What Are Some Benefits and Limitations of the Split Screen as a Filmic Device?
The invention of the split focus diopter, combining two images to make a single shot in which both the foreground and background are equally emphasized, possesses an otherworldly effect that gives the brain a real workout, and the black borders sometimes used to emphasize the fact that we're looking at a split screen can be both performance-serving (two characters talking on the phone) and a means to finding a loophole in the face of censorship .
The use of this technique has never disappeared, but despite a brief flowering in the late sixties and early seventies, it has generally remained a minor trope in the poetics of the moving image. However, it is more in evidence in a range of contemporary films, sometimes as a tour-de-force (Spielman, L, 1999), but more commonly integrated and subordinated within the overall single-screen aesthetic. This resurgence of the split-screen is supported by ongoing cultural changes in the production, distribution and reception of the moving image. The computer desktop, electronic games, television news, print comics and graphic novels have accustomed us to reading the many-windowed visual screen (Rhodes, G.A., 2005).
In this tutorial from Ben Gill, you’ll see how Fincher uses split-comping to combine three different frames in The Social Network or two frames in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Spielman, L., "Aesthetic Features in Digital Imaging: Collage and Morph", Wide Angle, Vol. 21, No. 1, (1999)]
Rhodes, G.A., Metonymy in the Moving Image, MFA Dissertation, State University of New York, Buffalo, 2005. Available online at