Cinematography in Games

By Sida Li


In general, video games in nowadays are getting more and more closer to the movie. Despite game has more interactive elements in it, it is trying the best to provide movie experience to the user. For the research purpose, I am going to discuss the cinematography elements that used in the games. Furthermore, I choose Sci-fi as genre and picked one of my favorite movie in all time, interstellar, one of my favorite game in all time, Dead Space, for the discussion. Talk about the similarities and differences about the skills they used.


  1. Composition/ Framing



Both game and movie, when presenting their space ships, using three-quarter angle to record height, width and depth. These provided audience a better understanding of how gigantic and magnificent those spaceships are. Especially for the one on the left, by adding a planet as background, it gives an important reference to the ship, additionally, shows a clear idea to viewers the size of it.


  1. Apparent lens lengths



For most of the scenes in dead space, they are happening in-door. To provide an intense feeling and let them know what is going on in real time, conventional lens would be the best choice. It offers a normal real image to the camera and audience.

For interstellar, where things always going at out-door, a wide angel lens is perfect for this situation. By using it, audience may get a clear idea of where characters are locating and what kind of situation they are going onto them.



  1. Lighting and tone




Overall, both dead space and interstellar are using high-key lighting to make the picture brighter and high contrast to make the image look more futuristic. Moreover, they are also both using cold tone to indicate the cruel and violent behind technology, hint audience that machines are numb.




  1. Shot sizes



In both game/ movie, over the shoulder shot are used at the beginning of the story, this helps the audience place the character in the setting, make them put themselves in the main character. Also provide a better immersion experience.



  1. Focus


Those pictures above demonstrated two usages of focus. First, the scene on the left, from dead space, used focus to lead audience from the view outside the window to where the character is look at – photos. By showing those to the player, they will get a better understanding of how the character is feeling right now – he misses the girl on the photo so much.

However, the picture on the right shows another uses of focusing. When two characters are talking, focus changing has been used in order to guide audience to the center of screen – the character who is revealing an important plot of the story. Moreover, it keeps the audience on the track, a track that leads to the next significant part of story.



  1. Camera movements




For the main events in the game/film, camera is often panning along with character’s sight, indicates what is happening and what does characters sees. Usually this action is slow, therefore audience allows to observe the scenery. However, since Dead space is an horror/ sci-fi game, most of scenes throughout gameplay are action scenes. Hence, for most of the time, hand-held camera movements have been used in order to create realistic and scary motions. For example, in one scene, where the protagonist was chasing by the monster. The hand-held camera movements were used so that players have no idea what is happening behind him, the only thing he can do is keep running. By the result of that, an intense yet realistic moment has created, thanks to the camera movement skill.



  1. Shot transitions


The shots transitions in Interstellar are mainly cuts, in order to tell audience that protagonist is in danger, many cuts were used within the film. It makes audience feels the same that the main protagonist feels, gives a better immersion experience.

However, the shots transitions in Dead space is totally different. Despite it is a horror/ sci-fi game with lots of action scenes, it often uses dissolves to transit shots. In my opinion, the reason behind that is the game is trying to construct a creepy and mystery atmosphere. As its theme song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, so creepy yet so beautiful.




ATTRIBUTES OF THE VISUAL IMAGE. (2015). Retrieved from filmschoolonline:

Types of Lenses. (2015). Retrieved from elementsofcinema:

Wheeler, P. (2002). Digital Cinematography. Oxford: Focal Press.


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