Mad Max's Information Theory of Motion Pictures

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Welcome to Mad Max's Information Theory of Motion Pictures from Mad Max's Course in Film Scoring for Motion Pictures which is part of the Topic:Music in Film.

Information Theory for Motion Pictures[edit]

Here are many of the rules of information for motion pictures.

What is Information?[edit]

Information is sights and sounds. Sounds are dialog, music and sound effects. Each of these requires the brain to analyze and appreciate.

The Human Brain[edit]

The brain can receive and appreciate more than one (1) sight and one (1) sound at a time. The processing power of the brain is tremendous. A typical motion picture from Hollywood today has almost 100 tracks of audio which are mixed down to (combined into) 5 audio tracks. When you have all this sound and a constantly moving picture, that is a lot of information for the audience to absorb.

1. Persistence of Vision
Because of persistence of vision, the human mind can combine multiple pictures. Even though only one picture flickers in front of the viewer at one time, the mind combines the images into something new and original.
This works in two ways.
A. Multiple frames of a slightly varying images creates the illusion of motion.
B. Shots of different images creates an effect where two totally different shots seem to become part of the same scene or same action. Viewed separately, two images might not have anything in comon. But together, they tell a story.
2. Separation of Sounds
The brain is able to separate, distinguish, and follow sounds from many sources at the same time. These sounds must be distinguished by a separate frequency, direction, and tone but as long as you can keep them separate, you can listen to more and more sounds at the same time.

Motion Pictures are Information[edit]

Motion pictures are the most efficient way to convey the most information in the least amount of time. By accident and by plan, the techniques used to make motion pictures also create the most efficient form of communication possible. No other form of communcation is able to control the mind of the audience as well.

Multimedia lacks information[edit]

In contrast, multimedia is at the other end of the scale. Multimedia is the least efficient way to communicate information since in Multimedia, you are only presented one element at a time; just one picture and simple audio. The advantage of multimedia is it is much easier to produce than a motion picture since multimedia only has to produce about 1/10 the content as a motion picture.

Music equals Mood[edit]

Music for motion pictures creates the mood for motion pictures. You need to explain the mood of a motion picture to the audience. In most cases, the dialog and action is not enough.

You need to be aware that the music for motion pictures includes the actor's voice which contains a melody line. To listen to the dialog without the melody, read the script in a mono-tone voice. Stage trained actors have a 3 octive voice. Modern film actors do not use this wide a tonal range.

When boredom sets in[edit]

Too little information, the audience gets bored. Too much information and the audience tunes out… and becomes bored.

Information Theory for a Symphony[edit]

A symphony is just like a motion picture except there is no picture. The same theories apply. A symphony is designed to convey as much musical information as possible. There are multiple instruments playing at different pitches and directions and many different melodies (main , counter, supporting, etc.) in a symphony.

When theories clash[edit]

(1) A symphony is designed to convey the most information possible that a person can absorb at one time… and

(2) A motion picture is designed to convey the most information possible that a person can absorb at one time…

Therefore, you cannot simply combine the two. That would be too much information.

If you want to use a symphony to enhance a motion picture, you must remove things from the symphony so the combination of the symphony score and the motion picture are perfect.

Thin Music[edit]

Background Music
This means that background music for motion pictures must be extremely thin and simple. If someone is talking, you must still clearly hear the words of the dialog over the background music.
Narrative Music
This means that Narrative Music (which is so thick that it will drown out dialog) still must be less than the sounds of a symphony because if it is, the symphony will prevent people from gaining some of the information from the rest of the movie.

Drowning the audience with sound[edit]

The theory of information works in another way. If you have a bad picture, you can hide the picture with sound. That is, you can overload the audience with sound information so the audience is unable to analyze the picture. Therefore audience becomes too busy processing the sound information to worry about the quality of the image… at least for a little while.

The Theory of the MTV generation[edit]

It takes the average person about 3 to 5 seconds to analyze and absorb all the information in a picture. But it takes the MTV audience only 1.5 seconds.

Interesting pictures become boring[edit]

Therefore, if you leave an interesting picture on the screen for more than 5 seconds (or more than 1.5 seconds for kids) and you do not provide any additional information, the audience will become bored. Their minds are no longer busy.

Talking books[edit]

Talking books do not have music or sound effects because the audience is expected to be working when they listen to the talking book. If a talking book had all the sound effects and musical tracks of a motion picture, people would not be able to work while they listened. This is because the brain would be fully occupied by the talking book with film score and sound effects.

Talking books For children[edit]

Children are not expected to work while they listen to talking books. Therefore, talking books can be a complete motion picture without the visual images. Picture books can be used to accompany the talking book. If produced like a motion picture, a talking book for children can be almost as effective as a full motion picture.

Car accidents and cell phone usage[edit]

Many people believe that using a cell phone limits a person's ability to operate a vehicle. Since we know that the human brain can do many thing simultaniously, then using a cell phone while driving reflexively is possible without any problem. But once the driving situation or the conversation begin to require additional concentration, either the driving or the conversation will be impared.

3D images from 2D pictures[edit]

Persistance of vision also can create 3D images from movies of 2D images. The human brain can look at different views of an object and turn the 2D image into a 3D image inside the human brain. All that is necessary is to move the camera by the distance between the eyes of a human. The movement of the different elements in the picture will be different. Distant objects move sideways at a different rate of speed that close objects when the camera dollies right or left. This difference in the speed of movement of the objects in the scene allow the brain to construct a 3D image.

Therefore if you want the audience to see 3D, dolly during the shot right or left by 6 inches during 3 seconds. That will create a 3D image inside the head of the viewer.

Note: If you create a 3D image in the mind of the audience by this method, you also draw the audiences attention away from the main figure in the shot… which may or may not be a good thing. Converting a 2D image into a 3D image requires a lot of brain power.

Hello dolly[edit]

Creating the effect of a 3D image is easier during a dolly right or dolly left. A dolly-in shot requires much more movement to achieve the same effect. A zoom in shot does not create this effect since zoom in only magnifies an image. The camera does not move past objects to magnify some object more than other.

Similarly, a crane shot is not as effective as a dolly right or dolly left shot but then a crane shot presents a totally new view which is also interesting.

Musical Themes[edit]

Musical themes are tiny melodies. In addition to listening to musical notes, the human mind can associate themes with emotions. Themes in music can be associate to a person, object, or an action. Later, that musical theme can be used to evoke the mood associated with that person, object, or action.

Size matters[edit]

If the size of an object begins to increase, the audience feels it is important. If the size of an object decreases, the audience feels the object is of smaller value.

When you use a zoom in shot, everything in the frame becomes larger. If you use a dolly-in shot, only a specific element (which is usually the actor) becomes more signicant than everything else in the picture.


To be continued…[edit]