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  • Rule of Thirds defined for Composition in filmmaking and photography

    Some people say that having an eye for cinematography is something that a person is born with. Others will argue it can be learned. Personally, I think people are born with an eye for cinematography, and just like any other skill, it can be nurtured or deprived. That doesn't mean the skill can't be learned, but it's hard to argue that there are those gifted individuals who have a certain eye for making an image look amazing.


    Regardless of the gifts you may or may not have, there are certain rules and guidelines to help anyone get started creating effective imagery. Below are a list of the most common filmmaking rules, via the Online Film School Boot Camp.

    Rule of Thirds or Composition
    The Rule of Thirds applies when you are composing any and all visual images. From taking pictures with your smartphone to creating a cinematic movie, the rule states that an image should be divided into three equal thirds, horizontally and vertically. See Image Below

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    More so, the important composition elements should be placed along the lines or at their intersections. Aligning the subject or elements along these lines or at their intersections helps to create more interest, tension, and energy within your frame that will draw the attention of the viewer. This helps to align people or elements on screen along with landscapes or locations to allow features from the image to flow from one section to another.
    The main purpose of the Rule of Thirds is to discourage the placement of a subject or element at the center of screen or to prevent an horizon from appearing to divide your picture. Of course, once you know the rules, you can start to bend or manipulate them.

    After framing hundreds of shots over the course of my filmmaking career, I've decided there are two basic categories that can help to further define the Rule of Thirds. Point of Interest and Symmetrical.

    Point of Interest refers to the arrangement of elements or objects on screen to place an emphasis on a specific object or area by aligning it with the intersecting lines. See Image Below. The human eye is naturally drawn to these intersecting lines. By placing images or objects at their intersections, you will create a more natural composition that is pleasing to the viewer.

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    Symmetrical refers to the arrangement of elements on screen to create symmetry along the lines and throughout the shot. See Image Below. Often times you may find yourself in a situation where all the elements on screen are equal or balanced. If this is the case, aligning those elements on screen in a way that creates symmetrical composition, will also be pleasing to the viewer. This is what I mean by bending the rules once you've learned them. A symmetrical shot can look great without any images or elements arranged along the lines or at their intersections.

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    The mood of a scene or the characters in the scene will also help you determine the proper composition. A good way to begin is by determining if you want a balanced scene or an unbalanced scene. As you begin to create your scene or frame your shot, consider these questions.

    - How much foreground or background do you want in your shot?

    - How much spacing do you want in or around your objects?

    - What kind of symmetry are you looking to accomplish?

    Here's another helpful cheat sheet that combines both elements of composition I previously discussed.

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    By practicing and utilizing these simple composition techniques in your filmmaking or photography projects, you will begin to see a dramatic difference in the quality of your work. Below is a video that also helps to describe composition.



    If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or check out my blog at the Online Film School Boot Camp or on Facebook and Twitter for more helpful filmmaking tips.

    Good Filming!
    Trent Duncan
    www.TrentDuncan.com
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