Three Composition Rules that are Commonly Broken for Effect
Those who have mastered the basic rules of video production would know that there are certain rules that must be abided. However, some videographers and photographers bend the rules to better communicate the inner-world of characters in a more expressive manner. The “no crossing 180° line” rule is often broken, for example, in order to communicate a character’s confusion and disorientation. It also adds a comical element by portraying how the character may have had one too many drinks. Today we’d like to focus on instances where composition rules were broken to create a more compelling end product.
Breaking Rule 1: Rule of Thirds
One of the first things you would have learnt in video or photography class was the “Rule of Thirds.” You’d probably remember how your teacher rambled on and on about how “boring” centered, and symmetrical shots were. But such composition has been successfully used for centuries in classical realism art. Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is one example, which continues to captivate people generation after generation. This masterpiece could be described in many words, but ‘boring’ isn’t one of them.
In cinematography Stanley Kubrick’s perfectly symmetrical one-point perspectives, combined with camera motion produce almost hypnotic effect on viewers.
Breaking Rule 2: The Area Between and Around Your Object is Empty Space
“Negative space, area between and around object, is an empty space.” Must it be? What if we think of a negative space as an object or secondary character? When storytelling, the main character evolves through his or her interactions with supporting characters. The empty space could play a role of such supportive character and give audience more information of the character’s mood, temper, state of mind, what he or she dreams of or is reluctant about. Below is an excellent example by John B. Mueller.
Breaking Rule 3: Lighting and Composition Can Portray Your Character as a Positive or a Negative One
At one of the 2015 NAB’s CCW workshops Emmy Award winner Eduardo Angel brought up some great examples from Hitchcock’s films. In Strangers on a Train camera consistently follows Guy Haines left-to-right and viewers perceive him as ‘a good guy’. The opposite was also true–camera follows Bruno Anthony in consistent right-to-left motion and viewers perceive him as ‘a bad guy’. In less than 90 seconds (!) viewer’s preferences were set in place. This was further supported by a study conducted at the Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA. Researchers found that the audience indeed perceives characters introduced by right-to-left panning negatively.
Above are just three of the many rules that are commonly broken to further add dimension to characters in photographs and videos. If you are like us and commonly think outside the box, share your techniques in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!