Finding Depth in Your Shots
Exemplary work shows that you exerted effort to make your shots look interesting and memorable. To achieve this, it helps to use depth in your shots. However, you might ask, 'How can I achieve depth when the picture is displayed on a flat, two-dimensional screen?' The answer is to create the illusion of depth by finding a variety of depth cues.
For example, a perfectly symmetrical image of a building, one which if you cut the image in half precisely down the middle looks the same on either side, comes off looking rather flat. The image is strictly making use of only two-dimensions, the horizontal (x-axis) and vertical (y-axis). To achieve the illusion of depth, you need to take advantage of the diagonal, or z-axis. Simply move the camera until we can see around the corner of the building, creating asymmetry.
Here are some tips for creating the illusion of depth in your shots:
- Diagonal Lines - use of the z-axis is the most common way to create the illusion of depth. Objects closer to the camera appear larger, but get smaller as they move into the distance.
- Overlapping Objects - compose the shot with an object in the foreground. The foreground object appears to overlap the background, thus forcing the relative distance.
- Limiting Focus - using the telephoto, and a wide enough aperture, you should be able to focus on the foreground object while rendering the background a soft blur. This shallow depth of field, as it's called, directs our eyes to the object that is in focus. Otherwise, the background might compete for our attention.
- Vanishing Point - You get the vanishing point when parallel lines, such as those seen in railroad tracks, intersect in the distance. A footpath appears wider closer to the camera, but gets thinner as it trails of into the distance. The Vanishing Point
Imagine you’re standing on the footpath facing Macky Auditorium face-on so that the footpath leads directly down the middle part of your shot. The image is symmetrical, meaning that you can bisect the shot into two equal halves. But symmetrical shots, even though some can be attractive, are almost always two-dimensional, and can be rather dull. Remember, in TV you’re dealing with a three-dimensional world, but you have to find a way to create the illusion of three dimensions in a two-dimensional medium. A way to achieve depth with the Macky example is to position the camera off to one side of the footpath, allowing the footpath to cut diagonally across the screen. You can find depth wherever you can achieve diagonal.
Watch TV shows and you’ll find that, almost always, an establishing shot of a skyscraper (or any tall building) is shot so that it cuts diagonally across the screen rather than going straight up. When the camera looks up at the object, the diagonal provides more depth, which makes the shot more interesting to look at. You can apply similar angles to any subject. Try it!
Hold each shot for a minimum of 10 seconds
When shooting a static scene, such as landscapes, ALWAYS shoot at least 10 seconds of footage. This length gives you with more options when you edit. If there is action in the shot, continue shooting until the action has reached its logical conclusion, which will give you an edit point. Then find out whether the subject will repeat the motion so that you can get shots of it from different angles. Exploit repetitive action in your subject so that you can get different angles of the same action, which you can then reassemble in post-production as a matching action sequence.
Composition - Finding balance in your shots
Your shots should have the appropriate lead space, head room and balance as discussed below:
- Lead Space (also known as 'nose-room')
When the subject faces a certain direction, give them somewhere to go. Don't "box them into the frame." Also, anytime the subject is walking you should always maintain some lead space. Remember, lead space can be applied to any moving object, but also to objects that don’t move such as stereo speakers and TV sets, or a parked car! Anything with direction has lead space.
- Head Room -
Always compose with the appropriate head room. Too much headroom renders the space above the head as nothing more than dead air. Too little boxes the person within the frame of the shot.
- Balance -
Compose your shots so they have balance. Use angles in the scene to your advantage. But use your gut instinct. Ask yourself if the shot feels lopsided. Think of a see-saw: if one side of your shot has weight, the other side should also have some weight to counterbalance.
· Objects that appear close to the camera carry more weight.
· Objects in focus carry more weight and also draw the viewer’s attention.
The camera should ALWAYS be at eye-level with the subject unless, in those few instances, you're trying to be artistic. A person looks larger than life when you look up at them and somewhat diminished and insignificant when the camera looks down. Any artistic shots should be used sparingly and appropriately. Use your best judgement.