Our Favorite Cinematic Techniques (and Movies That Do Them Well)

There is nothing quite as satisfying as purposeful cinematography. Not only is it appealing visually, it can solidify a director’s style and reinforce key points about plots and characters.

From choosing the right lighting setup to deciding how long the camera should linger, the best ad agencies incorporate cinematic techniques to influence viewers’ opinions, spark an emotion or get them to act.

Here are a few of our favorite cinematic techniques and films that did them effectively. Did your favorite make the list?

Playing Intentionally With Color – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Film buffs are already familiar with the distinctive Wes Anderson style. His stop motion animation, large set pieces, experimentation with depth and pop music tracks have delighted audiences since the mid-90s. Our favorite of his techniques is his purposeful use of color.

Everything about Anderson’s color choices in Aquatic are distinctive, from the sky blue jumpsuits and red caps Zissou & Co. wear to the cheerful yellow submarine they steer along the ocean depths. The playful color palette directly mirrors the film’s absurdist plot – Zizzou has sworn revenge on a luminescent “jaguar shark” who has eaten his best friend and chief diver.

In fact, we are so enamored of Anderson’s cinematic prowess that we developed an homage of our own, The Life Strategic, which chronicles a marketing journey to find one brand’s story. How many nods to Anderson can you spot?

One Long Continuous Take – Rope (1948) and 1917 (2019)

The idea of shooting a film in one long, continuous take (or giving the illusion that you have done so) is an idea that has been circulating for 80+ years. An early pioneer was Alfred Hitchcock, who used the technique to harrowing effect in Rope. Deliberate blocking and sly camera movement gave the impression that Jimmy Stewart’s character really was trapped in a room with two murderers.

Roger Deakins utilized the one-shot feature film to similar effect in 1917. The illusion of one shot makes his story of young WWI soldiers even more realistic and immersive. The fact that the camera doesn’t cut away from particularly upsetting or gruesome scenes reinforces the film’s ideas about the horrors of war.

In both films, intentional camera work helps viewers better understand and empathize with the hero of the story. One could even say that film techniques are a director’s way of knowing the hero and guiding them on their journey.

Cinéma Vérité – Cloverfield (2008)

Otherwise known as “truth cinema,” this style of filmmaking combines narrative voiceover, improvisation and camera work that simultaneously steers attention away from and draws attention to itself. The style is often found in documentaries and is used to unveil hidden truths. Think of it as “found footage” or “fly on the wall”-style cinema.

Cloverfield is presented as camcorder footage, but with our present-day reliance on smartphones and love of short video content, it almost feels more relevant than ever. Try not to be spooked as monsters attack this fictionalized version of New York.

Smartphone filming is becoming especially relevant for brands and messaging. Many deliberately want their content to look as though it was shot on a phone to feel authentic and relatable to viewers. As long as your business isn’t in danger of being attacked by horrendous monsters, we wholeheartedly support this technique.

Ambitious Video Production for Your Business

At Bullseye Media, we have an eye for the cinematic. Our video production team will work to understand your vision and make it a reality. For boundless creativity and cinematic techniques that get people talking, contact us today. We can’t wait to work with you.