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Rule of Thirds - Every Shot?

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Hey Guys & Gals.

 

This is something that has puzzled me for a while now and I am hoping it can be cleared up.

 

I am creating an animated info graphic which will comprise of many different types of scenes.

 

It will comprise of 3D & 2D scenes, It will have lots of text and also some data visualization.

 

Should you always use the Rule of Thirds on each shot? I know you can break the rules when you know them but I dont know how too. is it just time and practice?

 

I think this video is a really good example of the Rule of Thirds.

 

 

Thanks

Liam

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The rule of thirds is a general principle not a hard and fast rule. You can compose your shots this way or not. The more important thing is to understand what these rules mean in the visual language and how it impacts the viewer.

 

For sure if in doubt using the rule of thirds for a composition is a good starting point, but for instance if you have a lot of shots composed like this and then break the rule you will have different effects on the audience. If for example all of a sudden you cut to a shot where everything is centered and symmetrical VS a shot where the frame is almost empty with something in the corner.

 

Think about what you are trying to communicate and then how to frame your shots accordingly. There are plenty of good books on filmmaking that can take you through the basic shots/vocabulary for communicating with moving images.

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Rule of Thirds, 3 point lighting, white balanced video, etc, etc for me have always been like helpful hints for noobs to try and get something decent. But So many pieces of good work are rarely lit with 3 point lighting, use rule of thirds or is perfectly white balanced. Watch any David Fincher film and you see symmetry, ambient lighting, and a green wash for example. Wes Anderson practically frames everything dead center. Like head right over the cross hairs, but he fills the frame with art directed symmetry that justifies this. I do framing when I direct commericals where a persons head is a small thing in a low, akward off-shifted part of the frame. And Art Directors love it because it's weird and different. So, my advice , similar to anothername, is sure, know the rules, but understand really good artists often times don't adhere to any of them and make great work.

 

Me personally, not like you care, I never think about any rules at any times ever. I just frame and light for what "Feels" right. I let the frame tell me what it wants to be. LIke before we set the Alexa on a dolly and lock it in with a lens and all that, I usually walk around with my iPhone on set , searching for what the shot wants to be. Then tell the AC's where they measure where the iPhone just was then put all the big gear in that place. My point is, follow your heart and know absolutely there is no one expecting rule of thirds or any of that bidness. Just make what feels right. If you're worried about what the "rules" are that community college teachers usually are over-obsessed on, then I say you may not be concentrating on what will be impactful because you're worried about pleasing people who make boring work because they play by the rules.

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I did a bit of research on The Rule of Thirds and Phi/Golden Ratio a little while ago. It's amazing, but I agree that it's a guide not a rule. The Golden Ratio is part of what we are so I'm not surprised we find it beautiful.

 

This page talks about the 2 sides: http://www.thinctanc...utorial_02.html

 

Here's a couple of GIFs I found showing the Golden Ratio in natural forms.

 

Nautilus_Golden_Ratio_Animation.gifsci_17_hand.gif

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I'm sure we all care Chris, ha. I kind of feel the same about the "rules". What looks and feels good is definitely more important than to abide by the "rules".Definitely helps with making the frame more compelling but with different situations brings different aspects to bring out the better image.That community college teacher joke is quite a knee slapper too Chris.

Rule of Thirds, 3 point lighting, white balanced video, etc, etc for me have always been like helpful hints for noobs to try and get something decent. But So many pieces of good work are rarely lit with 3 point lighting, use rule of thirds or is perfectly white balanced. Watch any David Fincher film and you see symmetry, ambient lighting, and a green wash for example. Wes Anderson practically frames everything dead center. Like head right over the cross hairs, but he fills the frame with art directed symmetry that justifies this. I do framing when I direct commericals where a persons head is a small thing in a low, akward off-shifted part of the frame. And Art Directors love it because it's weird and different. So, my advice , similar to anothername, is sure, know the rules, but understand really good artists often times don't adhere to any of them and make great work.

 

Me personally, not like you care, I never think about any rules at any times ever. I just frame and light for what "Feels" right. I let the frame tell me what it wants to be. LIke before we set the Alexa on a dolly and lock it in with a lens and all that, I usually walk around with my iPhone on set , searching for what the shot wants to be. Then tell the AC's where they measure where the iPhone just was then put all the big gear in that place. My point is, follow your heart and know absolutely there is no one expecting rule of thirds or any of that bidness. Just make what feels right. If you're worried about what the "rules" are that community college teachers usually are over-obsessed on, then I say you may not be concentrating on what will be impactful because you're worried about pleasing people who make boring work because they play by the rules.

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Me personally, not like you care, I never think about any rules at any times ever. I just frame and light for what "Feels" right. I let the frame tell me what it wants to be. LIke before we set the Alexa on a dolly and lock it in with a lens and all that, I usually walk around with my iPhone on set , searching for what the shot wants to be. Then tell the AC's where they measure where the iPhone just was then put all the big gear in that place. My point is, follow your heart and know absolutely there is no one expecting rule of thirds or any of that bidness. Just make what feels right. If you're worried about what the "rules" are that community college teachers usually are over-obsessed on, then I say you may not be concentrating on what will be impactful because you're worried about pleasing people who make boring work because they play by the rules.

 

Cool - I think is what I needed to hear. for me its just a case of more practice and looking at more work.Saying that I've been loading at a load of photographers that dont abide the rule and the results are amazing!Thanks for clearing this up :)

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Me personally, not like you care, I never think about any rules at any times ever. I just frame and light for what "Feels" right. I let the frame tell me what it wants to be. LIke before we set the Alexa on a dolly and lock it in with a lens and all that, I usually walk around with my iPhone on set , searching for what the shot wants to be. Then tell the AC's where they measure where the iPhone just was then put all the big gear in that place. My point is, follow your heart and know absolutely there is no one expecting rule of thirds or any of that bidness. Just make what feels right. If you're worried about what the "rules" are that community college teachers usually are over-obsessed on, then I say you may not be concentrating on what will be impactful because you're worried about pleasing people who make boring work because they play by the rules.

 

Cool - I think is what I needed to hear. for me its just a case of more practice and looking at more work.Saying that I've been loading at a load of photographers that dont abide the rule and the results are amazing!Thanks for clearing this up :)

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That community college teacher joke is quite a knee slapper too Chris.

 

I didn't mean to be disrespectful to teachers. But in MY experience back in my days in Community College a lot of my professors were frustrated guys trying to make it in the business they taught. They were SO by the book. They acted like if you didn't follow the rules you were making crap. But I would look around me and see limitless examples of where they were wrong. They would bring their personal reels to school and all I thought was how it was such unimaginative garbage but HEY, They played by the rules :)Me and one prof butted heads in '90 because he was against the idea of computers helping to make music. I was obsessed with computers making music and learned how to use TimeCode and samplers, etc. I ended up taking the studio job he was trying out for because I knew computers. So, again, I have a dim view about rules you SHOULD always use or the way people think things SHOULD be. Just be an entertainer and artist. Keep the audience in your heart, not the colleagues that you want to impress.

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"I didn't mean to be disrespectful to teachers. But in MY experience back in my days in Community College a lot of my professors were frustrated guys trying to make it in the business they taught. They were SO by the book. They acted like if you didn't follow the rules you were making crap. But I would look around me and see limitless examples of where they were wrong. They would bring their personal reels to school and all I thought was how it was such unimaginative garbage but HEY, They played by the rules :)Me and one prof butted heads in '90 because he was against the idea of computers helping to make music. I was obsessed with computers making music and learned how to use TimeCode and samplers, etc. I ended up taking the studio job he was trying out for because I knew computers. So, again, I have a dim view about rules you SHOULD always use or the way people think things SHOULD be. Just be an entertainer and artist. Keep the audience in your heart, not the colleagues that you want to impress. "

 

Your totally right but there is still something to be said for knowing the rules your breaking. You can only buck against the by the book approach if you know it in the first place (which obviously you do) but put yourself in the shoes of someone starting out learning from the net and not college (which from the question I would assume is the case of the OP).

 

When you need to justify your choices to a client, producer, or even your own DP, it helps to be able to at least have that vocabulary to discuss why your are doing something one way as opposed to another (beyond it just feels right).

 

I find especially with animation where unlike live action you have virtually no constraints not even the laws of physics it helps a lot (at least for me) to think about what would typically happen in real life and if the scene was being shot by a DOP in a typical way what would happen (open framing or closed, dolly or handheld etc.) once I've figured that out I either can use all, some or none of that, but at least having thought that through I have a clearer understanding of my choices.

 

Anyhow I just feel like for a lot of people coming to motion design maybe being self taught I'd argue for learning the "rules" of filmmaking and design and then choosing what conventions they want to use and not. Especially starting out it can be pretty frustrating to just go with your gut and then if things don't turn out great you don't necessarily have the tools to really figure out why.

 

You look at guys like Scorsese etc. who are real students of cinema and it's pretty hard to argue that's not a valid approach.

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The funny thing is in current times where most of us have to protect for 4:3, what is the rule of thirds relevant to? 16:9? the 4:3 safe area? Good framing is kind of getting dicked around because I rarely get to frame how I REALLY want to do it because if I do, I'm fucking someone in 4:3 land with showing half a face ;)

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"The funny thing is in current times where most of us have to protect for 4:3, what is the rule of thirds relevant to? 16:9? the 4:3 safe area? Good framing is kind of getting dicked around because I rarely get to frame how I REALLY want to do it because if I do, I'm fucking someone in 4:3 land with showing half a face "

 

Ugh I feel physical pain every time I hear the words protect for 4:3. I've tried to convince some clients that if someone hasn't bought an HDTV by now they really aren't worth marketing too since clearly aren't into the whole consumerism thing...so far that has had no success.

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The problem though is it's way less about the end consumer, it's about the myriad of capillary TV stations that the network has to stream through in smaller towns and rural areas that haven't upgraded their feed to HD. Some or all of their viewers can have HD sets which is really the only easy thing to buy in the last 6 or so years. But it's the station still running on 3/4 decks or Beta decks that has to run the feed through their stream so they can run their own shows and local commercials. FCC is guessing the protect for 4:3 will still be in effect for another 8 years :(

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I think something like "Rule of Thirds" is a starting place. In design, I often will begin here, sub-consciously, and work out from there. In photography, I experiment with visual tension by starting at thirds and then moving the focal point(s) just off or really off. OTOH, sometimes lining things up on thirds just feels right.

 

What I have to be careful of is to get too wrapped up in adhering or avoiding rules for the sake of doing so. That kills the spirit of creativity for me.

 

-gl

Edited by _gl

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Aren't rules meant to be broken?

Rules are meant to be understood. Knowing a design principle doesn't help you at all if you do not understand how and why it works (and in which situations it doesn't).

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I think playing guitar is a good metaphor. I need to know about chords and scales, major and minor to play well, but that is totally not what I'm thinking about when I'm rocking out.

 

Once you really learn stuff you internalize it and you are using it almost at a subconcious level without even thinking about it. For me design is the same way I want to design by what feels right but what feels right is informed by a body of knowledge.

 

"Knowing a design principle doesn't help you at all if you do not understand how and why it works (and in which situations it doesn't)."

 

I find this is key, especially as you progress and start to have other artists working below you. When you can explain to someone why something isn't working in their design it's a much more positive experience for them and the team than just asking them to redo something because you don't like it.

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