Gadget, Phones and Drones: Camera Innovations and Visual Aesthetics in Documentary

Abstract by Miriam Loertscher, Stefan Dux and Eva Vitija

Innovations in camera technology often have a direct impact on the moving image aesthetics. This is especially true for documentary film productions, where less expensive camera models from the consumer and semi-professional sectors are frequently used. Documentary filmmakers have strongly responded to the new possibilities of portable camcorders and other mobile devices during the last thirty years and introduced new visual styles. This presentation introduces the mixed-methods research approach of Gadget, Phones and Drones that investigates the interplay of camera innovations and visual aesthetics in documentaries and its possible effects on a cinema audience. Two comparative studies were conducted. The first was about sensor size in relation to aesthetics and authenticity. The second examined the difference between a single camera and a multi-perspective approach. Short, comparable documentary films were produced and then evaluated with audience studies.

This research project at the Zurich University of the Arts was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.