Rule of Thirds

You are filming a close-up. You center the camera on the subject. You are about to film this magnificent shot when

Stop. If you ever find yourself in this situation, take a moment to reconsider your options.

It is natural to want to place the subject in the center of the frame. They are the most important aspect, after all. However, this typically results in a boring, bland shot. The solution? Rule of Thirds.

Oh no, math? Trust me, it’s super easy. The Rule of Thirds says that it is more interesting to place the subject slightly to the left or right, not the center.

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Notice how the ball is off to the right.

But how do you decide which side to place the subject? It all depends on what else is in the frame. For example, I chose this direction because the peppermint candle and beige tree are in the shot. This is what the shot would look like in the other direction:

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This side shows the golden bow, but I don’t personally find it as appealing. There is no one right answer, just the director’s preference.

In a scene where two actors are having a conversation, I like to put the left subject on the left of his/her close-up, and the right subject on the right of his/her close-up. This helps build the space and direction between them. Try to be as equally far left on one as you are right on the other.

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I’ll admit, the “Do you play cello?” shot is a little too centered.

I would like to note that, since the subject is typically placed first, the camera should be altered to accommodate the Rule, not the subject.

Next week, I will dive into the world of animation, and how it compares and contrasts to filmmaking. You may be as surprised as I was about how much the creation of a Pixar film relates to the making of a live-action film. To start learning about it now, check out Pixar in a Box, a cooperation of Khan Academy and Pixar upon which my next post will be based.

Cut to black.

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