Fundamentals of Frame Composition

Back in simpler times, you just needed to frame up your talent in whatever artistic way you wanted and roll tape.

Today, it seems like you can't watch a television program without something else going on - stock tickers, station bugs, name plates and so on. These sorts of graphics, when used appropriately, can add information and value to a program, but they also require that your shooters plan for them in the production stage. The next time you are faced with the challenge of shooting for a project, try and keep some of these tips in mind to ensure plenty of on screen real estate for your graphics.

TIP 1: LOWER THIRDS
Even though this may seem obvious, it's important to remember that you may want some space at the bottom of your screen reserved for a graphic treatment. Whether it's an ID or a place to lay some facts or tidbits, you'll be sorry in post if you've left yourself with no room. For lower third ID's, make sure your subject is framed in a medium close-up or a wide shot, with their eyes on the top third of the frame (Figure 1). The good old "Rule of Thirds" can really help to ensure that you've got plenty of room for a graphic, while still framing your subject in a pleasing manner. The Rule of Thirds is certainly a good, solid place to start, but don't let it completely restrict your shooting style. Be creative and have fun, as long as you are shooting in a style that's appropriate for your production.


 

 Figure 1


TIP 2: SIDEBARS
Sidebars are an excellent way to deliver a lot of information. From detailed descriptions to bulleted lists and even to closing credits, sidebars are an effective and stylish way to communicate your message. But only if you've left enough room for it. I like to develop a shot list in pre-production to outline for myself when I need to frame a subject for such graphics like sidebars. In the example pictured here, our spokesperson is framed to the left, because we knew we wanted to reinforce his key points with text (Figure 2).
 
 

Figure 2

Figure 3


As you can see, the shot would have been fine without a sidebar. The point is, your shots should look good whether you'll use the real estate for a graphic or not. If you've got some empty space next to your talent, make sure it doesn't distract your viewer. Make sure your composition always draws the viewer's eye to your subject. If you are shooting objects or products to use along with a sidebar, you should apply the same theories (Figure 3). Frame your object to the left or right to allow enough room for some fancy graphic treatment. Or, take it a step further and add a Jump Back or other Editor's Toolkit element for a customized touch.

TIP 3: OVERLAYS
Overlays are graphics that anchor some other element in the composition, perhaps some text or even a picture-in-picture video window. Framing for an overlay can be tricky. It's often best to know exactly what you are going to use before you set out on your production. Digital Juice's Editor's Toolkits have custom overlays that are explicitly designed to act as templates and frames (Figure 4). During pre-production, run the Juicer software and spec yourself out a Super Set that will suit your production. Then, during shooting, frame your compositions so that they will be complemented by the overlay that you intend to use. Keep in mind that the framing of your subject doesn't need to be perfect. It's OK if elements of the overlay interact with parts of your subject, perhaps even adding a little depth to enhance the produced piece.

 

Figure 4


Perry Jenkins is Senior Video Producer and Director at Digital Juice. Re-Published from Digital Juice magazine.