Module 3: Visual Composition I – Visual Montage (Pre-Production)

Photo by Abet Llacer on

Reading and Writing

Chapter 1 – Basics

  • In Chapter 1 of “The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video” by Tom Schroeppel, we learn that the functions of a camera and its lens have several similar properties to that of the human eye and the lens within our eyes. Both the lens of the eye and the lens of a camera will turn the image you are looking at upside down before it is processed, and this is due to both lens being convex in shape. Our eyes are able to automatically adjust different elements to help focus an image. Cameras unfortunately do not do much of this automatically so different things need to be manipulated to get a good picture.
  • One thing you will have to control is the exposure. Exposure is the amount of light that comes through that hits the film or chip within the camera. Too much light in an image can make the image look too bright, flushing out some detail. The same can be said however with an image that does not have enough light. Without enough light, you may not be able to see the details of the image clearly.
  • You may have to manipulate the camera to get it to focus on what you want in the image too. Different lens types can give you different image types, but there are zoom lenses that can range between the wide angle, normal angle, and telephoto. This allows you to get a good angle on the subject and keep the subject in focus. But just manipulating these different things will allow you to have different frames with different ranges of focus that work for your project.

Chapter 2 – Composition

  • Chapter 2 of “The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video” by Tom Schroeppel, was really helpful in providing some tips on who to make the composition of your photos better and to help draw the attention of the audience to what you want in the image. First we learned about the Rule of Thirds. The rule of thirds have you divide the frames into thirds vertically and horizontally to help you place elements along the lines and have the center of interest at a point of intersection of the lines.
  • Another topic discussed was the importance of balance. The images need to be balanced to keep the interest of the audience and to help them focus. If an image is unbalanced, then the audience could think the image is frustrating to look at or they could not be focusing on what you want them to. Providing head room or lead room helps the viewers see the subject looking towards something or a car in an image moving in a particular direction. Balancing colors can also be important. If your subject is one part of an image but there is a bright structure near them, the audience’s eye might first go to the bright structure before the subject of interest. Angles can help give your images dimensions rather than just being 2D. And incorporating frames within a frame can help hone the focus onto an image, but can also be used to hide unwanted elements.

Chapter 5 – Camera Moves

  • Chapter 5 of “The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video” by Tom Schroeppel, discussed different camera moves and some tips in performing good moves. First we have zoom ins which typically help direct the attention to your center of interest. Next are zoom outs which help provide you a more detailed picture from your initial close up. Can help show where a person is and their surroundings that weren’t seen in the previous shot. Lastly and pans and tilts. Pans are horizontal movements while tilts are vertical movements. These movements can also reveal new information into a shot much like that of the zoom outs. It is important however to do the pans slowly and not too quickly.
  • A helpful tip they provided was when you are performing a move, always start out in an uncomfortable position and end in a comfortable one. This allows you to move into a more comfortable position and relax your body while taking the shot rather than twisting and making it more uncomfortable as you are getting the shot.

Chapter 6 – Montages

  • Chapter 6 of “The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video” by Tom Schroeppel, just provides a short description of what montages are. A montage is a series of related images or shots that to display different information (time, mood, summaries). As long as the images are related to the topic, then they can be used to create a montage. The important thing to do is not have too similar of images in series. This will make the images appear as if they are abruptly changing and not providing anything new. Have a variety of different angles, image sizes, and content to help the effect appear more smooth.

Article 1 –

In this article, we are given steps, or a check list of things to think about and complete when in the pre-production planning phase of our projects. The first step is to define your business objective. This means you want to figure out the purpose of your project. Why you are doing this and what you want your audience to do after watching your project. Next is to define your audience. You want to know exactly what audience you are targeting so you can more specifically target that audience through specific materials in your project. Now you can develop your message. Determine what ideas, themes or topics you want to communicate to your audience. Determine what are you trying to do and what is the best way to communicate that to your audience. Next is to determine your budget. You want to figure a budget before getting too creative with your ideas so you aren’t coming up with ideas that will blow the budget and will be unrealistic to complete. Figure out how you will distribute your piece. Now it is time to come up with the big idea to get the message across. Then take that idea and create a storyboard. This helps you plan out the project, determine what shots to use, where to have voiceovers, where to have music. It helps give you more structure to the project and keeps you accountable for what you want to do. Next is to determine how long you want your project to be. Shorter is better, but it can also be harder due to the fact that you will have to leave things out and possibly narrow your message to only a couple ideas. Before moving into production, you then have to get approvals from the appropriate people to actually move ahead with your project. Lastly you need to have meetings to start the planning process and then move into actually scheduling things and planning for production. This includes finding good locations, getting the proper permits, finding a crew, getting all the equipment needed, getting talent, planning for weather, and developing a schedule.

Article 2 –

This article, different important camera shots are discussed and their importance.

  • Aerial shot – a shot that is filmed from the air that is typically used to establish a location
  • Establishing shot – this is the shot used at the beginning of a scene that establishes location and the action
  • Close up (CU) – usually framed from above the shoulders and has only the actor’s face in the frame. This allows for the even the smallest changes in the actor’s face to be seen and keeps the focus on the actor and not any other elements that were going on before.
  • Extreme close-up (XCU) – focuses on a smaller part of the actor’s face or body to emphasize intense emotions. Ex. Twitching eye or licking of the lips
  • Medium shot – shoots the actor from the waist up that allows for subtle facial expressions to be seen as well as body language. This helps in providing context during dialogue scenes.
  • Dolly zoom – this is a neat trick invented by Alfred Hitchcock that has the camera track forward from the actor while simultaneously zooming out or vice versa. This keeps the actor and foreground in place while the background increases or decreases. This creates a dizzy like effect, but it really hard to get just right.
  • Over the shoulder shot – camera is placed behind a subject’s shoulder and is typically used in scenes of conversation between two actors. This helps the audience feel part of the conversation and focus on one speaker at a time.
  • Low angle shot – Camera is placed low, shooting upwards at the actor making them seem larger. This can make the subject appear heroic, dominant, or intimidating.
  • High angle shot – Basically the opposite of low angle shot. Shoots from a higher point, looking down at the actor, having them appear as submissive, inferior, or weak.
  • Two-shot – just a medium shot that shows two characters within the frame
  • Wide (or long) shot – typically has the subject from their head to their feet in frame while also capturing the environment around them to give setting of the scene
  • Master shot – identifies key people in the shot and where it is taking place. But unlike the establishing shot, this shot captures all actors in the scene and runs the length of action. This allows for smaller shots to be woven in, showcasing different angles of the same scene.

Article 3 –

Storyboards are important to give you a visual representation of your ideas. It helps you map out the flow and should be done before you film anything. Not mapping out a plan can cause you to make many changes down the road than could waste time and resources. You don’t need to be super artistic to have a good storyboard. No one needs to see your storyboard besides you and the production crew. It’s also important to remember that story boards will change! Don’t just accept your first draft and go with it. Make changes among the crew that you can agree on before making the final draft to start filming.

Research to Inform

The following are 3 examples of video I thought contained good examples of some of the visual composition guidelines we learned about this week from our readings.

This video I believe has several clips that demonstrate rule of thirds.  For example, the scene with the rock climbers, they are located in the top right hand corner of the screen in one of the key positions while the background scenery is in the rest of the frame.

This video has great examples of utilizing field of depth in the scenes. The close ups on the main characters in the scene with their backgrounds blurred out really adds to the intensity of the scenes in this show. The closeness to the characters places the audience there with the character, allowing the audience to feel and understand the emotions and thoughts the character might be experiencing.

This is a scene from the movie “The Switch” and there are a lot of really good examples of depth of field. And I think this is used in many video and helps the audience focus on the main content. By focusing on the characters and having the background more out of focus, masks some of the distractions that are in the background to help you remain focused on the main characters. If the scene was shot with no blur in the background, movements from some of the background actors could distract the audience and cause them to pay more attention to the background rather than what the main content is.


Below is my pre-production plan for my video montage that I will be producing for module 4. My pre-production planning document with my storyboard attached and shot list document demonstrating proper composition techniques are provided below.

When working on the shot list, some of the visual compositions were more difficult than others. Particularly when walking around New Haven, I found it difficult to find a good example of the technique “frame in the scene.” I think I was too drawn on the example given to us using tree branches to form a frame and many of the trees in New Haven are tall and there are also a lot of trees so I felt as though it never truly framed what I was looking at properly. I ended up looking up more examples online and realized there are a lot more ways to accomplish this visual composition technique than just with trees. So I ended up finding a tunnel archway that worked as a frame in scene.

I chose to do my montage about promoting New Haven because even though I have lived here for about 9 months now, I feel like there are times I don’t know what to do and don’t go out and experience New Haven. I hope this montage can help advertise all the different activities that New Haven does have to offer for all types of people and interests.

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