Composition

David Galica - Owner of Armor Technologies

Composition

or The Importance of Framing

Composition is one of the most important aspects of film, and it is one of the easiest for beginners to overlook. Have you ever seen someone doing that thing where they frame a shot using their hands? It may look silly, but what they're doing is an important step in production. The framing of a shot has a subconscious effect on audience, and this can be used to elicit a specific response.

One of the key aspects of framing is the “Rule of Thirds.” This is a set of two vertical and two horizontal lines that split up the frame. These lines, and especially their intersections, are natural points of interest for the viewer. By lining up important aspects of your shot, such as the horizon or the focus of interest on these lines, you can immediately create a more appealing shot. In the example provided, the bottle and the horizon follow the rule of thirds, creating a more pleasing shot.

Composition 1
Composition 2

By changing the height of the camera, you can change the way the subject is perceived. Viewing the subject from below while looking up creates a sense of authority. For example, when shooting a police officer pulling someone over. This can also be used to present someone as being powerful. A good example of this would be Darth Vader in the Star Wars series; almost every shot of him is from below in order to present him as a powerful being, and it works to great effect.

The opposite, shooting from above, looking down toward the subject, has the opposite effect. By presenting someone in this fashion, it creates the impression that they are weaker than us, or that they answer to us. It's similar to how an adult might look down on a young child.

Composition 3
Composition 4

The location of the subject in the scene plays a role too, especially in a tracking shot when the subject is walking in profile. If the subject is walking towards stage-left, the right side of the frame, then placing them on the left side with open space ahead of them creates a space for them to walk into. The subject is going somewhere; they have a destination. It makes the viewer feel more comfortable with what they're seeing on screen. It can even be used to create a sense of optimism. Placing the subject against the leading of the frame has its place too.

When your subject is closer to the leading edge of the screen, we have a sense of uneasiness. Without a lead ahead of the subject, we don't know what's going to happen until it does. It also creates the feeling that rather than moving towards something, they are moving away, as if they are being chased. This can be used to great effect in creating a sense of panic or suspense.

Composition 5

The size of the subject in the frame is another key part of any shot. The wider the shot, the smaller the subject will appear, and the less significant they seem. The opposite is true as well. As we get a tighter shot on the subject, their importance grows as well.

Take a look at the shot to the right. What is this shot of? Is it of the two men on horseback? They are the only characters in the shot, it's true. But what we're really looking at is the rolling hills in the desert. In a wide shot like this, we're supposed to look at the scenery, not the characters. Their presence isn't as important as establishing the location.

Composition 6
Composition 7

Now, look at the shot on the left. We're about as tight as we can get on the subject because, in this scene, the subject and her very emotional performance are what is important. We want to be able to see every detail as she confesses to her mistakes. Moving the camera in from a wide to a tight shot can be used to create an increasing sense of importance or dread, and vice versa.

The final thing we'll cover is the roll of the camera. Typically, you will always shoot with your camera level with the horizon. However, on occasion, you can roll the camera slightly. This is known as a Dutch Angle, or a canted angle. Using a dutch angle is an excellent way of creating tension or a sense of uneasiness about the subject or location. In the scene to the right, we can see how the subject seems lost, even detached from his surroundings.

Composition 8

These are just some of the ways that simply positioning your camera can have a dramatic effect on your shot. So next time you're shooting video, don't just put the subject in the center of your frame and forget about it. Think ahead and make your video connect to the viewer that much more.

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Thursday October 22nd, 2015