When people who aren’t so familiar with film and video production think about a “cool shot,” it’s usually eye-popping lighting or some type of sweeping camera movement that comes to mind, and that makes sense. After all, those types of things tend to be pretty flashy and, when used correctly, they can leave quite the mark on the viewer.
However, that doesn’t mean that you need accomplish some type of epic camera move to achieve a “cool shot.” In fact, some of the “coolest” shots ever committed to film owe their entire impact to the way they were composed rather than any type of movement, and you may be surprised at just how much can be accomplished solely through framing.
It’s not just about making things pleasing to the eye, either. Taking the time to frame your shots strategically and creatively can be just as important to setting the right mood and telling your story as any other part of the film and video production process. The right frame truly can speak volumes about the content on screen. So, read on to learn about a few framing tricks that can help your next film or video project.
Trick #1: Split the frame to tell more of the story.
One of the best ways to use composition to help tell your story is to make wise use of the entire frame. For example, if you’re telling a story with multiple characters who are connected in some way, which is obviously fairly common, then you can create a frame in which two or more of those characters are on screen at the same time, perhaps performing separate, seemingly disconnected actions.
Think of it as telling two separate stories within a single frame, and what this type of composition can do is let the viewer know that these actions or events they’re witness on screen and the characters performing them are connected in some way. Whether you use the frame to provide details or insight into just how they’re connected is up to you, but you get the idea.
Taking this approach also makes for a more engaging viewing experience in that the viewer has to actively participate in the experience. Rather than just sitting back and watching a character perform a single action or two characters interacting with each other, the viewer has to keep pace with both actions or “stories,” and if you’re not giving them too much information yet, then they must draw their own conclusions pertaining to the connections between the two.
You don’t necessarily have to set it up so that there are multiple characters and events taking place in separate parts of the frame to “split” it, either. For instance, you could also have important story moments play out on one half of the frame while you use the other to do something else, such as provide a little backstory or insight into the characters on screen.
It could have something to do with their attire, actions, body language, etc., but the point is that you can tell the viewers something about them with one part of the frame while the story continues, possibly with a conversation between the characters, in another. That way, you can pass along some information about who your characters are without taking anything away from the progression of your story within the other part of the frame.
Trick #2: Shift balance to shift the viewer’s focus.
When your mission and/or story calls for you to keep all the focus on your main character or subject, then it makes sense to give that person all or most of the weight in the frame, whether you do that by keeping them right in the center or applying the Rule of Thirds. Either way would make sense and would probably be the right move.
However, that may not always be the right intention. Think about it, depending on the story you’re trying to tell and message you’re trying to get across, it may make more sense to give other elements within the frame a little more weight so that some, or most, of the audience’s focus is on them instead.
It could be that the setting itself is important to your story or message, in which case keeping the character or subject off to one side or far back in the frame may be the right approach. That way, you’d be encouraging the viewer to explore the rest of the frame and setting rather than keep all their attention on the main subject.
The best part about this approach is that it gives you the opportunity to tell more of your story in a purely visual manner. You can use elements like lighting, set design, and props to give your audience the information you need them to receive and make no mistake, a simple prop can speak just as loud if not louder about your story and the characters on screen than a line of dialogue or actor’s performance.
Trick #3: Use your characters’ positions in the frame wisely.
Say, for example, you’re telling a story in which two characters are apart and perhaps don’t want to be, then one of the textbook ways to frame them to enhance the emotion of their separation would be to give one character one side or area of the frame and then, when the film or video cuts to the other character, they’d be in the opposite part of the frame.
In this particular case, you’d probably want them as far apart and close to the opposite edges of the frame as possible. It’s just a simple and subtle way of getting the viewer to participate a little bit, hopefully yearning for the two to occupy the same part of the frame together. However, you can also apply this same idea for the opposite effect.
For instance, if two characters are at odds or otherwise converging in some way, then you could place them both in the same exact part of the frame in each of their separate shots. That way, they’d be occupying the same space, which could say something about the dynamic between the two of them.
The point is that you don’t always need to get so inventive to be clever and use your frame wisely. Something as simple as strategically placing your characters in certain positions of the frame so that there’s either plenty of space between them or they’re right on top of each other can speak volumes about who they are and the connections between them.
We’ve been doing video production in NJ & NY for long enough to know how important the right frame can be.
Again, while elements like lighting and camera movement can absolutely help you to tell your story and enhance its impact, you shouldn’t underestimate just how much clever framing can do. Yes, those other things are flashier, but make no mistake, frame composition is an art form all its own, and like with anything else, there are some tricks to the trade. We hope these few help. Good luck!
About Us: KVibe Productions, one of the top NJ & NYC video production companies creating video content of all kinds, can handle every aspect of the process. And whether it’s a commercial, a corporate video production, or a feature film, at KVibe, we always create to inspire.