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Drama - Creating Mood & Atmosphere: Capturing the Atmosphere of a Script Using Colour, Sound & Lighting

Using a cartoon as an example it is possible to tease out the different elements of design that have been used as visible and auditory clues to create context and atmosphere. Students are encouraged to draw on personal memories so that they see how "associated memories" can enliven a scene.

Creating Context and Atmosphere With Visual Clues

Even cartoons have a stage. Usually the stage is contained by a rectangle and there is a background that gives visual clues to the reader. The clues tell the reader where the action is taking place and about the atmosphere and feeling of the script or quip. The clothing of the main players also gives us vital information about the story as it presents within the area of activity.

We contrive this information by manipulating elements such as colour, lighting, setting and props.

The story line is fleshed out when the author or artist conveys emotional material through portrayal of body posture, facial expression, clothing - how it is worn and the style.

Creating Atmosphere With Sound

There is another element that can be crucial to the plot of any story and this is sound. In a cartoon or comic sound has to be caused to take affect in the mind. So the artist appeals to auditory memory. To trigger this memory she will draw an action happening. The sight of this action will trigger the memory of sound in the mind of the viewer.

Learning How To Trigger Associated Memory

Together with the Set Designer a Director can breath life into a script by appealing to the memory of the audience. There is a whole psychology grown up around how memories are formed in the mind. The aim is to learn how to tap and trigger past memories to produce a desired reaction. This is called Neurolinguistic Programming.

The aim of this lesson is to explore associated meanings and to help the students see that they can create atmosphere.

Deconstruct this image with your class. It has been cropped and spliced so that the teacher can focus on one aspect of the cartoon at a time.

1. Brainstorm with your class whilst looking at the first picture. Ask them, "What is happening?"

2. Continue probing until you have unearthed as much emotional material as you can about the feelings of both people in the scene. "How is the boy feeling?" "How do you know?" "What are the visual clues?"

3. Be sure to talk about the light and dark of the picture. Ask "How does the darkness effect the viewer?" "Where is the light coming from? " "How does it make the main characters look?"

4. Ask them to place the two actors. "Where are they?" "Why are they there?"

5. Ask students "Do you remember a time when something similar happened to you?" "How did you feel?"

Literacy Booster

  • Invite them to write a description of the scene focusing on how the actors may be feeling. When they have completed their paragraphs ask them to explain how they know this.
  • Before changing to the Flash Card that has the speech bubble, ask the students to write their own caption for image 1
  • Once you have swapped the Flash Card to the image that has a speech bubble - ask them to create a four-framed panel that must include the picture you are holding. Tell them that they may place this frame anywhere within the storyboard. They are to write the rest of the script around it.

When you create your own storyboards please post them to the discussion boards to share with others.

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