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COMPOSITION

Video images, like still photographs, are subject to the aesthetic rules of picture composition. There are, however, factors peculiar to video that more or less influence television composition. These factors are as follows:

  • The small monitor requires objects to be shown relatively large so they can be seen clearly on a small screen. You must shoot more extreme close-ups (ECU), close-ups (CU), medium shots (MS), few long shots (LS), and very few extreme long shots (ELS).
  • The 3:4 aspect ratio of the picture cannot be changed so all picture elements must be composed to fit it. The aspect ratio is the ratio of picture height to width. There is no vertical format in television. You must always think horizontal format.
  • The video camera is the eyes of the viewer. Therefore, camera movement, as well as the static arrangement of elements within the frame, must be considered.
  • When shooting uncontrolled action, you may not be able to predetermine composition. Sometimes all you can do is correct certain compositional errors.

In motion media, the picture on the screen is referred to as a shot. A shot is one continuous camera run from the time the recording starts to the time the recording stops. A shot may last a few seconds, several minutes, or the entire program. A motion-video cameraperson must always think in terms of shots.

Most rules of composition in still photography apply equally well to composition in motion media. Composition was covered earlier in chapter 5. The simple line drawing examples of TV framing (fig. 13-9) indicates how to stage and show elements within the confines of the small 3:4 fixed aspect ratio of a television picture.

 fig1311.gif (19378 bytes)

Use high- and low-camera angles with caution. High angles tend to shorten the legs of a person. Low angles may distort the body and face of the subject. Of course, watch for objects that seem to be growing out of or are balanced on a person's head.

Area of Talent Included

Most motion-media assignments involve people. You may find it convenient to identify people shots by the section of the body that is included in the frame. The person's head is usually in the top of the picture; therefore, shots vary according to the lowest part of the talent shown at the bottom of the screen. Thus the terms used to describe various people shots are as follows: full figure shot, knee shot, thigh shot, waist shot, bust shot, head shot, tight head shot.

Number of People Included

The shot designations that are easiest to remember are the ones that refer to the number of people included in the picture. When only one person is to be shot, it is a one-shot. Obviously, a shot that shows two people is a two-shot, three people make a three-shot, and so on; however, when five or six people are pictured it is called a group-shot. A crowd-shot is when a large group of 20 or more people is being framed.

BASIC SEQUENCE

During motion-media recording, you can change the image size by changing the camera-to-subject distance or by using a zoom lens (which also changes the field of view).

When recording an event on motion media, there are three basic shots or sequences you must use: long shots (LS), medium shots (MS), and closeup shots (CU) (fig. 13-10). The type of shot being used can limit or increase the amount of visual information presented to the viewer. Long shots generally establish a location. A medium shot is used primarily as a transition between a long shot and closeup shot. Closeup shots create impact and provide more detail and less visual information pertaining to the subject's surroundings.

fig1310.gif (75656 bytes)

Shot classifications can be broken down into five categories: extreme long shots, long shots, medium shots, closeup shots, and extreme closeup shots.

Extreme Long Shots

An extreme long shot (ELS) is used to portray a vast area from an apparently very long distance. An ELS is used to impress the viewer with the immense scope of the setting or scene. An ELS is best usually when made with a stationary camera. Camera panning for an ELS 13-15.should be avoided unless panning is needed to show more of the setting or to help increase audience interest in the film. An extreme long shot can be used to give the audience an overall view of the setting before the main action is introduced The use of an ELS is an effective way to capture audience interest from the start. Extreme long shots should normally be taken from a high vantage point, such as from a tall building, a hilltop, or an aircraft. Extreme long shots are used primarily in films and are seldom used in video productions.

Long Shots

A long shot (LS) shows the entire scene area where the action is to take place. The setting, the actors, and the props are shown with an LS to acquaint the audience with their overall appearance and location within the scene. An LS is used to establish all elements within the scene so the audience knows who and what is involved and where they are located An LS, therefore, tells where. It establishes where the action is taking place.

The subject's entrances, exits, and movements within a scene should normally be shown with an LS when their locations in the scene are significant.

Following actors from location to location within a scene area with closeup shots confuses the viewer about the location of the subject within the scene.

The composition for an LS is usually ‘loose," giving room for the subject to move about. While this may make identification of actors somewhat difficult, an LS is usually short and the subjects will be identifiable in closer shots.

Medium Shots

A medium shot (MS) is usually used between a long shot and a closeup shot. After the scene location has been established with an LS, the camera is moved closer to the main subject or a longer focal-length lens is used to bring the main element of the scene into full frame or near full-frame size. A medium shot tends to narrow the center of interest for the audience and answers the question "what." In an MS, actors are usually photographed to show them from the waist up. An MS is normally sufficient to show clearly the facial expressions, gestures, or movements of a single actor or a small group of actors.

With an MS, movement of the subject can be followed with a pan or other camera movement while still showing enough of the surroundings so the audience does not become disoriented. Motion-media coverage should normally progress from a long shot, to a medium shot, to a close-up, then back to a medium shot. This reestablishes the scene location or the actors within the scene.

Closeup Shots

The closeup shot (CU) fills a frame with the most important part of a scene. The CU should include only action of primary interest The portion selected of an overall scene, such as a face, a small object, or a small part of the action, may be filmed with a closeup shot. Close-ups give the audience a detailed view of the most important part or action within a scene. Close-ups also help to build audience interest in the film. The CU shot can be used to "move" the audience into the scene, eliminate nonessentials, or isolate a significant incident.

As a motion-media cameraperson, one of the strongest storytelling devices you have are close-ups. Closeup shots should be reserved for important parts of the story so they deliver impact to the audience.

Extreme Closeup Shots

Very small objects or areas or small portions of large objects can be photographed with an extreme closeup shot (ECU), so their images are magnified on the screen. Small machine parts, such as calibrations on a ruler or a match at the end of a cigarette, can be very effective when shown on a full screen in an ECU.

Do not forget, you must change camera angles between shots within a shot sequence.

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