Video Production Techniques to Build Suspense

Posted on January 2, 2016

Do you want to get your audience on the edge of their seats? Do you know how to make a suspenseful movie? We’ve prepared some video production techniques that can help you to drive suspense. These techniques are often used in Hollywood movies.

The goal of creating suspense is not just creating a series of shots, but generating a nerve-racking story. You may use our tips and examples to improve your edge. So, what are video production techniques for making suspense?

Breathing Room

A lot of movies use a fast cutting routine of quick editing and spastic pacing that presents a cheap sense of suspense. Give your characters some extra seconds of screen time for suspenseful effect. One of the video production techniques is to make methodical pacing in each scene, showcasing close-ups. If you want to show an important plot element, allow the shot to linger before cutting away. The longer the main character is held, the more anxious the viewers will become when the stakes get high.

Timing of Reveal

Suspense is all about the anticipation of an upcoming event, and how the story will get there. After you decide where your reveal will be, allow the cuts to build without being too hasty. Don’t forget about music which helps create the tension that explodes at your reveal.

Lens Choices

The key to making suspense is the visual field of your movie. If the suspense is built around environment, it’s important to know how much depth is placed in the image. Use different types of lens in the scene to make tension. If you change angle from 24mm to 50mm, the difference will make viewers pay attention to details you are giving. Or you can go from 16mm to 85mm to really throw them off. In this way, the viewers will stay connected.

Pulling Back of Reveal

A bigger picture can be achieved by pulling back the camera; this effect is very common. If you want to tease the viewers with your reveal by prolonging it until the perfect moment, this technique should be used.

The Long Shot

It’s no secret that a tracking shot is perfect for any type of storytelling. The lack of cutting can make a more realistic effect for viewers. The constant motion can engage viewers in a manner short cuts can’t.

Audience’s Mind

Everything in your screenplay should be done for your audience. You should think of how every scene is going to affect viewers. Ensure your content engages them. Use your characters to make the audience want more.

Alfred Hitchcock knew why viewers are drawn to a dark theater to absorb themselves for hours with the movie on the screen. They do it for fun. Being a film director, you can do anything on the screen and they audience knows nothing will happen to them. People are confident that even if they watch deaths on screen they’ll walk out from the cinema and continue to live their lives. The more fun they have, the faster they come back for more.

The ultimate goal for every scene is emotion. Before knowing where to put camera, you should know what emotion an audience should feel at the particular moment. Emotions should come directly from character’s eyes. The intensity of emotions can be controlled by placing the camera close or far away from eyes.

The Greatest Movies With Suspense

If you like mystery and suspense movies, than check out top 10 movies in this genre:

  • Psycho, 1960 (Directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari), 1920 (Directed by Robert Wiene)
  • Alien, 1979 (Directed by Ridley Scott)
  • Citizen Kane, 1941 (Directed by Orson Welles)
  • Rebecca, 1940 (Directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
  • Gravity, 2013 (Directed by Alfonso Cuarón)
  • The Third Man, 1949 (Directed by Carol Reed)
  • Argo, 2012 (Directed by Ben Affleck)
  • Laura, 1944 (Directed by Otto Preminger)
  • Rosemary’s Baby, 1968 (directed by Roman Polanski)

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