Guiding the Viewer's Eye
Framing techniques in film and video usually focus on composition and the 1/3 rule but what about guiding the viewers focus in the frame? What about all that other stuff vying for their attention?
You point your camera at your subject, the point of interest of your shot. Maybe it’s a person, maybe a prop, or a whole set. What are different ways in that frame to guide the viewer's focus, their attention, to what you want? And how do you avoid objects stealing focus?
The lens sees outward in an expanding cone and it’s important for us to control as much of what we see in that frame as possible so it furthers the purpose of the video. In the art world, they’re pretty adept at guiding the viewer's eye in a static frame, using composition, detail and lighting/contrast
Composition is to compose objects, to arrange and form them into a whole that serves a purpose.
Take these letters in the video above. They’re scattered about and have no meaning except chaos. Compose them into a line and arrange them in a specific order, and they form a word with meaning. Now arrange them in a way that conveys even more.
We can do this in our frame with how the emphasis is placed on the subject. They could be balanced in the frame or one is made to be more dominant in the foreground. We look at one first, then the second. We covered this in more detail in our video on various forms of composition from the art world.
A scene is made up of an overwhelming mass of detail. Stare at it long enough and you’ll see more and more. What should I be looking at?
Even a single person or object contains a lot of detail. In the art world, they can leave detail out in order to guide the viewer's focus. In our frame we can accomplish this by leaving out props or using shallow focus, making the center of interest clear.
Details can easily be missed until we see them in the frame. Where a previously unimportant object now “steals focus.” It’s like our homes and apartments. They’re fine until we remember that guests are coming over and now we see the unnoticed clutter and mess that had been there in the background the whole time.
If they don’t steal focus they could distract enough from the center of interest to make the whole shot dull.
Light and Contrast
We can guide focus with light. The most obvious is the spotlight in a theater that makes it clear to look at this.
We can create the same effect but more subtly.
If a frame is flat lacking contrast, it can be hard to tell what the center of interest is. Contrast can help guide the eye. These are visual ways to guide focus. It can also be done with movement in the frame, movement of the camera.
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