So you’ve read your brief, caught the creative spark, and are now ready to transform your idea into a visually pleasing, cash money winning video? Whether you’re a greenhorn in need of an introduction or the next Steven Spielberg, everyone can stand to brush up on some classical rules of filmmaking. Here are some cardinal rules to keep in mind while shooting your submissions:
Rule of Thirds
Avoid centering objects in the exact middle of the frame. For some reason, it doesn’t look good. Instead, use the Rule of Thirds to look classy and professional. Divide your frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically (hint: end up with 9 squares). Place the important elements of your shot along the vertical and horizontal lines or where they intersect. The result is more aesthetically pleasing. Check out the rule in action.
180 Degree Rule
At the start of any scene, a viewer subconsciously forms a map of where actors are located. It’s just a thing we do–helps us follow what’s happening. Don’t disorient your viewers with wildly variant camera angles. We lose our reference points and get confused.
Instead, pretend an imaginary line extends between your actors, and off into space beyond them. (This straight line in geometry would measure 180 degrees.) “Never let the camera cross this imaginary line once your position has been established,” a wise film sage once instructed. You’ll see this rule obeyed everywhere, from dialogue to epic battle scenes. The camera is always on one side, never the opposite.
Cutting between different size shots and angles with the same subject as the focus can lead to unpleasant effects for an audience if not done properly. A general rule of thumb for cutting between shots, of the same subject, with differing angles, is that the change should be greater than 35 degrees to avoid being a distraction.
If your changing the size of your subject within a frame, say going from a wide shot to a close-up, you want the change in size to be decisive to avoid being perceived as an editing mistake. However, a dramatic shift in size can be shocking to an audience. Here is a great explanation of finding the proper balance with nifty visual aides.