In this blog, I’m going to give you a quick beginner guide on how to frame a shot properly and what you can do to make your videos more professional. This information is especially useful if you have any interest in becoming a production assistant at CTV *wink*. Now you don’t have to go to film school, you’re welcome.
1.Nobody likes looking at unlevel shots
Unleveled shots are what you’ll find throughout all of Battlefield Earth; which is a terrible movie. Unless you want to convey either A) an unnerving scene or B) that your tripod is malfunctioning, avoid them entirely. Use the bubble on your tripod or (if a tripod is unavailable) look for something in your shot that is level with the ground to use as a reference.
2. Focus your shot
This is a mistake made frequently by amateurs, I was no less guilty of this myself when I was younger. It can be easy to forget about fundamental steps such as this in the creative “heat of the moment.” (Also, yes, that was me in the gorilla suit. If you want to know the full story behind that video, ask me in person when you get a job as a CTV production assistant *wink* *wink*).
In order to check that your shot is in focus, move the focus wheel in and out to check the clarity of the shot. I’m usually sure to recheck this before each shot. No matter what your eyes may tell you, the viewfinder is very small, so the full definition of the angle can be difficult to gauge with just a cursory glance.
3. Don’t forget composition!
Now we’re getting to the hard stuff. For this, I’ll have to call upon some sacred geometry.
First, look at this symbol. Metatron’s Cube: the flower of life, a shape that reflects power and judgment. Using this archaic geometry, we can deduce the proper way to frame our shot. Use caution, as simply staring at this symbol for too long has been known to induce paralysis, insanity and even death.
With that in mind, this may be too advanced for most of our readers, so I’ll simplify it a little bit.
Behold! The Grid of Thirds!
Now this involves elements of creative alchemy that can be quite versatile and easily tamed. Thus, it is perfect for beginners. No summoning of eldritch horrors to be found here.
To utilize The Grid of Thirds, place any subjects of interest at one of the intersecting points on the grid. If you’re filming people, it’s important to keep your subject’s eyes in the top row with extra space on whatever side of the frame they’re facing towards.
Por ejemplo, look at this shot of Jim from The Office, that lovable rabscallion…
This is a great example of an interview shot format. Notice how his eye level lines up with the top row and is intersected by the rightmost vertical grid line. His whole body aligns with the right third and he is looking off to our left. He also has proper headspace above him and just looks at that cheeky grin.
This principle also applies to film inanimate objects, be sure that your subject is “facing out” of the shot with enough space. Notice how this rubber ducky is facing the empty part of the shot
Even though rubber duckies aren’t alive (or so I’m told), they should still be held to the same compositional standards as something that is.
Now here’s an example without the grid lines.
Notice that while Harold here is looking at the camera, he is firmly in the right third and the laptop he is very convincingly typing on, is in the lower left third. This is a well-composed, perfectly functional shot, which is exactly what you should expect from a stock image lab. However I would recommend googling “bad stock images,” it’s a trip.
Now for a test! How does the image below stack up to our criteria for a good shot?
Really take your time, there’s a cash prize at the end.
Answer: First of all, the shot is level and in focus. The color composition is very pleasing to the eye, but there is a very key component that deviates from our set rules. Notice the location of the dock. The end of the dock is outside of the thirds, plus it’s pointing off to the left of the shot while being located in the left half of the shot. Far too much empty space is shown on the right side of the shot. This is improper composition and is a severe and punishable offense. Production assistants found guilty of framing a shot in such an improper manner are left for a minimum of two hours in
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the box on-hand. It was recently destroyed since keeping people in a cramped space against their will is some sort of “workspace human rights violation.”
Anyway, now you know the basics of framing a shot. Remember to keep it level, check your focus, and use the rule of thirds. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to stop by one of our camera classes. These will go much more in depth than I could with this blog post for how to properly shoot a video. Yes, that was a shameless plug, however, I believe that any practical experience with cameras can help any aspiring photographer of cameraman greatly. So stop on by! We don’t bite.
Except for Dale. Dale bites.