This week in class we're going over how to create mood and atmosphere in film. There really are so many ways to do this.
Camera shots are used to establish a scene and a mood in a setting. Camera angles are used to position the viewer so they can understand the relationships between characters. For example, you may choose to use a down-shot to give the illustion that a character is vulnerable or weak. You would choose an up-shot to convey the opposite feeling. This will make that character feel more powerful. It could be used to create empathy if they are viewing the frame from another character's point of view. In television we usually see many medium shots. This helps to stay on budget. In film you will see a wider variety of shots to enhance the storytelling.
It is obvious that sound plays a huge roll in setting a mood on screen. Soft music will have a lighter more innocent feel or perhaps a romantic tone. Creaking floorboards and erie winds whistling through the background will most certainly foreshadow something dark on the horizon. Laugh tracks can serve a purpose, but can be distracting and lately I've found that they make me feel the opposite of wanting to join in laughing (but that's just my personal opinion) Science is also very effective, especially when it's set up against some jarring music like in horror movies.
You can lure the viewer's eye to a focal point using contrast/lighting. What you choose for your story should reconfirm the mood you want to convey. This is where I'd like to focus on for our film keys. It's very important to flush out your imagination to paper. To successfully establish the mood and atmosphere for your film you need to plan. Plan your lighting and contrast. Experiment with what time of day it will be. Where will the light source will be? How will it react with the characters and set? Remember all of the effort will only help to get you prepared and know your film. You will have a bigger body of work to choose from when it comes to your first portfolio. This all prepares you for industry work.
For a laugh but a pretty good(silly) example of setting the mood and atmosphere check out the Scary Mary Poppins Trailer. Also see how the shining was edited to make it look like a wholesome drama and not a horror.