What is Shot Psychology and why was it written?

Shot Psychology is an introductory body of knowledge that filmmakers can use to enhance emotion and meaning in their work. It is not necessarily meant to be a book that you sit down and read as if a novel or textbook, although you can certainly do that. It is organized as a reference manual. And it is organized this way on purpose.

One of the key features of the book is the Master List, which cross-references each technique to its associated effect. In this way, a filmmaker can easily and quickly see how different techniques might work together to intensify the same emotion or feeling. As the book explains on page 14, when techniques are combined with other techniques that have the same general effect, the effect can be amplified. The main purpose of the Master List is to facilitate this creative process. It is designed so a filmmaker can evaluate all the techniques associated with any given effect and choose the best one or the best combination of techniques to achieve the greatest possible effect. (Please note: The Master List provides a page number for each individual technique but that is only for reference if needed and is not the primary purpose of the list itself.)

For instance, let's say you are shooting a scene and are wondering which techniques might help you emphasize an altered state of consciousness. You would consult the Master List and look under Altered State of Consciousness, and find that there are four techniques you could possibly use. In addition and more important, you could evaluate the possibility of combining two or more of the four techniques to create an even more powerful effect. The Master List makes this type of evaluation practical and easy to do.

Or let's say you had an idea for a shot but weren't really sure what effect you wanted to create or what effects might be at your disposal. In that case, you could look down the list of Effects, of which there are over 500, and see if there is something that catches your eye or seems appropriate. You can then easily reference, by using the Master List, which techniques might help you to create that effect. The list of Effects is specifically designed as a tool for navigating and exploring the Master List.

Or let's say you want to increase your knowledge of filmmaking in general, then you could refer to the Techniques and Concepts section and run down the list of over 300 techniques and concepts, then look in the Reference section to learn more about any particular technique you wanted to know more about.

The lists, especially the Master List, make it easy to consider combinations of techniques and explore all the options available to you as a filmmaker.

Shot Psychology is meant to function as an excyclopedia of meaning related to camera work and as such, it can be referred to as needed, especially when you are trying to figure out which techniques will help you create the emotional effect you are looking for. It is meant to be a serious reference for serious filmmakers. Over two years of careful study and cataloging went into the creation of both the book and the Master List.

For your convenience, we have posted a list of movies as they are referenced in the book. The links either take you to the referenced movie clip (if available) or to general information about the movie itself.

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