The Importance of Scale


Scale is a concept that is used in a variety of ways. Whether it is the slightly skewed spring scale hanging around the produce aisle or the pit-and-girder monster that weighs trains and trucks, scales play an essential role in modern life.

Question two asked participants to identify similarities between the different definitions of scale. The responses to this question were diverse and varied across disciplines.

Scales in Cinema

Filmmakers use a variety of techniques to create scale within their shots. This is important because it helps the viewer understand where the subject is located and how large or small they appear in relation to other objects or characters. Scale is also important for establishing the emotional intensity of a scene.

Movies are composed of a series of scenes, which are generally only a few minutes long. Nevertheless, most movies also have larger events called acts or major parts that are usually about 20 to 35 minutes long.

As a result, it is challenging to establish the size of an object in a scene from just one shot. To help solve this problem, film editors use compositional elements like proportion to create a sense of scale in a shot. For example, if a character is standing in front of a mountain, they can use the proportion between the landscape and the human subject to create the impression of a large scale.


Proportion is the relative size of different parts of a whole object. For example, the iconic statue of David by Michelangelo has proportions that are very accurate to human anatomy. The relative size of the arms, legs, torso and head are all correct within the statue to create the sense of scale.

Artists of all mediums use proportion to achieve different effects in their art. They use it to capture the innate perception that humans have with size in space and to manipulate this perception for their desired effect on their audience.

A designer with an efficient understanding of scale will look for ways a project can adapt across various platforms and sizes. For instance, a print ad might need to be scaled down for a billboard or up for an online banner ad. This is where proportion comes in, as the same composition may need to be adjusted for a larger or smaller canvas.

Scale in Photography

Scale in photography is the relative size of objects. It is what assists our minds with understanding the size of something when it is displayed close to another object of a radically different size together in the same picture.

Photographers use scale to convey the three-dimensional look of a scene on a two-dimensional photo. Whether you want to show the vastness of a landscape or a tiny ladybug on a leaf, there are several ways to accomplish this goal.

The most common method is using an item people recognize to help establish the scale of the scene. For example, a person’s foot can be used to demonstrate the size of a mountain range or boat in a harbor.

Some cameras have a built-in scale for this purpose. Others require that a special reference scale be used. These are usually made of plastic with a non-reflective surface and contain circles for aiding in correcting perspective. Alternatively, a photomacrographic corner square scale may be used.

Scale in Music

Whether you’re writing music or just learning how to play an instrument, scales are one of the most important musical building blocks. Scales are a set pattern of intervals that repeats over an octave. The more scales you know, the more sounds you have in your palette. Melodies are written using notes within scales, and chords are created by combining notes from different scales.

Many scales use sharps and flats to change the sound of the individual notes. A scale that doesn’t use these can be described as a diatonic scale, while a scale that does is a chromatic scale.

While it may seem like a tedious exercise, learning scales is one of the best ways to improve your playing. The simple act of practicing these patterns allows your working memory to be freed up so you can concentrate on other musical elements such as dynamics and articulations. By focusing on these details you will see a quick improvement in your tone quality and the overall sound of your instrument.

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