Welcome back to the next inside look at setting up interviews with keen skills and precise action… or at least with a better understanding than you may have had before. Today we’re talking about framing, and no it’s nothing like the frame on pictures. This sort of framing is all about how to place your talent on the screen. While I know we spoke about this a little in last week’s article, this article is meant to give you a deeper understanding of the “why.” By the time you’re done, you should know everything you’ll ever need to know about properly framing your talent. But first things first, we’re going to talk about the golden rule of framing… or in this case, a golden spiral.
The Golden Spiral, also known as the Fibonacci Spiral is one of those versatile, universally relevant rules which can apply to much more than film making; but nonetheless is a standard you should almost always strive to follow. Without boring you with the exact details, it lays the foundation for framing which is based on a complex series of mathematical equations. By utilizing this, it can help you determine the exact spacing, placement, and focal points of everything in the frame, from the talent all the way to set decorations. It may sound absurd, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that math has been relevant.
“But surely this isn’t necessary, right? Tell me one can set up a good looking shot without constantly thinking about some convoluted spiral pattern.” Well the short answer is yes. But understanding more about the spiral will help you grow as a videographer, and vastly improve your skills on set. After all, why else would you be here reading this article series on improving yourself? For more detailed information on the awesomeness that is the Fibonacci spiral, click right here! But for now, let’s move one.
Beyond complicated math and fancy shapes, you really should remember one simple truth… unless you are speaking to the audience, your talent should never be center weighted. Head on shots should always be reserved for intensely artistic shots in films, or when you have someone speaking into camera. It’s a rule that is more or less unwritten, and has to do with the subliminal meaning of the placement. It draws direct focus to the talent and basically tells the audience “nothing else is important, look at them.” While we always want people to pay attention to what is being said, the context of the interview should be that someone is having a conversation with this person.
More often than not, someone will actually be asking the talent questions, and often those questions aren’t part of the final video. Because of this, the way they speak and where they are looking play a huge roll in this. Your interviewer and your talent will almost always be facing each other, as we discussed last time. Because of this, you should be placing your talent in such a way that they can see them. As far as what this means for correct framing, you should always place them sitting either on the left or right side of the frame. But how far should they be? The answer is simple.
While it follows the same placement the spiral would dictate, this is where we introduce another film rule. This one is called the Rule of Thirds. While it actually has applications in many more areas than framing, what it means here is as follows: If you divide your screen into three equal sections from left to right, you would draw two lines to do so, then you do the same from top to bottom. This leaves you with a grid which separates the screen into nine equal boxes. Much like a Tic Tac Toe board. The rule is that your talent should be placed so that they are centered roughly over one of the two vertical lines, and their face should roughly be where the top horizontal line intersects it. Once again, this is a shortcut, but follows the spiral’s rules.
How you determine which direction they face is based on which side of the conversation (between the interviewer and the talent) the camera is on. The easiest way to know which side is correct is that when facing each other, the talent should be on one side of the frame, and their eye-line should drawn to the opposite side of the frame. So for example, if they are looking to the right, you should place them on the left side of the frame.
It will take some time to get used to this but remember that the spiral not only helps you know where you place the talent, but also help with where set decorations should be placed. By understanding this you will quickly realize that by creatively “eyeballing” a shot, they will almost always fall into place following the Fibonacci spiral. The open visual space created by framing the talent to one side necessitates you consider it. Some of this will depend on the space, and other times it will depend on the subject. The key is to be prepared. Don’t be afraid add a spotlight on an object in the background to create a dynamic look for the shot. Just remember that it should add an accent, not compete with the talent for attention.
Until next time!