane up – some directors even utilize handheld throughout the duration
of their films effectively or otherwise. While these are not the only
fundamentals of cinematography it is enough of basic knowledge to help us
understood the overall visual language. Now that we have a very basic
understanding of cinematography let us take a look at Shadow of the Colossus
again. This game is often described as epic and
majestic while it is obvious that this is due to the visual style – compliment
she also be given to the camera. While the players always have total control
over the camera – even in cutscenes for that matter, the camera will always
Orange itself for the best composition. Here you can see the camera make a good
use of Rule of Thirds positioning the character at the intersecting points.
Rule of Third is the most common method used to achieve a well balanced
composition. It is used in both photography, painting, and design in
general. Their position in the frame easily draw our human eyes to attention
and giving an ample amount of space for the rest of the objects within the frame.
Most classic games usually place the character in the middle of the screen – it
has always been that way for so many years that is why the de Resident Evil 4
introduced over-the-shoulder shooting mechanic it changed the whole gaming
landscape. While both shadow and Resident Evil released the same year – Resident
Evil 4 released by nine months earlier and its popularity sets its mark for the
over-the-shoulder mechanic . When you are on foot the camera will always
take the effort to orient the horizon to the horizontal lines. The horizontal
lines are used to align the edge of a scene to represent a balanced
proportions – so that the viewers eyes are not distracted by elements that are out
of place. In a nutshell it is all about giving priority to certain space – which
area receive more space, which one receive less. By observing this camera
behavior you can summarize that the game is not trying to showcase the main
character, but it is showcasing the whole landscape. Even on horseback the camera maintained this ruleas it replaced the character
and the horse to either side of the camera – never in the middle.
Notice how the camera hanging low, racing so close to the ground. This is to give
you the illusion of speed. Most filmmakers use this technique to enhance
their chase sequences – you can see this in effect with the classic Mad Max or The
Fast and Furious movies. Occasionally when you enter certain areas such as
open plains or natural bridges – the camera automatically crane itself giving
you a larger perspective of the whole landscape it resets closer when you
entered reveals or restricted areas. In certain location the camera will
automatically pull out and give a hint to the path that you should take. During a battle with the Colossus you can press a dedicated button to lock on the
Colossus – notice how we frame the whole scene into a fine composition, both the
character and the Colossus existed within their own space and both occupied
in their own intersecting point. As the Colossus getting closer the camera
dropped lowerand the Colossus envelope 3/4 of the whole frame emphasizing the
massive scale of the Colossus and take a closer look:
Once you have climb onto the Colossus the camera immediately abandoned the
intersecting points and instead it chose to place the character right in the
middle of the frame. This is actually working on your favor as there is a lot
of details on the Colossus and a lot of things are happening here. Placing the
character right there in the middle ensures that your eyes can easily track
him. In movies placing the subject right in the middle during an action scene
will make sure that the audience has an easy time looking what’s happening as
your eyes are allowed to relax it allows your brain to easily register all the
events on the screen. Before you stab a Colossus to their weak point
you need to charge your attack – wait for a few and execute the stab. The charge is
amplified with the camera zooming in and the Depth of Fieldl getting shallower
effectively use anticipation to make a stab look powerful. By now you might also
have noticed that the camera feels like it has a weight to it when you try
turning the camera it will not respond immediately but instead it will ease out
slowly increase the velocity until it reaches an immediate stop. Compare that
to some third person games and especially first-person shooters: in
these games you are required to constantly be on your toes look out for
enemies and quickly respond to danger- hence the camera is quick and it will
not build up or have any anticipation. When players decide to move the camera
it will move up to speed. You can observe the simplified graph of the Velocity- over-Time and see the difference. Shadow of the Colossus adapt the principle of
motion to the camera: slow in and slow out. When a camera takes its time to
response it effectively become a tool to control pacing. Just like in editing
there are transitions: fade out, fade in and cross fields are used to control the
pacing of an edit so no changes are abrupt. Take a look at how this cinematic
for the game transitioning to gameplay the camera never ever have any jerky
movements the camera never snaps immediately into position it is very obvious that there are a lot
of consideration given to the camera during the development of this whole
game for a team that are small and developing a game that pretty much
unknown for the time I find it very amazing that they take it very seriously
to develop such an amazing feature. That is why it is almost a crime that the
camera didn’t receive much attention that it deserves… But of course I believe
that the intention is that it should never be obvious in the first place.
The camera should work in hiding – the players should never see the tricks only what
matters is that the player feel grand and majestic as they wander the
forbidden land. I hope that you guys are able to learn a lot from here but
remember that this is just about the camera we still need to talk about
cinematography and cinematics which is a whole another level and deserve a video
of its own – so look forward to the next episode where I’ll talk about the
cinematography in-game cinematics. Thank you for watching give the video a like
and subscribe if you’re new to the channel. Thank you and see you next time!

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  1. Hello, I hope you enjoyed watching this episode! It's always fun to talk about cinematography and games!
    Just in case you missed/interested in seeing the previous episode, click the link below:
    Narrative and Morality Through Gameplay Mechanics – Shadow of the Colossus
    https://youtu.be/igz2C8DTmyw

    If you're new to the channel, welcome! Here I love to talk and discuss games, film and art in general. I started this series called Critical Breakdown as a series of constructive media analysis- no medium is perfect, but I firmly believe that we can always learn something from them. While I have been an editor and graphic designer for nearly 8 years – I won't claim to be an expert in this field. It is purely analysis and to spark discussion.

    Please feel free to leave a comment and start a discussion here.
    I also look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions – this channel is built and improved by communities such as you, so please feel free to leave a suggestion.

    Cheers!

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