Andrew Townsend Responds to #AskMeMonday Discussing Video Framing

Watching videos can bring out emotions in us. This can be because of what is said, what the characters are doing, what is being learned, and many other reasons. What I am going to talk about today, is what emotions can be pulled from framing.

Mostly anger. Bad framing brings out anger, frustration, and discomfort. Cinematographers use this knowledge of video framing to make the audience feel things based solely on the framing. If you are building an eLearning course though, you’ll want to avoid those emotional conveyances.

Also, one last thing before I dive into my examples of good and bad framing. We need to talk about the Rule of Thirds. This is a very common rule in photography (both still and video). If you were to split your screen into three sections vertically, and three sections horizontally, you’d get something like this:

video framing grid

The Rule of Thirds basically states that you want your subject to be in the cross hairs of the top two intersections of the lines. Here:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs

So now the examples. Here is one image that follows the rule of thirds.

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs

Many cameras will have an option to put a grid on your screen while you’re recording, so if we did that, this is what we’d see in camera:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs camera overlay view

As you can see, I’ve placed the subjects eyes directly on the intersection of my top two lines. This makes It comfortable for my viewer, and I can also place information to the right of my subject if I wanted, using a “half” template in Camtasia:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs - eyes on top intersection lines

I can also comfortably place a lower third under my subject:

video framing rule of thirds- lower third

You may want your subject more centered and have no plans to put any additional information on the screen at the same time. (If you’re curious, I used the United Camtasia Template for these) This is fine, but there is still the Rule of Thirds principle to consider. Center your subject, but keep their eye-line on the top line, like so:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs- eyeline on top grid line

This leaves plenty of space for a lower thirds graphic, and also helps to keep your audience comfortable with the video.

“But how can they get uncomfortable?” you ask. “If there’s a person on the screen, everything is fine, right?”

No.

It’s time for the bad examples. Put on your seat belt.

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs - bad example

The above image places my subject’s face in the exact middle of my frame. If I put a lower third on this, it’s likely that his chin will get cut off. We call this giving your subject “too much headroom.” You could fly a jet plane over his head and still not leave the frame. If you don’t think it makes your audience uncomfortable, look at this:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs, bad examples

This next one is when you place your subject too far to the side.

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs, bad example, too far to the side

You may think this works if you need to put information next to your subject, and this can be true. As long as your additional graphic fills the other two vertical sections, you should be OK, but if that gap gets to big, you’ll find your audience cringing. And don’t ever leave it blank. I mean look at it:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs- bad examples

All of the examples so far have kept the eye-line generally away from the bottom horizontal cross bar. What happens if you move down there?

This happens:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs- wrong eye-line

Unless you have a thought bubble you plan to have pop out of your subjects head, you’ve made a mistake.

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs- mistakes

Ok, enough cringing.

Please just give your audience great framing and follow the Rule of Thirds.

And just to make sure that we leave on a good note, you can also put the lower third across from your subject and still look pretty good:

video framing rule of thirds cross hairs

Well, wasn’t that so much better? Following good framing will make your audience so happy, and will increase the quality of your productions quite a bit.

For more video ideas, check out the video blog or send me your questions on social media. You can also check out my blog series on producing an entire interactive eLearning video. And as always, have fun making awesome video!

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