Journal article Open Access

Evaluating the Coherence of a Cinematic Universe as a Prerequisite for Worldmaking in Digital Cinema

Giorgos Dimitriadis

The concept of worldmaking in cinema is closely connected with the use of special effects, especially computer-generated imagery (CGI). Digital technology has dramatically increased the level of detail and complexity of synthetic movie worlds, with a dual outcome: on one hand, it is much easier now to sever the connection with a pro-filmic reality, allowing room for synthetic worlds to arise as potentially autonomous; and on the other, viewer experience of cinema needs to accommodate this new technological reality. Following these observations, the present paper is a contribution to worldmaking theory with special focus on cinema; it assigns primary importance to coherence, understood here as the threshold level of unity among the composed elements in a movie, which essentially renders the worldmaking credible and, therefore, successful. Coherence is discussed as a desired feature of the cinematic universe, a generic concept that applies to any given movie and is comprised of the cinematic story and the cinematic world, both of which need to be made with acceptable coherence for the sake of proper worldmaking. The paper first establishes the nature and significance of these three concepts in relation to proper coherence, and the challenges posed to them by CGI. Then, it draws a distinction between local and universal coherence in worldmaking: the former refers to the viewers’ experience of worldmaking as a cognitive process which works in real time during movie watching, whereas the latter refers to worldmaking as a literary or creative term, i.e. the expansion of single movies into much wider franchises. Therefore, the paper aims at enhancing worldmaking theory by clarifying the different contexts of coherence, i.e. viewer experience and artistic creation; and by doing so, the purpose is to provide the approach with a kind of interdisciplinary impact that can further support its applicability.

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