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Split screens for narrative tension and visual impact

by Critical Commons Manager

In the pre-digital era of Norman Jewison's original version of The Thomas Crown Affair, it was a lot of trouble to create the kind of elaborate split screen sequences seen here. A handful of motion graphics artists and animators including Pablo Ferro and Saul Bass specialized in this process, which required precise choreography and framing during shooting and extensive post-production using an optical printer. While some films use this technique for mere visual impact, in The Thomas Crown Affair, it is also motivated by the narrative, which involves numerous, remote action sequences that are executed in precise synchronization. Seeing these actions, linked diegetically by telephone calls and extra-diegetically through split screens, heightens the tension associated with the heist narrative playing out across these scenes. How does this use of narratively motivated split screens compare with the dazzling action sequence on the polo field from the same film?

Montage of split screen sequences from The Thomas Crown Affair

Pablo Ferro designed these five split screen sequences to highlight simultaneous actions and precise synchronization of a heist

from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Creator: Pablo Ferro
Posted by Critical Commons Manager