Framing Tricks

Consider a horizontal dolly shot with slowly moving foreground. Dolly shots are much better than zooms, pans and tilts, especially for the TV screen and smaller formats. A dolly that moves only the camera will often work.

For difficult tilts or pans, the operator should start the move with an uncomfortable body position and end the move with a more comfortable body position.

To stop exactly on a desired frame, use the position of cues already in the frame, not ones just entering the edge of the frame. It gives time to make a smooth stop.

On the street, practice framing and focusing on moving objects or people at extreme telephoto.

Keep a vehicle or people "looking into frame". (More room in front of them in the frame.)

Rehearse scenic or establishing shot moves before shooting them. Start and end on good frames. Roll at least 3 seconds before and after the move.

Consult script or director for credit background scenes. They may need very long shots.

Accelerate to constant speed of pan or tilt and decelerate to end frame with a smooth stop, unless following person/object.

Avoid long pan/tilt moves with boring middle sections. Two different well-composed static shots may be better. Cover moving shots with a well composed static shots.

A small object moving in a static shot such as a distant bird can add much to a shot.

Move camera for good reasons, not just for the sake of moving. Follow something or someone already moving to motivate camera move.

For moving subjects, let subject enter and exit frame, it helps in editing.

Avoid reframing a subject in a well-framed static scene. Resist centering the subject. Use rules of composition or gut feeling.

Select frames that allow actor or vehicle to change direction in frame and change size, it adds depth to the frame.

Have drivers of vehicles make more or less dramatic moves to improve a shot. Give them exact instructions of where to drive.

Rehearse framing and focus with a "stand-in" before the actor, athlete or vehicle appears. Don't waste the possibly best first takes as rehearsals.

When panning with someone or a vehicle, make sure they always move forward across the frame. They should never "back-up" in the frame. If you are loosing someone out the forward motion side of the frame, let them on out, don't pan them back into frame.

Plan for room for subject to move within frame without leaving it. For example, stop panning when the edge of a path or road appears and the subject can't leave the frame on that side. "Looking into space" is not needed for an instant when people will be naturally changing direction in the frame.

If you want a path different than people would naturally take, put unseen or acceptable obstacles to force actors to follow desired path. These can be directed extras with marks on the ground.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.