Thursday, February 02, 2006

Presentation Styles and Star Wars

In Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds asks "What if Darth Vader - my favorite fictional bad guy - gave a formal presentation? How would it look? How would it compare to the presentation style of Yoda, the wise Jedi master?"

Hilarious graphics ensue...

Here is the link: Contrasts in presentation style: Yoda vs. Darth Vader

Considering the case for simplicity over complexity, one can also compare the opening scenes of Star Wars (1977, the original) versus Revenge of the Sith (2005, the latest). Both feature space battles, but their visual styles are completely different, which has a direct impact on emotional involvement (for me, at least).

In the original Star Wars, who can forget the first shots of the Imperial Star Destroyer chasing down and boarding Princess Leia's ship? The models were incredibly detailed, but the direction was simple and to the point. We, the audience, always knew where we were supposed to look. The camera angles used were effective but did not rely on complex movements.

Star Wars

Star Wars

In Revenge of the Sith, however, we are thrust into an incredibly chaotic and detailed battle between numerous capital ships and smaller fighters. The audience is bombarded with details on all parts of the screen, and it's hard to know where we are supposed to look at any given time. The camera angles vary widely and our perspective is in constant motion. I think we are supposed to feel overwhelmed by excitement, but I wonder if the complexity only numbs our senses and prevents us from fully engaging with the action on an emotional level.

Revenge of the Sith

I think the appeal of the latter approach is that one can rewatch the scene over and over again to see new details. For the first time viewer, however, it can be distracting.

Simple and beautiful things are worth second looks, too. Despite the visual simplicity of the first Star Wars film, people can (and do) rewatch it all the time and relive the feelings of awe and excitement they originally experienced.

I am aware that the two scenes are not intended to tell the same story, and as such, each scene requires a different presentation style. [Then again, one could argue that both scenes involve a space battle/chase and the boarding of a ship.] Anyhow, I did enjoy both movies and their respective opening scenes. It's just that the opening of the original Star Wars still impresses me more.

For me, it's all about elegant simplicity and economy of motion, both of which require skill and experience. It's easy to obfuscate with details, but it takes hard work to focus your message into something that has real impact. Whether it's for making movies or giving presentations, what you decide to leave out is as important as what you include.


  1. Excellent analysis. I wonder if this comparison holds true through the series?

  2. Your blog is very valuable.