THDL Toolbox > Audio-Video > Design and Execution of Videos > Images and Composition
The key to good cinematography lies in composition. Documentary filmmaking presents a broad ranges of situations in which one has varying degrees of control over composition – exactly how much is determined by one’s approach and aesthetic priorities. In interviews and reenactments, the cinematographer often has time to assess the location and make adjustments off camera, whereas in observational filming, where reality unfolds before the camera, good cinematography requires one to respond quickly, appropriately, and creatively to changing composition. In both instances, there are several variables that one can manipulate to achieve the best results. These are:
- Framing (spatial composition)
- Exposure (brightness/darkness)
- Color Balance
Insert: Bruce Lee Quote about Jeet Kune Do “You must learn the methods to break them.”
One of the first conventions of spatial composition is the Rule of Thirds. Imagine the frame divided into a 3x3 grid:
One’s inclination might be to frame the “center of interest” in Box E, but to many this composition appears static. Thus, cinematographers often try to position the center of interest slightly off-center, either along the horizontal and vertical lines, or ideally where they intersect (points 1-4).
Headroom (the space between the top of someone’s head and the top of the frame) is a second way cinematographers control composition. Too much headroom can appear awkward and amateurish. How much is too much depends on the type of shot. In a close-up, the subject’s eyes are usually positioned 1/3 of the way down the frame, slightly off-center (point 1 or 2 on the diagram above), which leaves little to no headroom. However, in a longer shot, emphasizing the background over the subject, it is acceptable to have more headroom.
Using this method, the are at the intersection of the lines (1,2,3,4)
Headroom Noseroom Movement (Camera, Internal) Center of Interest (Converging Lines) Diagonals Level Image Steady
Helpful Tips For Good Images:
- When you are recording, your attention should be focused on either the LCD screen or the viewfinder. Be aware of what is happening “outside” of the image without being distracted by it. If there is something happening “outside” the image that is important enough to command your full attention, then you should probably reorient the camera to record it.
- Hold the image for at least 3 seconds to avoid unnecessary camera movement. If you change the image, you should know why. Some good reasons to move the camera (or zoom) are:
- If the person you are filming is moving
- To reorient the camera to capture something important
- To zoom in on a detail.
- Always be focused on keeping the camera steady. If you are using a tripod this will not be a problem – but if you are holding the camera, even the slightest movement will unsettle the image. In situations where you are standing, brace the camera against your body. If you are sitting, it is best to rest the camera on your knee.