When it comes to developing audiovisual content, we often hear the term Mise en Scene. However, do we understand the actual meaning of it? This article will take you on a broader view regarding one of the most crucial aspects of audiovisual content making.

Mise en Scene 101: What Is It, The Elements, and Examples

The Definition and Function of Mise en Scene

Originating from French, Mise en Scene refers to the arrangement of actors and scenery on a stage for a theatrical production. In the digital era, mise en scene also depicts any elements displayed in front of the camera in a particular frame.

Simply put, Mise en scene is the art of organizing elements in audiovisual content. It has the power to develop an emotional bond and convey messages to audiences through themes, cinematography, and storyboards. 

When used appropriately, Mise en Scene can help elevate a group of moving images into incredibly engaging artwork. Hence, it often sets goals to steal the attention and let the audience jump right into the scene, believing every message told in the frame.

To help obtain a better understanding, imagine a set of audiovisual features in a scene that characterizes your favourite movie. 

While amused with the graphic features, you might as well find yourself hopping to the storyline. Further, the taste of enjoyment allows you to remember all the details of the scene, including the dialogue. That’s what a Mise en Scene is. It helps audiences to recognize the environment of whatever they are watching.

Also read: All You Need To Know About Video Production

Elements of Mise en Scene

As told above, Mise en Scene is the art of organizing audiovisual features to help the audiences recognize what is served on the screen. However, what stuff are they arranging?

Whether you believe it or not, it involves so many elements to create even a simple yet eye-catching scene. Listed below are some of the crucial concepts that build the atmosphere of a setting.

1. Composition

First and foremost, we will start with the composition, which refers to the organization of the subject within the frame. It is the most fundamental element of Mise en Scene, as it helps the audience focus on a particular object and/or information.

The art of composition determines how a camera would frame a particular scene, through selections of angles and shots. While the most ideal composition requires symmetry and balance, you can also go fluid or try to highlight a particular object with a consciously made asymmetrical view.

Furthermore, the composition element in Mise en Scene involves the depth of space on the screen. The term is best described as the distance between characters, properties, and sceneries in both each element and the camera.

2. Costume

Next, we are talking about what the characters are wearing and how it adds both value and mood to the Mise en Scene. It is the most powerful element to tell the audience about the environment that the character inhabits. Moreover, it also reflects on what their social status and personality.

However, to let it helps deliver your message, you cannot just put some random fabric on the actor. A costume designer must first understand the theme and style that resonate with the character and how it suits the composition elements of the scene. 

The right costume choice should have the power to strengthen the tone and quality of audiovisual content, as it helps the characters to convey messages to the audience. Hence, it will also facilitate audiences to retain memories of certain information in their mind.

3. Hair and Make-up

Resonating with the selection of costumes, one of the most important elements that create a thematic visual of a certain character is hair and makeup. Both are physical effects that have the power to emphasize a character’s traits, occupations, and so on.

For example, a different hairstyle indicates a certain social status. Thus, facial contour and the shape of the eyebrow often helps the audience differentiate evil characters from a good one.

Moreover, hair and makeup highlight a certain momentum through Mise en Scene, allowing the audience to follow the storyline from one frame to another. Hence, it also helps them to understand how characters develop over time.

4. Properties

Think about a room of your favourite scene in a movie. What kind of room is it? Is it a bedroom with a vanity mirror, a garage full of basic appliances, or even a dojo with ornamental weapons? What does the room need to describe its functionality? The answer is the props.

Props or theatrical properties are any objects in the frame. It’s one of the elements of mise en scene that is purposely selected for a specific segment to intensify the value of performance or actions. You can find it on the flea market, production house shelves, or even have it customized your way.

Props help to bring life to a set in the audience’s view, as they let them jump right into the scene. Moreover, it also has the power to emphasize characters’ attempts to deliver messages, whether the character interacts with them or not. In another way, dolls stacked in a bed in a room setting are as valuable as porcelains that the character threw in a fight.

Elements of Mise en Scene

5. Actor

Now that you heard about most of the Mise en Scene elements, there is still something crucial you might don’t want to miss. 

While the audiovisual content is usually aimed to convey messages to the audience, one that can make or break the scene are the actor—or in some cases, dubbers.

They are responsible to interpret messages through intonation, body language, and facial expression. Hence, the loss of an actor to deliver messages could lead to the failure of a film itself, regardless of the cinematographer’s effort to master the Mise en Scene elements.

Mise en Scene actors usually master the art of audience manipulation through the way they move and talk. To them, costumes, make-up, and properties showed only to spice up a scene.

6. Colour

Last, but not least from the element of Mise en Scene, is the selection of colour that will be used on the frame. Colour elements in Mise en Scene include both colour grading and lighting effects.

As the lighting features intensify the theatrical atmosphere of a scene, colour grading helps to symbolize the mood and tone portrayed in the frame.

These two valuable cinematography techniques help the audience to engage with the emotion that the creators try to deliver. For example, you may see the combination of yellow and earth tones to depict a peaceful setting and a blue-grey scheme for suspicion and fear.

Furthermore, colour grading is a powerful tool of Mise en Scene that highlights particular objects in the frame, telling the audience about what they must put their attention in. This way, the production designer can leave the unwanted focal point colourless and does the opposite of its primary focus.

Also read: Production Design: Definition, Importance, and Process

The Example of Mise en Scene

Now that you have understood the meaning of Mise en Scene and the elements that build it, you might be curious to see its example. Here is a campaign video of the National Environment Agency that aims to promote a simple effort to fight Dengue.

How do you feel after watching it? Did you notice which elements were involved in the Mise en Scene video? But most importantly, did the message successfully reach your mind?

Here’s a quick heads up of Mise en Scene elements that appeared on the NEA’s Mozzie Wipeout Campaign 2019

  • Composition – Notice how the mother & baby scene shifts to the CGI mosquito’s point of view. You may also find it fascinating to look at the reversed narrative, that emphasizes the cause-and-effect relations to the effort against Dengue.

  • Actor – The video does not involve dialogues or verbally spoken messages. However, the infant’s facial expression depicts all the ideas that NEA wants to deliver to its audiences.

  • Properties – Promoting a simple act to prevent diseases from coming to your family, the video utilizes household furniture in the entire scene. This is the most ideal way to construct the idea of protecting your loved ones at home.

Also read: Unveiling the Role and Skill of a Concept Artist!

Elevate Your Content With Mise en Scene

The use of Mise en Scene elements is essential to deliver a narrative. Hence, you must develop a convincing audiovisual display to help audiences to understand better the nature of your messages.

Explore the art of organizing elements through Mise en Scene and engage with your audiences by stealing their attention. Convey your ideas and let them jump into the storyline.

However, it is undeniable that arranging elements to where they belong can sometimes be tricky. Worry not, Superpixel got you covered. 

Superpixel is a Singapore-based animation studio that creates quality content based on your values. We would love to help your audiences to engage with your ideas through Mise en Scene elements. Should you require further information, do visit our website or contact us.