Every video producer's dream is to leave the audience clamoring for more. But Poor framing and composition is a sure way to have the exact opposite effect.
In this segment, we talk about the Rule of Thirds, and show you how to frame your shots with proper head room and lead room. Plus, we’ll show you how to anticipate the action in your shots, and give you the confidence to break the rules when the time is right. Knowing how to frame your shots with the right head room and lead room is a powerful tool you can use on your next project.
Consistently poor framing is a sure sign of an amateur at work and can lead to some undesired emotional responses from your audience. A key element to understanding how to achieve proper framing is known as "The Rule of Thirds."
Imagine your shot divided into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Some cameras might even have the option to superimpose these lines in your monitor. The dividing lines intersect at four points. For a visually pleasing composition horizontal and vertical elements within the scene should closely follow the horizontal and vertical lines, with key elements placed at or near the points of intersection.
Few things spell BORING as clearly as a subject placed dead center within the frame, but following the Rule of Thirds will ensure pleasing compositions every time. The Rule of Thirds is also the foundation for framing your shot with proper head room and lead room. Head room refers to the space between the top of your subject's head and the top of the frame.
In this scene the person's head is too close to the top of the frame, which gives the scene a claustrophobic feeling. Any upward movement will cause our subjects head to touch or extend beyond the top of the frame.
Conversely, it’s also possible to have too much head room. In this scene there is an inordinate amount of room or "dead space" between the top of the subject's head and the frame. This can cause them to appear small, isolated and insignificant and can leave the audience confused or distracted by other elements within the scene.
When framing people the primary area of focus should be their eyes. Keep the eyes on the upper line of thirds, preferably at or near a point of intersection. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
In this closeup, we’ve placed the subject’s eyes on the upper line, and even though the top of the head gets cut off, the framing looks good. moving out to a medium shot, we still have our eyes placed near the upper line, Notice how we included a portion of the subject's shoulders. The same shot framed without including the shoulders makes it look as if our subject’s head is floating in the frame. Another thing you definitely want to avoid is cutting off your subject’s chin. This example clearly demonstrates the awkward feeling that this gives the viewer.
Lead room refers to the space in front of the subject in the direction they are facing, or in which the action is moving.
In this scene the subject is framed properly according to the Rule of Thirds but there is too little lead room. With the face at the edge of the frame like this the subject feels cramped and claustrophobic. Not enough lead room cuts off the energy to the front and is unsettling to the audience.
Here’s the same shot with proper lead room. Notice how there is ample space in the direction that the person is speaking.
When setting up static shots it's relatively easy to account for the Rule of Thirds, the proper amount of head room and lead room. But what if the subject is moving around?
In this example we’re trying to follow our actor as he walks, but our camera isn’t keeping pace, so our subject drifts to the edge of the frame.
One way to help avoid this is to have your subject slow his pace, or to begin the movement of your scene early so the camera and talent have time to get their movement synced before you hit the main action of your scene.
If you’re zooming in or out on a shot, be sure to adjust your tilt as you zoom to keep your framing consistent.
In this shot, we’re zooming out from our subject, but without tilting at the same time, our head room ends up with a lot of dead space.
Here’s the same shot, but this time, we’re tilting down as we zoom in order to maintain consistent head room.
Of course human beings are not the only things that benefit from having the right amount of lead room.
Moving objects such as a rolling ball or a moving car should have plenty of lead room in the direction in which they are traveling.
Even still objects, such as a tree, may give more weight to one direction or another. If so, provide lead room in that direction.
Using all these rules with a scene that has predictable movement is fairly easy, but how do you prepare for shooting a wedding or documentary, when you only get one shot? Well, practice makes perfect.
So grab your camera and follow a friend as they move back and forth around a room. Film a sporting event or your pet running around. Try to incorporate the Rule of Thirds, giving your subjects proper amounts of head and lead room and maintaining that space while they are in motion.
So we know the rules, and now it’s time to break them. We mentioned that certain framings can be unsettling to your audience. It can also give them the feeling like something is going to happen in the empty space behind your subject.
In this scene we have our actor with tons of empty space behind him. This sets up the idea that something is going to happen in the empty space, and can either be foreshadowing, or a red herring to add to the suspense.
You now have a basic structure for properly framing your scenes, and using the rule of thirds and proper head and lead room can help you compose better shots to fully engage your audience on your next project. Thanks for watching.