5 basic rules of composition in filmmaking

There are certain rules of film composition that make a frame more meaningful and visually appealing.

While storyline is considered as the basis of a film, it’s the treatments that make it cinematic on screen and keep the audiences engaged throughout the runtime. Here comes composition which refers to the arrangement of all the elements (be it the characters, props or background) in a frame. This contributes to the visual storytelling as it can deliver various information without uttering a word, create the entire mood of the scene and also direct the audience what to look at.

Rule of Thirds: Rule of Thirds is a widely used compositional rulein photography and filmmaking. If we divide a frame using two vertical and two horizontal lines, will get nine equal sections with four intersection points. In general, the human eyes are drawn to these intersection points of a frame. So, if you put the main subject in one of these points, it will be visually more captivating to the audience.

Leading Lines: Our eyes can’t pay attention to all the elements in a frame at the same time. Leading Lines are imaginary lines in composition that guide our focus in a particular direction in the frame. These lines can even be found in bridges, rail lines, roads, stair railing etc. This is an effective way to create depth and a sense of movement in a scene.

Symmetry: Symmetry is another powerful compositional rule, referring to the arrangement of all the elements of a frame in a symmetrical order. It means, if we split the frame into two sections along the middle, will get two absolutely identical images. This creates a sense of harmony and balance in the frame. Thus, it looks visually pleasing and also leads our eyes to focus more on the subject.

Depth: There are three levels in a shot: foreground, middle ground and background. Depending on the significance of the character in narrative, they are placed accordingly in the frame. That means, if the character A is dominating over character B, you should place A in the foreground and B in the middle ground or background. This composition conveys the importance of the characters in the particular scene.

180 – degree Rule: 180 – degree rule is a very important compositional rule which is used to maintain continuity among the shots. It creates an imaginary straight line between two subjects in the scene. The camera should always be on the same side of this line and never cross it to capture another angle. And if the camera jumps over the line, it creates a sense of disorientation on the viewers.

However, as creativity has no boundaries, one can definitely break all these rules in order to evoke a whole new perspective.

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