Masters of Narrative Design™: July 2008 Archives
This is the second part in an ongoing NDE series featuring interviews with Masters of Narrative Design™. While a seemingly new term, the design of story experiences is nothing new. As game developers are increasingly looking to create meaningful virtual narrative experiences, looking back at the lessons learned by these masters becomes increasingly valuable. Today’s master is Bruce Block filmmaker, teacher, storyteller; in his seasoned career he has produced and consulted on more than 40+ films. Unlike most masterful wizards, Bruce shares his secrets both in seminars and in his book “The Visual Story“, the methods he describes there are used in film, television, animation and design studios all over the world, and best of all, go into making the most compelling stories for any screen for the past 100+ years. Today I’m hoping to see what virtual world creators can learn from his wealth of experience.
Stephen Erin Dinehart: Bruce, thank you for taking the time to speak to me. In your book, “The Visual Story“, you define the basic visual components as “Space, Line, Shape, Tone, Color, Movement, Rhythm” are these arbitrary? How did you come up with this set of components?
Bruce Block: I wish I had come up with them…I’d have trademarked the components. The seven basic visual components are derived from about 2,000 years of art. Its just lots and lots of people drawing and trying to discover what works and what doesn’t work. Go into any room in any museum in the world and its really full of lots of old and new examples of someone communicating a story, mood or emotion using the seven basic visual components. Some people debate that there is an eighth basic component: time. Its possible that they’re right but I found many “time ideas” are too hard to control. The part of time that I do like I incorporated into the component of rhythm. I am constantly reading new and old texts on visual structure looking for another component to add to the list. In searching for two decades, I’ve not found any constructive suggestions for an addition.
Lately, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about 3-D, which is currently entering a technical renaissance. It fits very neatly into the existing component of space. Every time a new technology is developed which “changes everything” it really falls easily into one of the existing components. I don’t think anyone is going to discover a new color or letter of the alphabet. I’m not closed to the idea of a wonderful, new visual component popping onto the scene, but a lot of people much smarter than me spend a lot of time looking for another visual component and have come up empty.