Mise-en-scène

Mise-en-scène is a term used to describe the physical design of a theatre or film production. When the term is applied to the cinema and film making, it essentially means ‘everything that appears in front of the camera and how it is arranged’. This includes the set itself and any props that appear in the shot, the actors and their costumes, and how all this is composed and lit. The mise-en-scène therefore includes elements that are both static (such as the set, and maybe some props) and others that are more moveable, and how these interact in the over all composition.

This is an element of film production that involves collaboration between the director and the film’s production designer, with the latter generally being responsible for the overall visual feel of the piece. He or she will be in charge of coordinating different departments, such as set designers, costume artists, prop designers, and so on, to make sure they all adhere to the same overall visual style.

This is a fairly narrow definition of mise-en-scène and it can be interpreted differently by different people involved in film making. For example, for some people it includes all elements of visual style—including both the set design and aspects of the camera. For others it can also include the feeling evoked from the combination of the elements previously mentioned and how they are filmed.

Why is all of this important? Well, together with cinematography and editing, it contributes towards the verisimilitude of a film, or how believable it is.

When we think about the videos, really short films themselves, produced by people using Vine, we are perhaps less concerned with how believable it all it, or concerned with how the film has been put together. However, looking at this in more detail can reveal how this medium of film and video production does actually adhere to different cinematic traditions and norms.

In a series of posts under the Knowledge category and tagged as mise-en-scene, we will look in more detail at various elements of mise-en-scène and how they are applied in Vine videos. These will include

  • Set design
  • Lighting
  • Space
  • Composition
  • Costume
  • Acting
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