Scale & Proportion

Size Matters

Why do we find certain things beautiful or cute? How were the majority of special-effects done up until the digital era? A lot of this has to do with scale and proportion, which we will be discussing in this lesson.

Audio Commentary

Relative Scale in Filmmaking

Relative scale is used a TON in filmmaking for special effects. Due to CG and digital compositing techniques, this artform is dying out, but up until about ten years, it was used extensively.

Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis is an amazing film made during the silent film era that was decades ahead of its time. Many of the optical special effects we have used up until the digital era have been based on this director's techniques. Many of these techniques are based on illusions of scale based on forced perspective and trick photography.


Mothra v Godzilla (1964)

I grew up watching the old, cheesy Godzilla movies as a kid. Although by today's standards, these effects look extremely cheesy, as a child with an active imagination, they were sufficient enough to entertain me. It may be pretty obvious by now, but the special-effects are all achieved through miniature props with humans wearing monster costumes.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Even in the era of digital special-effects and computer graphics, this director has chosen to use traditional optical effects to shrink his adult size characters to childen sizes.

Tilt Shift Photography

Tilt shift photography is a technique in which a camera lens is rotated on the y-axis slightly in order to create a very shallow depth of field for very large scenes. This can be used to make very large things look like miniatures, since we typically attribute shallow depth of field to macro photography. Click here for a collection of more examples of tilt shift photography.

Human Proportions

Proportion plays a huge role in the way we think about and identify the age, attractiveness, and cuteness of humans and other living creatures.

Child:Adult Ratio

The image below shows the relative proportion of human males based on their height in terms of the number of heads. Heads are often used as a point of reference to determine the proportion of humans, and not just their physical height. You'll notice that an average adult human male is made up of nine heads at 9 inches per head while a human male baby is three heads tall at 6 inches per head.


Age Verifying Cigarette Vending Machine

About six years ago, a cigarette vending machine was released in Japan that could verify its customers age by measuring facial proportions. Although this technology was extremely sophisticated, it could easily be fooled by the customers holding up magazine photos of people who were of legal smoking age. This goes to show even further that there are actual mathematical principles at work in determining the proportions of human facial structures.

Here is the full article:

Why are things Cute?

This video goes into a great amount of detail explaining exactly why we find things cute from a scientific point of view. It discusses a lot of the traits that we attribute to cuteness, all of which have to do with proportion.

Barbie Doll Proportions

There has been a lot of debate in recent years about our societies fixation on beauty and what factors we attribute to a beautiful person. One journalist did an experiment to find out how tall a woman would have to be to have the same proportions as a traditional Barbie doll. Interestingly, we often attribute very beautiful characteristics to the proportions of Barbie dolls, even though it is based far outside of reality. Read the full article here.




Real Life Barbie Doll

One woman in Ukraine went so far as to attempt these unrealistic proportions herself. She is known as the "Real Life Barbie Doll". She undergoes an extreme diet and fitness regime and has also had surgical augmentation as well as a great deal of make up in order to strive for this ideal. Read the full article here.

Fibbonacci Sequence

For centuries, artists, mathematicians, and musicians have been trying to find the link between what we as humans find beautiful and mathematical algorithms. As it turns out, there are direct links between certain proportions and what we consider beautiful. Fibbonacci is one of the most famous mathematicians having pursued this topic. Below are some very interesting videos that explain his studies.

Pi (1998)

Pi is a fascinating film directed by the same director as "Requiem for a Dream". This film follows a disturbed mathematician who studies the stock market. One day, his computer shorts out from an ant crawling on his circuitboard, which causes his printer to output a long string of numbers, which he initially discards. Later, it turns out that this number may be the numerical representation of God. It's definitely a dark and artistic film that will get your mind crunching.

Trick Photography Exercise



As always, please email me if you have any questions!