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Framing is the process of composing a shot in film to conscientiously incorporate objects in the frame, successfully capturing the mise-en-scene within the limited frame of the camera's lense. It encompasses a wide variety of elements from the position of the camera to the position of the subject and requires a very conscious effort to place objects of importance in key areas of the frame. Framing is one of the main artisticly controled aspects within the directors control. The ideas set forth on this page are not as much rules as they are guideliness that ameatures enjoy following. Useing this concepts will make an athetically pleaseing shot....sometimes. This is definatly a art form and the rules are meant to the broken. That being said, here are the framing basics.


Rule of Thirds 

Before getting into specific types of shots, an important guideline for almost every shot must be explained: the rule of thirds. This rule, also used in still photography, helps to orient the subject(s) of a shot in a position that is most pleasing to the eye. To know how to compose the shot, the frame must be divided into thirds both horizontally and verically, making a total of nine boxes in the frame. Whatever is in the shot where the lines intersect will be visually appealing, as well as matches with the horizontal or vertical lines (mediacollege). Click here for an example from the Lumiere Brothers in an early film displaying the rule of thirds.




















The picture on the right is a great representation of the rule of thirds: the horizon and the beach both run on the two horizontal lines; the boat, chairs, and distant mountain are all positioned closely to an intersection of the lines, leaving plenty of space between to appreciate each element in and of itself, but not distinctly separating any of them. The rule of thirds is essential to most techniques in framing, giving the camera operator an idea of where to keep everything in a shot.



Open Spaces 


Often shots can become crowded if enough space isn't left in the frame for either the subject to fit or for the viewer to infer action between spaces. Some of the more common spaces ar referred to as headroom, noseroom (or looking room), and leading room. All of these allow the subject to fit comfortably within the frame of a shot or leave space for the viewer to infer some sort of action within the empty space as well as beyond the end of the frame. The idea is to not make the subject of the framing have to "interact with" the frame itself. The human brain will subconsciously think that if someone onscreen runs straight at the frame "wall" they will run into it and bounce off like a brick wall. These are efforsts you can take(if you want) to counteract these subconsious actions going on in all our brains.

-Headroom is the space left above a subjects head within the frame (Thompson, 64). This is commonly employed in film and photography to leave space between the subject's head and the edge of the frame, reducing the amount of crowding of the subject in a particular part of the frame for the viewer. Generally, viewer's eyes draw to the middle of images, not the edges, so it is more aesthetically pleasing to keep some space between the edge of the frame and the subject. The same description applies to footroom, keeping distance between the subject's feet and the bottom of the frame (64).

-Noseroom, or looking room, is space left between a subject and the edge of the frame that is the focus of the subject's attention (64). This is most commonly seen in eyeline match shots where a subject looks offscreen in one direction, and then whatever is being looked at is shown in the following shot. Usually, there is space left between the first subject and the edge of the frame to imply that there is some space between the subject in the first shot and the subject in the second shot. Someone looking offscreen at the edge of the frame would be unnatural and awkward for viewers because there is no relevant scenery for the person to be looking through.

-Leading room is very similar to the concept of looking room, but is employed during a tracking shot. Space is left in the frame in front of a moving subject to appease the viewer's sense of reality that the subject must have space to move into (mediacollege.com). Just as seeing someone looking at the edge of the frame would be awkward for viewers, someone walking into the edge of the frame would be awkward as well, leaving viewers no sense of setting ahead of the moving subject.


Notice the rule of thirds employed in all of these shots as well: the girl's eyes are about 1/3 of the way down from the bottom, to woman is lined up in the middle of the frame in the second shot, and the baby is near an intersection of lines in the final shot.



Camera Position 

The position of the camera is imperative to shooting a well-composed shot and it can also create emotional overtones to exaggerate the setting or performances of actors. There are two main ways of thinking about the postion of the camera, horizontal position and vertical position, that get broken down into a few other categories.

-Horizontal postion has three guideline shots that are commonly seen in filmmaking today. These classic angles are front, rear, profile, three-quarter, and three-quarter rear (Stinson). All of these are fairly self explanatory: front shots look much like the headroom example above (with a rear shot being the inverse of that), three-quarter shots look similar to the noseroom example also pictured above (and three-quarter rear as a reverse of that), and profile shots simply shoot the subject of a front shot from an angle 90 degrees more or less than head on. All of these horizontal angles can be used for various effects. Front or rear shots are somewhat flat and usually the focus turns directly upon the actor and much of the setting can be ignored. This also allows front shots to excentuate a more presentational style of acting because of the character's direct positioning to the camera. Three-quarter shots, on the other hand, give much more depth to a shot and allow many more dynamics for a scene. The background can be enhanced by the actor's body fading slightly into it, bringing much more out in an individual scene (Stinson).

-Vertical positioning can vary from extreme highs to extreme lows depending on the director's choice, but some baseline shots in vertical positioning are called bird's-eye view, high angle, neutral angle, and low angle. These are also fairly self-explanatory: bird's-eye view shots come from directly above a scene, high angles are shot anywhere between there and above average eye-level (normally) down upon the action, neutral angles are often overlooked as they seem like the audience is merely looking straight ahead (all of the "-room" examples above are shot from a neutral angle), and low angles are shot from below characters pointing up to the action. This different angles can also have varying aesthetic effects; usually, high angles give a sense of detachment for viewers, placing them above the action and above the characters (both literally and figuratively). Neutral angles are shot from average adult height and don't normally have as dramatic of an effect on viewers as do high or low angles, since we are used to viewing from this angle in daily life. Low angles can represent views from pets or children or can make the subject seem to be rapidly closing in on the camera. Low angles also give characters much more power on the screen as they look down upon viewers (low angles can have a different effect, as discussed in 2001: A Space Odyssey), contrary to high angles which give the audience more power and make the characters seem weaker (Stinson).




 These images exemplify the technical and aesthetic concepts of vertical angles well. The bird's-eye view shot from the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading shows the flat, useless, and inconspicuous CIA headquarters, commenting on them before any dialogue has even been spoken in the film. The high angle shot from Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men raises the audience above the bigoted Juror #10, lessening his importance and placing the audience above his ideals. The neutral angle from the same movie lets Juror #9 give his impassioned speech with the full attention of the camera and the viewer- all that is distinguishable in the frame is his face. The low angle shot from Quentin Trarantino's Reservoir Dogs (commonly referred to as "trunk shots" in many of Tarantino's films) gives all the power of the scene to the three characters looming over the camera and the cop, yet to be seen, hog-tied in the trunk of their car.


Dutch Angle 

The dutch angle is where the camera itself is rotated making the horizon line rotated as well. This can be used in a variety of ways: anything from showing vertigo and unsettlement or disturbing ideas going on in a charcters mind. Like any other framing technique it is to be used by the director to help create the desired effect.





Works Cited 

"Framing." Mediacollege.com. Wavelength Media. n.d. Web. 6 October 2009

Stinson, Jim. "All About Camera Angles." Videomaker.com. November 2002. Web. 6 October 2009

"The Rule of Thirds." Mediacollege.com. Wavelength Media. n.d. Web 6 October 2009

Thompson, Roy. Grammar of the Shot. Boston: Focal Press, 1998. Print.

Comments (2)

Sean Desilets said

at 8:19 pm on Oct 7, 2009

Oh...and need examples for high, low, and neutral angles.

Sean Desilets said

at 8:18 pm on Oct 7, 2009

* Framing not mise-en-scene
* Treats conventions as absolutes
* This is just one of those pages that will need to explode. This is a great baseline
* William mentions the rule of thirds in his page about _Workers Leaving a Factory_

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