This week we start thinking about framing and composition.  Your challenge will be to take 10 moving shots that can be used in your final project, or 10 that allow you to practice shots that you will have to get when you do your final project.  A full list is posted below, and on Thursday we will go over the technical details of how to get each shot.

For my project I know I will need to be able to use symmetry, the rule of thirds, and tracking shots in messy real-life situations.  I decided to practice these at a friend’s birthday party:

What I learned:

  • 30mm gets great detail and close-ups but it is hard to get far enough away for a good full-body shot.  I may need to move between 16mm and 30mm quickly in Vietnam.
  • You don’t have to get all of the action of a sequence in one take.  The George-chasing scene was actually filmed at 4 different times with different camera configurations and then stitched together to look as if it were all in one take.
  • Stable shots are key.  Finding some way to brace the camera (or use a gimbal) makes a big difference.
  • Shooting in 120p has some great advantages for speed ramping and smoothing out shaky footage, but you lose some of that premium punch you get shooting at 24p or 30p.
  • I have decided to shoot and edit at 24p, giving me a little more room for slo-mo (5x slower vs. 4x slower) I also like the extra motion blur for the project I envision.
  • I learned lots of new editing skills: became much more proficient at speed-ramping, editing to music, and color-grading.
  • My ability to “see the light” as the camera sees it also improved.  I was really proud of myself for being able to use the sun for some cool flares and starburst effects, as well as get good exposure in what used to be very tough conditions for me.
  • There are several other shots I still need to practice, such as shape replication, directional continuity, punch-in/out, and re-framing to change the story.  I will continue to practice as new story ideas emerge.

Composition in Storytelling

0:00 Composition is storytelling.  What to show/emphasize and what not to show.
1:45 Composition provides structure and focus to the story
2:18 There are rules that make things pleasing to the eye, but these rules can and should be broken to convey deeper meanings.   What can you say when you go against the formula?
3:00 Cinema is still a new art form and has taken many techniques, standards, and assumptions from earlier forms (theater, etc.)
4:15 A language of film slowly emerged: Wide-Angle = Epics, Close-up = Emotion
5:10 1st goal: Get their attention
5:30 Compositional Influencers: frames, lines, light, eyeline, scale, geometry
6:00 Frame within a frame: storytelling possibilities
7:30 Lines of perspective and convergence: Use lines to trap them in a corner, or new paths on a journey
8:46 2nd goal: Which subject has control of the scene
9:13 Artificial vs. Primal Control
9:38 Importance of size and scale in an image
11:45 Or strip away other details and put controller in the middle
12:40 The uses of negative space
13:24 Movement makes composition more challenging, but moving to a new composition can be a great storytelling device
15:00 Every movement creates a new composition – a new piece of art

The Basics of Composition

3:00 Composition is about focusing the audience’s attention
4:00 Rule of Thirds examples
7:39 Center Framing (there is a technique to it: you need balance)
8:30 Looking room
10:00 short-sighting can say something – breaking rules should be meaningful
10:45 head-room
11:45 Leading Lines
12:15 Repitition
12:39 Golden Ratio
14:00 Use of Contrast
14:20 Frame within a Frame
15:00 Short film with Will Smith example

Angles, Movement, and Storytelling

Simon Cade’s first upload to YouTube:


Composing for Transitions

  1. Simplify your images (silhouettes, center the subject, zoom in)
  2. Punch in / Punch out
  3. Keep the screen direction consistent (or fake it in post)
  4. Follow dominant shape, color, or luminance
  5. Establish cause/effect between shots


Next Challenge:

Frame/Compose 10 beautiful shots that provide the context for your story, or 10 shots that allow you to practice shots you will need to have mastered when you shoot your final project.

Possible Shots:

  • Symmetry
  • Rule of Thirds
  • Pattern replication
  • Shape replication
  • Color balanced image
  • tracking shot
  • In-Camera Transitions (whips, covers, etc.)
  • Directional Continuity Transition
  • Speed Ramp
  • Dialogue / over-the-shoulder shots
  • Punch-in or Punch-out
  • Frame within a frame
  • Lines of Convegence or other Lines
  • Strategic use of negative space
  • Parallax
  • Parallax Zoom






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