The Art of Creating Awe

Oscar-winning VFX guru Rob Legato on how to connect emotionally with your audience.

Rob Legato took the TED stage earlier this year to talk about a few things he learned working on Titanic, Hugo, and Apollo 13. What I find useful for filmmakers, is that he learned the audience didn’t necessarily respond well to realistic or accurate visuals, but to how they remember the visuals. It’s a subtle, but important distinction. “When we’re infused with enthusiasm or awe, it changes perceptions of the things that we see and what we remember.” Watch his talk below.

TED has a blog entry on this topic here:

“To re-create the launch of this historic craft, he assembled some stock footage of rocket launches and asked people to tell him what was most memorable about the film. Interestingly, people described different shots very differently from what was in the shot, like camera moves and cuts that never happened. They saw different things than he did. So he decided to re-create what they remembered, not what they saw.”

On Titanic, he exploited a quirk in how humans tend to see things in a frame, by studying where and when people saw the frame change:

“Legato’s task was to produce footage that looked like what Cameron was doing – and more important, that felt the same. Once he know the ship had been found, he wanted to see it. So he needed to create an effect where the audience wanted the same thing he did. That led to one of the most famous Titanic effects shots, where the camera swings around from a sailing Titanic to the wreckage at the bottom of the sea. He created that shot by tracking what he was looking at as he went around the ship and paying attention to where he was looking. Then, he slowly changed things on the periphery until the brain cued the change.”

It’s fascinating stuff, and informative to filmmakers. Watch below:

Matthew Jeppsen - DP Notes

Matt Jeppsen is a working DP with over a decade of experience in commercials, music videos, and documentary films. You can view Matt’s cinematography reel and contact info at and editorial ethics statement at

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