The best videos, however, are the ones that follow the rules of good video composition. In my book, Educational Technology for Teachers, I discuss some of these rules as follows. Students and teachers who create video can practice good composition even with the most rudimentary video equipment. Composition refers to the way that items are placed in the video shot in order to make meaning. Some important guidelines with regard to composition will be presented here.
The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a video composition guideline that states that the image being recorded should be divided into nine equal parts using two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines. Then the main subjects in a scene should be placed on one of these “1⁄3 lines” for a more interesting composition (Spannaus, 2012). For instance, a landscape shot should not place the horizon line (one of the main subjects of the shot) right in the center of the image, but should instead place the horizon line on or near one of the horizontal 1⁄3 lines. A person standing in a shot should be placed on one of the vertical 1⁄3 lines. Following the rule of thirds leads to more interesting and satisfying video and photo compositions.
The 180 Degree Rule
Head room refers to the amount of room above a person’s head in a shot. Good video compositions leave little room above the head of people and other subjects. Amateur video producers often make the mistake of leaving a lot of room above people’s heads, which results in uninteresting compositions.
Students and teachers who create video should also practice good camera handling techniques. Good camera handling means making sure that the camera is still or that it only moves in smooth, even motions. Placing the camera on a tripod will help to make sure it stays still or that its movement is even and smooth. Handheld shooting should be avoided because this type of camera handling produces unnecessarily shaky shots that can disorient viewers. These techniques also should be used even if the camera is a smartphone or tablet computer. When using a smartphone or tablet computer to shoot video, students and teachers should also hold the device “sideways” in a landscape direction rather than in a portrait direction for better composition.
Devices that can capture video are everywhere, but most people who shoot video don't do a good job of composing shots to make meaning. Most student-created videos are low quality and do a poor job of putting forth a clear message. These elements of video composition should be taught to students who create video so that they know how to make quality video projects.
Spannaus, T. (2012). Creating video for trainers and teachers: Producing professional video with amateur equipment. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.