Video Production Techniques to Learn from Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick is widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. His influence on the art of cinema can still be felt today, and his unique approach to filmmaking has inspired countless directors and producers.

In this blog post, we will explore some production techniques that video marketers and videographers can learn from Stanley Kubrick’s work.

Read more: 13 Lessons Video Marketers Can Learn from Taylor Swift


The power of lighting

Kubrick was a master of using light to create a particular mood or atmosphere in his films. He would often use very low lighting or shadows to create a sense of mystery or foreboding.

He was also known for his use of practical lighting, which involves using natural or artificial light sources within the scene, rather than just using traditional movie lights.

This technique can create a more realistic and immersive effect for the viewer.


In The Shining, Kubrick uses low lighting and shadows to create a sense of mystery and tension throughout the film.


Similarly, in A Clockwork Orange, he uses colored lights to create a futuristic and dystopian atmosphere.


The importance of framing and composition

Kubrick was also famous for his meticulous attention to detail in the framing and composition of his shots.

He would often use symmetry, geometric patterns, and carefully placed objects to create a visually striking and memorable image.

His films were also known for their use of long takes and slow zooms, which created a sense of space and time that drew the viewer into the world of the film.


For instance, in the opening shot of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick uses a striking composition of the sun, moon, and earth to create a sense of awe and wonder.


Similarly, in Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick used a wide-angle lens to create a distorted perspective and enhance the film’s satirical tone. He also used extreme close-ups to highlight the absurdity of the characters and their actions.

Related: Understanding the Color Theory for Video Production


Innovative sound design

The films produced by him were notable for their innovative use of sound design. He would often use music, sound effects, and dialogue in unexpected ways, creating a sense of unease or tension for the viewer.

He also used silence and ambient sound to create a sense of atmosphere or to draw attention to a particular moment in the film.


Kubrick uses a combination of classical music and electronic sound effects to create a unique and unsettling atmosphere in A Clockwork Orange.


In 2001: A Space Odyssey, he uses the absence of sound in the vacuum of space to create a sense of emptiness and isolation. The vspace scene can be seen from time stamp 0:56 to 1:10 seconds.


Attention to production design

Kubrick’s films stand out for their meticulous production design. He would often create entire worlds on the screen, with every detail carefully planned and executed.

This attention to detail extended to the costumes, set design, and props, which all contributed to the overall visual style of the film.

Kubrick and his team recreated the look and feel of 18th-century Europe, using period-accurate costumes, sets, and props in Barry Lyndon.


Kubrick used natural light for many of the film’s outdoor scenes, giving them a sense of realism and a painterly quality reminiscent of the period’s art.

One of the most impressive feats of production design in the film is the recreation of the Battle of Waterloo, which is depicted in stunning detail and realism.

Kubrick used thousands of extras and carefully choreographed the action to create a sense of chaos and brutality that was historically accurate.


The film’s costume design, which won an Academy Award, was also a standout element, with detailed and ornate costumes that were period-accurate and visually stunning.


Unconventional editing techniques

There is no doubt that he was a master of film editing, and his films often used unconventional editing techniques to create a unique visual style.

He would often cut between scenes in unexpected ways, or use jump cuts to create a sense of disorientation or confusion.

Another unique feature was his use of slow-motion and time-lapse photography to create a sense of time passing or to draw attention to a particular moment.


Let’s take an example from the film Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick used long takes to create a sense of intimacy and immersion in the scenes. Long takes are unbroken shots that last for an extended period of time, often several minutes, without any cuts or edits.


In the film’s opening scene, Kubrick uses a long take to follow the main character, Bill Harford, as he makes his way through a crowded New York City street.

The camera follows Harford as he weaves his way through the crowd, giving the viewer a sense of his perspective and allowing them to feel as if they are experiencing the scene alongside him.

Kubrick also used long takes in several other scenes throughout the film, including a lengthy conversation between Harford and his wife that lasts for several minutes without any cuts.


The use of long takes creates a sense of realism and naturalism and allows the viewer to feel as if they are eavesdropping on the characters’ conversations.


The use of symbolism and metaphor

Symbolism and metaphor are key components of Stanley Kubrick’s filmmaking style.

Throughout his career, he used these techniques to explore complex themes and ideas, adding layers of meaning and depth to his films.

Kubrick was a master of visual storytelling, and his use of symbolism and metaphor was a major factor in his ability to create powerful and lasting images.

By using these techniques, he was able to create a sense of universality and timelessness in his films, tapping into fundamental human emotions and experiences.

For example, in Full Metal Jacket, the helmet represents the dehumanizing effects of war and the loss of individuality.


The final scene of the film, where a group of soldiers sing “Mickey Mouse March” as they march off to war, represents the innocence lost in war.


Creating emotional impact through acting

Kubrick has the ability to get powerful performances out of his actors. He would often work with them extensively to create a particular emotional tone or to convey a specific message.

This careful detail in acting is what made many of his films so powerful and emotionally resonant.


In Lolita, Peter Sellers delivers a standout performance as the eccentric Clare Quilty, creating a complex and memorable character.

Take another example from Eyes Wide Shut, where Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman give nuanced performances as a couple struggling with their marriage and their desires.


Attention to detail in planning and execution

Kubrick was famous for his meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of his films, from pre-production to post-production.

He would plan and execute every shot and scene with precision, often shooting dozens of takes to get the perfect shot.

This level of attention to detail is what gave his films their distinctive style and made them stand out from other films of their time.


In The Killing, Kubrick used intricate planning and execution to create a complex and tightly plotted heist film.

He also used innovative camera techniques to enhance the suspense and tension of the film.

Read more: 5 Animation Lessons from Studio Ghibli


That’s a wrap

In conclusion, Stanley Kubrick is the legend he is today because of his skill and innovative filming techniques. A lot of these can be used by video producers to make better corporate videos, promos, testimonials, and so on.

Knowing the tricks of the trade will give your production an edge. So study the greats and apply what you learn to make impactful marketing videos.

If you’d like to get a cinematic video made for your business, get in touch. Our video production experts will be happy to help.

Want a video for your business?



Posted by Samra Tiwana

Subscribe to the MotionCue Newsletter

For monthly video and marketing insights from company founder/CEO Osama Khabab

Contact Us

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.