Framing Your Shots as a Visual Device

Framing Your Shots as a Visual Device

Give Your Shots Added Depth with a Professional Gloss

Drawings and Words by John Hart

Here are many examples from film classics, with a nod to the history of art and masterpieces. It’s just a question of the professional placement of your actors and surrounding objects within a chosen environment. Remembering as you compose your shots to use the “can’t miss” rule of thirds, either vertically or horizontally.

In ILLUST. 1, I am deliberately using rough concept sketches to show as an example that you can still storyboard for your project even if using limited drawing skills. In ILLUST.1, the golden principle of thirds must be applied to any visual presentation in film or video. Using wide screen ratio 2:1 aspect ratio. A., Horizontally, 2/3 Sky, 1/3 Land; or, B., 2/3 Land, 1/3 Sky. See also C. and D. for forest placement.

An idea for foreground framing is ILLUST. 2: framing your shot with trees. In A., a traditional device as it is, it frames the action on left of frame and gives the images depth, while attracting your viewing audience to the center of interest.

ILLUST. 3 shows framing with foreground objects here with a telephone a la Alfred Hitchcock (Dial M for Murder, 1954). In ILLUST. 4, we have chosen a coffee pot as the FGD (foreground) object to frame your shot. Calling attention to the “Ring” and cueing reaction from the actors on left of frame.

In ILLUST. 5 we see the text and narration for a scene in “The Mummy” film, starring Brendan Fraser. Prime examples in these two illustrations are the use of large monuments in the foreground, framing advancing armies. The H.L. reference is the horizon line from which the one- point perspective advancing army is drawn. See if you can indicate the central vanishing point frame which those one-point perspective lines emanate?

In the bottom ILLUST. A., the addition of a close-up (C.U.) fighting soldier in the extreme FGD, or FGD plane adds even more drama and depth to the advancing action scene. Finished frame now contains multiple plane action. A FGD plane, a MDG (mid-ground) plane and BKD (background) plane.

Framing Your Shots as a Visual Device

John Hart - Storyboard Artist and Author

John Hart is an adjunct instructor at NYU and teaches Film Intensives and Storyboard Seminars. He is the author of “The Art of the Storyboard, A Filmmaker’s Introduction,” (Taylor & Francis, 2nd Edition): Communicate your vision, tell your story and plan major scenes with simple, effective storyboarding techniques. Using sketches of shots from classic films, from silents to the present day, in his book, John leads you through the history and evolution of this craft to help you get to grips with translating your vision onto paper, from the rough sketch to the finished storyboard. More than 150 illustrations from the author’s and other storyboard artists’ work illuminate the text throughout to help you master the essential components of storyboarding, such as framing, placement of figures, and camera angles. John has 120 tutorials on YouTube at

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