Fun With AI: A Matter of Visual Style: Part 2

I tried a bit different approach on part two of my examination of what ChatGPT can create regarding visual style in documentary film. I asked it to give me some tips on how to incorporate the “decisive moment” to documentary cinematography —  an idea developed by Henri Cartier-Bresson regarding documentary still photography in the mid 20th century.

The popular translation of his definition: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

I used this as the central idea for my artistic statement (a necessary item for grant applications) because, as a still photographer who became a videographer later in life, I needed some way to think about what I was learning and doing in the context of what I already knew. So I came up with this:  “Translated to documentary digital film, it is to me the simultaneous recognition, sustained over time, of the significance of a story as well as of an unfolding organization of forms which give that story its proper expression.”

Let’s see if ChatGPT had any good tips for me.



Henri Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the “decisive moment” is all about capturing the perfect moment in a photograph. While documentary cinematography involves capturing real-life events on camera, there are ways to adopt the idea of the decisive moment to create compelling documentaries.

Here are some tips for incorporating the decisive moment into documentary cinematography:

1. Plan ahead: While spontaneity is important in documentary filmmaking, it’s also crucial to have a plan in place. Know your subject and their story well so that you can anticipate key moments that are likely to occur.
2. Be observant: Keep a watchful eye on your subject and the environment around them. Look for small details that could add depth and nuance to the story you’re telling.
3. Be patient: Sometimes the decisive moment can take time to arrive. Be willing to wait and observe until the perfect shot presents itself.
4. Use different camera techniques: Experiment with different camera techniques to capture the decisive moment. This could include slow-motion footage, time-lapses, or other creative ways of capturing movement.
5. Edit carefully: When it comes to documentary filmmaking, the editing process is just as important as the filming. Be sure to carefully review your footage and select the shots that best capture the essence of the story you’re trying to tell.

Ultimately, adopting the idea of the decisive moment to documentary cinematography requires a combination of preparation, observation, and creativity. By being alert to the possibilities of each moment and using the tools at your disposal to capture them on camera, you can create compelling and impactful documentaries that resonate with audiences.



Big fail. ChatGPT was unable to achieve anything that I recognize as understanding the topic even before applying it to documentary filmmaking. The list of tips is not quite on point because ChatGPT is unable to interpret a still photography concept for motion.

This is significant.

Stated another way: ChatGPT demonstrated that nothing even close to “thinking” (whatever that can possibly mean in the context of a machine) is going on here — intelligence artificial or otherwise. I’ve heard the thing it is doing described as “predicting the next sentence.” Seems pretty good at that on a surface level of understanding — the level it takes to stack sentences one after another. But it had no idea what I was actually asking it to do.

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