Composition in filmmaking – a guide to popular techniques

Understanding and employing composition in filmmaking will enhance your films and captivate your audience.

Understanding film composition and putting it into practice will make your videos stand out. A well-planned photo can help express a message or emotion by speaking louder than words. Some of the most famous film moments are remembered not for what was said or done, but for how they were filmed.

Whether you’re shooting a music video, a promotional campaign, an ad, or a documentary using a cinema camera like the Canon EOS C70 or using the Cinematic mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, you’ll need to think carefully about how you want the ultimate result to look. While the best video camera will ensure that your movie looks professional, it is up to you, the videographer, to be creative in how you shoot your project.

Take, for example, The Shining’s “Here’s Johnny” sequence. Of course, everyone remembers the scene because of the famous remark, but it’s also recognized for the striking shot. It’s unlikely that the moment would have had the same scary impact if Stanley Kubrick had positioned Jack Nicholson out to the left and utilized an incredibly wide perspective to capture it. The symmetry and close-up image of Jack slicing his way through the door helped to portray his dark turn while also drawing attention to the action.

Any good video will incorporate a variety of composition techniques and shot kinds. This book will assist you in beginning to consider how to build a scene and will demonstrate some popular strategies that you may know from your favorite films.

Composition in filmmaking

There are three basic composition styles employed in filmmaking, and you’ve probably seen them all without understanding it was a director’s choice to film it that way. Each has its unique function in filmmaking, and you should try them all out.

Rule of thirds

By dividing an image into two horizontal and two vertical lines, the rule of thirds is an efficient means of framing your scene to make it more aesthetically appealing. Your eyes are pulled to the most significant components of your image when they appear at the intersections, and the framing appears more natural.

This is one of the most frequent filmmaking techniques, and it can be found in anything from Harry Potter to Mission: Impossible. This approach will make your photographs more fascinating and lively if you use it. It’s never too late to put this into practice, whether you’re just getting started with video or have a lot of expertise with it.

Symmetry and one-point perspective

Symmetry may appear to be a simple composition method, but doing it correctly can be difficult. This approach has been utilized by directors such as Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Stanley Kubrick in their films to evoke a psychological reaction, tell a story, or provide context to a scene. It’s difficult to master since there’s a risk of causing visual distortions in a scene rather than conveying complex ideas and eliciting an emotional response from the viewer.

Symmetry and one-point perspective are two composition strategies that are similar in theory but not in practice. The symmetry in the film isn’t always exact, but it’s close enough to give the scene a sense of togetherness. A camera is situated immediately opposite the horizon line and vanishing point in a one-point perspective, causing your eyes to be attracted to the center of the screen.

Leading lines

The purpose of this composition method is to direct the viewer’s attention to a certain place within a scene. Actual lines, such as the edges of buildings or road markers, can sometimes be seen that bring your eyes to the focal point. However, more subtle elements such as light, shadow, or even a body component can sometimes form the leading lines. Leading lines can be used to tie a character to a setting, an object, or another person, and they can also be used to direct the viewer’s attention.

Composition in filmmaking

You’ll notice scenarios with leading lines all over the place once you start looking for them. During the scene where Batman is following the Joker through tunnels on his Batpod, the Dark Knight makes extensive use of them. When the Joker and Batman meet in the streets of Gotham, they use a combination of leading lines and symmetry.

Experiment with numerous ways to employ leading lines to direct the viewer’s attention to a specific area on the screen since this will accentuate what is most significant or where the scene will next travel.

Of course, regulations are made to be broken and let’s face it, they’re more like guidelines than rules. However, before you begin experimenting, it’s a good idea to brush up on the fundamentals. Keeping these habits in the back of your mind will ensure that you’re always considering the final product. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing you’re not satisfied with your footage after a long day of shooting.



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