Here at Videomaker, our goal is to help you produce better video. In our resources, you can find gear recommendations, production tips and business advice. You can learn about the rule of thirds, three-point lighting or proper microphone placement. In sum, we aim to teach you how to do all the things that will make your video look and sound shiny and polished.
But shiny and polished can also feel incredibly sterile and boring. The most interesting works of art are the ones that bend the rules most freely, contorting them to serve the work’s intention. Any competent videographer can achieve pleasingly even interview lighting, and that’s all you need most of the time. An artist, however, will use light to enrich the story, abiding by the principles of three-point lighting only as long as they serve the artistic needs of the video. If the scene works better without a fill light, rules be damned, that light will be switched off.
From the beginning, the medium of the motion picture has been built on experimentation, on learning — through trial and error — what the medium can do and how audiences respond to it.The moving image medium is incredibly young compared to many other art forms, and its development continues as new technical feats become possible. With this history, there’s absolutely no reason to keep your work shackled by the rules that say one technique is professional and another is not. Is the work effective? Does your video convey the message or evoke the feeling you want evoked in your audience? If so, you’ve succeeded. If not, consider what rules you need to break to conjure those feelings in your next piece.
The way we use video can and will change over time. New formats, like vertical video, will surface and the trends of today will start to feel dated as new aesthetic codes emerge. Just as cameras and editing software evolve as technology develops, so do the techniques that those tools make possible. Use your tools to their fullest. Experiment. Fail. This is how all of our conventions have been established, from Edwin S. Porter’s parallel editing in the “The Great Train Robbery” of 1903 to Maya Deren’s dream-like “Meshes in the Afternoon” in 1943 to Peter Jackson’s use of high frame rates in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in 2014. Pushing boundaries is intrinsic to the nature of the craft.
Finally, as much as I want you to understand why the 180-degree rule exists and how it can help you avoid confusing your viewers, I also want to remind you that sometimes it’s ok for your viewers to be confused. Not everything needs to be handed to them in a neat little package that they can easily — and with certainty — decipher. Sometimes ambiguity is exactly what your video needs. Diverging from convention forces the viewer to ask questions and think critically about those conventions. Breaks like these, in their subtle way, present opportunities for your audience to examine their own position in relation to your story and to society more broadly. Experimentation is another tool in your arsenal; don’t be afraid to experiment to get the effect you want.