You are off to shoot a video of your friends, of the vacation retreat you are at, or if you are more creative, you are shooting a creative video that you are going to put on Youtube for all to see. If you are like most people, when you go to shoot a photograph, or a video, you want to center everything perfectly in your frame. You have the misguided notion that the best pictures and videos are ones where your main subject is centered in the frame. Perhaps there are occasions where this approach can work, but on many occasions, those pictures and videos turn out to be incredibly dull and boring to viewers.
Why is being centered dull?
There is no real answer to this question; things are just more visually appealing to the eye when off centered. There are some that say because of the reality that we as humans, are not symmetrical, that nothing in nature is truly symmetrical, that having things off center make them more appealing visually. As awesome as some man-made things can look, when photographed or recorded on video they are dull and boring. Consider this for a moment, when you look at anything in nature, animals, trees, rocks, rivers, streams, or mountains they are not symmetrical.
What is the “Rule of Thirds?”
This photographic principle is very simple. When you are taking a shot of your main character, hero, or villain, it is better if they are filmed in the left, right, top, or bottom third of the frame. For whatever reason, framing your character in this fashion is more appealing to the eye. By dividing the frame of your scene, or picture, into thirds, when going to make your shot, keep the focus of your character out of the center square. By paying close attention to this, you will avoid dull composition.
Watch Your Videos!
Sounds a bit silly doesn’t it. You go through all of the time and effort to follow the “Rule of Thirds” and get the shots you want but once the project is complete, you more or less forget about it. This isn’t all that odd. Many individuals don’t like looking at the raw footage that lacks the editing, color correction, music, and sound effects. Another name for this raw footage is the dailies. Dailies never look the way the finished product does, because, well, it isn’t the finished product.
Make sure that you look through your dailies and look through them with a critical eye to find the shots that you like, and those that you don’t. Make notes of these things will help you become a better director and teach you how to take better shots on future videos. If you don’t get in the practice of watching your dailies, you cannot learn from what looking at them can do for your eye as a director, not to mention, they can go unwatched all together.
Record, Review, Reshoot
Let’s face it, when you are in the midst of shooting any type of event chances are varying factors will impact the quality of your video. Perhaps there is a sudden change in the weather, which eliminates the sun that you needed, your subjects get tired, sick, or just become impatient. Whatever the situation, a director needs to keep on his or her toes and have an alternative ready.
If your actor is failing, replace them. If the angle of the shot you took doesn’t give you the effect you wanted, shoot it from a different angle. Be prepared to improvise on the fly to get the shot you want. Always remember you can reshoot, you can start over, and there are often highly unusual alternatives that will help you achieve the shot you are after, if you brainstorm and accept the most unusual idea, may help you get exactly the scene you are after.