Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lessons I learned from The King's Speech

In February 2011, I mentioned the film The King's Speech. Finally, yesterday I had the chance to see it. Here are three things I learned.  

Two days ago the DVD of The King's Speech was released here in Germany. I got the 2-DVD edition yesterday and watched it. It is a good film and Colin Firth, who plays King George VI, together with Geoffrey Rush (The King's speech therapist) are superb. The film focuses on the unlikely friendship between these two characters rather than in the King's speech problem. Still, I think the film touches an important point: Communication is important, but without character is superfluous.

Some historical background. George VI is the father of Queen Elizabeth II and brother of King Edward VIII. Their father, King George V, dies in early 1936 as the World War II is breaking. The elder son of King George V, David, becomes King Edward VIII but abdicates in less than a year in favor of a woman. His younger bother, Albert, becomes King George VI and dies in 1952.

King George VI, Albert,  suffers from stammering impeding him to be a good public speaker. Some years before he assumes the throne, Albert starts to get treated by Lionel Logue for this stammering. The two men become close friends, an unlikely friendship between a royal and a common.

The issue here is that already by that time the role of the King of England is to appear in public and speak, that is the King of England's role was one of a public speaker.  George VI worked hard to become his stammering. Click here to see a 1938 video clip of George VI on a public appearance.

There are though three things about the movie that are directly related to the topic of this blog. Becoming a good public speaker requires hard work, practice and (honest) feedback from others. Another is that silence creates drama, and  the right use of pauses create emphasis.

The last one is a more of a cinematographic lesson I learned watching the film a second time with the director's audio commentary. The canvas size changes the emphasis of the message. Let me illustrate. A typical presentation canvas has a size of 1024 x 768 pixel. This size yields a width:height ratio of 4:3, also known as full screen format. A slide in this format would look like this

A more cinematographic canvas ratio is the wide format of 16:9. The same content would look like this
If you want to change the canvas format without changing your original screen resolution you can do this by resizing or cropping your background keeping the width constant. Here is a quick nano tutorial.

Finally, after playing a bit with lighting and optical distortion I came up with this

Unfortunately to see the effect you have to download images and view them in slideshow or presentation mode. Applying the optical distortion gives enhances the depth of the canvas. The idea of bringing cinematographic into slides is not mine. I got it from Nancy Duarte's reading list.

Let me close by saying that if you haven't seen the film, I recommend you rent it. It is worth it.

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