Studio 3 Development Blog 2

Welcome back to another instalment of my studio 3 development series.

Today we are going to be completing a semiotic analysis of a single frame from a cut-scene from Blizzard’s Diablo 3. The purpose of the analysis is to delve into the way the shot has been constructed to convey the message that it does.

Semiotics is a huge field of study, pioneered by Ferdinand de Saussure, it is in essence the study of signs. Signs being anything that represents something else.

Film Deconstruction Scene

Above is a capture of a single frame from the aforementioned cut-scene. I find this particular scene to be fascinating from several points of view.

Firstly, it is similar to what I am trying to achieve within the World Builders project I am working on. In essence I am trying to get a shot of the gates of the White City from the Darksiders novel by Ari Marmell.

Second, its composition is great. Albeit from my limited experience with such things. You can see the use of contrast, framing, focus and the rule of thirds in play to make sure your attention is directed where it needs to be, on the gates of heaven.

If we approach this from the point of view of semiotics however we can see so much more in this image than is initially apparent.

We will start with the composition of the shot. If you apply the rule of thirds to the image above you can see that the 2 main points of interest lie almost on the intersections of the lines and thus are positioned well to gain your attention. Not only does this lend itself to a strong design but also, semiotically it signifies that the subjects of focus in the image are of significant importance.

In the foreground there is a figure in shadow, facing away from the camera. The figure is focused on the gates in the middle ground, this signifies that the figure has intent on the gates. The figure is also shadowed and dark, not only does this help to frame the gates from a composition point of view but it also gives the feeling of menace and impending threat. This is also aided by the black mist that rises from the figure.

The mist blends into the clouds which draw attention to the rays of light that break through to shine on the gates of heaven. While compositionally this is a great way to add contrast and dynamic lighting to the shot, semiotically this plays on our perceptions of good versus evil. As that is the subject matter of this shot, the light breaking through the darkness symbolises the tendancy for good to triumph over evil. It also helps to add additional focus on the gates.

The gates, standing in the middle ground of the composition are the primary focal point and aiding this is the fact that it is also the brightest and most saturated area of the image. The symmetrical design of the gates symbolises power and order (a nifty fact I picked up during a lesson on composition at uni) [also this design is a subtle hint at the notion that angles tended to be portrayed as an order loving, law abiding and generally powerful and organised faction].

The gates themselves are depicted as ivory and gold, or white and yellow. Yellow, in semiotics, connotes a powerful forces and is the colour of gold, a divine metal symbolising a heavenly body (“Inspector Insight » The Meaning of Yellow – the Colour of the Golden Sun”, 2016). 

The other colour present there in the heavenly city in abundance is white or ivory. Semiotally speaking it symbolises purity, holiness and spirituality (“Inspector Insight » The Meaning of White – the Beginning and the End of Colour”, 2016). 

The overall impression and story that the semiotics of this image portrays is that there is a pressing and immediate threat to the purity and sanctity of heaven. All factors and choices can be said to have been deliberate, from positioning of elements, framing, lighting and colours. They all make references to the nature of the subject matter and represent more than just a strong composition. They help to tell more of the story than the image can without the use of semiotics.

In conclusion, while there composition of the image is strong, the lighting and positioning of elements is dynamic and there is an overall felling of appeal to the piece, the semiotics used in the design of the colour palate and the representations of the focal elements help to really tell the story and set the mood for the scene.

Thank you for sticking around through all of that. I will provide the references used below. Its a fairly short list as it is a topic I have studied fairly thoroughly and could draw on knowledge I have gained from previous assignments and study.

As mentioned above the image is a still frame from Blizzard’s Diablo 3. It is taken from the cinematic at the beginning of act 4 of the campaign.

As always,

Thank you and till next time,

James Day – 1002467


Inspector Insight » The Meaning of White – the Beginning and the End of Colour. (2016) Retrieved 8 June 2016, from

Inspector Insight » The Meaning of Yellow – the Colour of the Golden Sun. (2016) Retrieved 8 June 2016, from



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