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Watch how film geometry gives us heroes and villains

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Different shapes subtly convey different things

There are a lot of subtle effects going on in movies that we don’t consciously notice. Framing, lighting, and composition can have huge effects on how viewers perceive a character or situation.

new video from Now You See It, a YouTube channel that explores film concepts, highlights another important way directors and cinematographers are able to communicate with the audience using geometry. The video highlights the "bouba/kiki effect," a psychological observation of how humans tend to perceive certain shapes as friendlier or more antagonistic. And it delves into the specific use of geometry to create visual boundaries for characters.

Geometry, the video argues, is why we instinctively perceive Sleeping Beauty's angular Maleficent as evil, while the rounded shapes that comprise The Jungle Book's Baloo make the character appear warm and friendly. And it looks at how simple framing can create strong emotional impressions, like the window blinds across the screen box in Catch Me If You Can's captured con-man Frank Abagnale as strongly as window bars in prison.

So the next time you watch your favorite movie, don't just watch the actors reciting dialogue, and don't just get caught up in the sets. Remember that everything a director shows on-screen has been carefully curated, and even simple things like squares and circles can shape your understanding of a film.


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