Watch: The Key Evolution & Depiction of Texting on the Big Screen

August 19, 2014


In the short history of filmmaking, there have been incredible advances in technology that have changed the face of filmmaking from the innovation of sound to computer generated visual effects. However, there are subtle changes that help make visual storytelling a little easier too, making it so the audience doesn't feel detached from the story and world they're seeing unfold on the big screen. One such arena you may not realize is how characters communicate on the big screen in a contemporary society where individuals talk more often by way of text messages instead of talking on the phone. Filmmakers are only recently figuring out how to do this effectively, occasionally with some style, and a neat video essay explains how. Watch it!

Here's Tony Zhou's A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film (via Movies.com):

I can't even remember how many times I've been maddened by the inaccurate depiction of cell phones, their operating systems and how people use text messages to communicate. It seems like a small, insignificant detail, but it really takes you out of the reality of the film. As you can see, the video explores how films like Non-Stop, The Fifth Estate, The Fault in Our Stars and more are handling this use of textual interpersonal communication better with the visual medium. Now that this kind of practice is becoming more standard, we're starting to see differentiation between the presentation of text messages on screen.

From an editing perspective, it really is cumbersome for a filmmaker to cut back and forth between a cell phone screen, waiting for the audience to read, and then cutting back to the character for reaction when you can have both happening at the same time. The discussion about the depiction of the Internet at the end is particularly interesting and shows we're still figuring things out. And as we continue to look at screens more and more for communication and information, this isn't going away. Again, it's small stuff, but smart and helpful in the overall flow of a story and how characters effectively interact so the audience isn't bored.

Find more posts: To Watch, Video Essays



Gotta love Tony Zhou.

Nielsen700 on Aug 19, 2014


the BBC's Sherlock may not have been the first to produce such on-screen inserts, but like this video's producer, i still think it's the best - so far, at least. you don't get pulled out of the story or the performances. anything that helps drive your film forward and avoids distracting expositional dialogue *has* to be good.

son_et_lumiere on Aug 19, 2014


I learned!

Xerxexx on Aug 19, 2014


SHERLOCK nailed the texting animations. Love them.

DAVIDPD on Aug 19, 2014

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