The Math Behind Film Making

May 9, 2023 | Madison West

Did you know that math is an essential part of nearly every aspect of filmmaking? From production to movie equipment, animation to cinematography, as well as all of the aspects of editing.

Moviemaking is a creative effort, but art itself would be impossible without mathematics.

Math and Movie Equipment Almost every aspect of filmmaking is heavily dependent on math. Filming a movie requires the use of equipment built on the principles of science and technology, which are, in turn, based on mathematical principles. In other words, one of the many ways math is involved in filmmaking is through its equipment. You can not think of the simplest video camera without a deep understanding of optics, geometry, and trigonometry. How about light meters and sound equipment? Did you know that not only is every shot in a movie planned out for its artistic angle but it is also calculated for the perfect lighting calibration and digital sound levels? Every aspect of the filmmaking equipment is deeply reliant on mathematics.

Math Behind Animation Creating animated films generally starts with artists sketching thousands of hand-drawn characters and scenes either using pen and paper or with the help of computer software like Photoshop. These blueprints transfer into animating programs where they are brought to life by underlying math, including geometric coordinates (to map a character’s place in space using an X and Y axis graph), trigonometry (to move characters), linear algebra (to show the way that an object is rotated and shifted and made larger and smaller), and even integral calculus (to accurately simulate the movement of lighting). Typically, millions of mathematical equations are solved for every frame of an animated film!

Math for Producers Math plays a significant role in many of the producer's daily tasks. Creating and adjusting the movie's budget is part of these duties, along with accounting practices and math knowledge that are necessary for constant recalculations and estimations, such as predicting film shooting schedules.

Cinematographers and Cameramen A great deal of math goes into the work of the cinematographer and their cameramen. The video camera itself plays a large part in this process, which requires math to determine the best aperture speeds, focal points, and camera angles.

Every aspect of filmmaking relies on math. It's intimately involved in every step of the moviemaking process, from the design of the video equipment filmmakers use to the production of the film itself. The editing process, as well as many other aspects of post-production, rely heavily on the precise usage of extensive math.