What makes Lie to Me a great watch? Let me count the (photographic) ways.

On top of the intriguing storyline, smart writing, sound performances from the actors and a cool soundtrack, I love watching Lie to Me because of the purposeful use of strong picture compositions to help tell the story. I watched the behind-the-scenes documentary, The Truth About Lie to Me, and I learned how the creative team worked to make things fit well together from strategy to execution.

One thing for sure – when Exec Producer Steve Maeda talked about how the writers met with Dr Paul Ekman, I remember wishing I was with them. *sigh*

Something that I don’t normally see in other BTS documentaries was the part on how shooting the episodes was a strategic decision. Co-Exec Producer Adam Davidson talked about how one of the goals was to make the science feel real. To achieve that, the team needed to make the world in Lie to Me feel real.  That birthed the idea of shooting with handheld and using wider angle lenses to provide the energetic, documentary feel. Scenes where the characters were out investigating were also shot handheld. This was to give a feeling that things can happen at any moment & the characters need to look for the truth, which is out there. In contrast to that, the environment back in the Lightman Group is controlled and the truth comes out (or comes together). Graceful camera movements & strong compositions would work well to tell the story within the frame.

Here’s a recap of  the photography elements I experienced in the episodes:

  • the rule of thirds
  • balance of the elements in the frame
  • off-center subjects looking into the frame rather than out of the frame
  • light play on the subjects’ faces, reflections on surfaces; creating the right moods
  • blurred backgrounds that keep focus on main subjects while maintaining context
  • tasteful color harmony / contrast between foreground and background
  • framing within a frame

All these (and more) help draw our eyes into and around each moving picture, from start to finish of each episode, every episode.

So when I say that I enjoy watching Lie to Me because of the pictures I see, it’s the truth. 🙂


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