Learn 3D Modeling in Blender 2.8 (Episode 1 – Polygons and Primitives)

Have you ever been inspired looking at the cool 3d imageries from Pixar movies or mind-blowing VFX from Hollywood movies? If yes, then I welcome to understand the foundations on which 3D artists all over the world make these amazing graphics. That being said we need to understand the underlying fact that 3D is vast. Big Studios like Pixar have hundreds of people working for them and every top talent among them focuses on one specific task. And on top of that, they have world-class resources available at their service.

I am mentioning this only to provide you an idea of how big the 3D industry is and how it is there to learn.

That being said, everyone has to start somewhere and I hope this post will help understand the basics of 3D art. 3D Pipeline consists of many tasks such as modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, rendering, color grading, and so on. The one we are talking about today is modeling, which is the fundamentals aspect of 3D – nothing happens without modeling. In order to travel further down the pipeline, you need to have a well-working model with you.

Models are basically objects you have within your scene. Let’s say you are making an interior scene of the house. For that, you need to have models like tables, beds, plates, book racks – basically whatever lies within your house, including the house itself. Everything that’s inside the 3D art is the model. In order to start creating models, you need to have a deep understanding of how it’s formed. 3D software like Blender form models with the help of polygons.

What is Polygon?

Wikipedia defines polygon in this way:

Polygons are basically shapes that are connected via vertices using what’s called edges. The basics shapes that we learned during our childhood – most of them are polygons. Triangles, Rectangles, Pentagons, etc. are polygons. 3D Model is the complex product of the polygons that make up the shape we see. The specialty of the polygon is that polygons exist on a well-defined plane. If we connect two vertices together, then that makes up the line, the fact is we do not know the plane of the line because we do not have enough information. However, once we join 3 or more vertices together, then we have well-defined plane. These planes become much more relevant when creating 3D models. Although we are working on 3D, our computer is 2D, right? Hence the 3d image that we work on is the projection of the 3d model. But, as a 3d artist, all we need to understand is that polygons make up the 3D model.

Polygons are a super important topic to understand in 3D. Look at the rectangle, when we combine 2 triangles, it becomes a rectangle, right? A polygon can have either 3 or more vertices connected using edges. When we have 5 or vertices connected together, we call it n-gons. Ideally, we want to work with rectangles (or squares for that matter). The basic idea is to avoid n-gons and the triangle for modeling.

Here’s the thing:

When we create the model, most probably we need to animate it as well. Among all these shapes, only rectangles, and squares deform in a proper manner. We should definitely not need to know why it happens, all we need to know is the basic idea that is to use rectangles in most of our cases. This will probably come with practice – after spending quite some time in 3D animation, your intuition will say when to use n-gons (if that’s necessary)

What are primitives?

In geometry, primitives refer to objects which you can use to create other objects or shapes. Here’s the idea – while modeling you start with the primitive that closely resembles the shape that you’re making. For example, if you are creating a well – then it makes sense to start with a cylinder because that’s what it looks like in a close manner. Of course, real-world modeling looks a bit different. The basics always remain the same – you need to start with the primitive and then work on that. For example, human face closely resembles sphere, hence we start with sphere and tweak that in whatever we can to make it look like a face.

As I mentioned earlier, we do not just want it to look like the shape, we also want to make it functional so that there’s no problem in animating it later. For that, we need a good topology (more on this later).

Here are the few primitives that we use most of the time:

In Blender, there are few more primitives that we use. Here are a few of those: (a model is sometimes referred to as a mesh. The mesh is technically is a collection of polygons, since modeling is just the right arrangement of the polygons, it makes sense to refer to a model as a mesh.)

Let’s take this house as an instance.

This is mostly just a cube and plane. The wooden beams that I used are the cubes. The roofs, the walls, the door, and the window is just the plane. Of course, I have painted it using textures (texturing comes after modeling). Here are the objects or the sub-models that I used in order to create this model:

As a modeler, you need to develop an eye to watch how objects form and probably what’s the best way to get the job done. If you want to make a car, then you generally start with a cube – that’s because the body the car mostly resembles the cube. After that, you will use many modeling tools like extrude, bevel, and subdivide to create a car itself. Now important thing to note here is that model is a shape and not the final step. Sometimes, you may not your model to look like 100% the way you want you final product to look like – texturing can play a role in that. But the general rule is to work on it in a detailed manner so that other steps become quite easy.

In the next tutorial, we’ll discuss the modeling basics like translate, rotate, and scale and discuss vertices, edges, and face and how we can manipulate them.

Assignment: Study about the polygons as much as you can, learn about the vertex, edge, and scale (that will be a lot helpful in the next post).

Learn 3D Modeling in Blender 2.8 (Episode 0 – Why Blender?)

When it comes to 3D software, there is a myriad of options to choose from. Some of the most popular software are Autodesk Maya, 3Ds Max, Blender, Houdini, Cinema 4D, and so on. The primary reason I choose Blender (to be honest) is because it’s free. It’s also relatively lightweight compared to other 3D applications, which in no way makes Blender less powerful. In fact, Blender can do any 3D tasks imaginable. Of course, it may not be the best and the most efficient to do every 3D task (considering 3D itself is vast), but once you get the hang of Blender, all you can do is love it more because it’s FREE.

Now after the release of Blender 2.8, it’s almost like using a new advanced software than 2.7x series.

The most highlighted one is the Eevee renderer. However, there’re so many minor improvements that makes a 3D artist to use Blender at least once to see if they like it. Software is only part of the equation, though. 3D itself takes time to learn, hence we created this mini-series to help you learn to model while learning blender as well, which drastically decreases the time it takes to learn.

Does Software Matter?

My personal belief is that software matters a lot when you’re doing a complex task like 3D. But when there’re identical pieces of software that both do the same jobs in their own way, then it’s upon user’s preference to choose the software that they like.

As of today, there’s no reason not to try Blender. All I can say is try for once.

3D is a vast field. It covers areas like modeling, texturing, rigging, rendering, animation, compositing, and so on. In big studios like Pixar, there are people who do specialized tasks like modeling. One person may model a part of something. That’s how big the 3D industry is. Although I can empathize as a person working on a small studio or some planning to set up a small studio (just remember every studio starts out as a small studio), then it’s better to be a generalist than to specialize in one core area and that’s where Blender comes in the most.

Firstly, it’s FREE.

That alone should make Blender a natural choice for most people.

Exposure Triangle - ISO + Aperture + Shutter Speed

Exposure Triangle – “ISO + Aperture + Shutter Speed”

At the very basic level – all a camera does is capture the light.

In the process of doing so, sometimes it lets in a lot of light – while sometimes it does not let in a sufficient amount of light. How much of it is important is completely dependent on the situation. Getting in the perfect amount of light is the first thing every cinematographer (videographer) needs to think about.

You might wonder – “Hey Rajit, I am doing fine using AUTO mode on my camera”

That’s a valid statement – in fact, today’s camera have a pretty impressive AUTO setting (exposure, focus etc.) The light meter might work for you 🙂 But it’s always better to shoot in MANUAL mode to get the most out of your camera and the circumstance. Here are few reasons why you should always be striving to shoot in manual mode:

👉 The camera does not know your end-vision. What kind of photo/video are you trying to shoot? Is it a silhouette or a portrait? Sure, you might change your color profile, white balance and all – but the camera will never know your end goal – the picture you have clicked in your mind.

👉Although the camera’s light meter is precise, it’s not 100% accurate. Because it treats every situation in a similar manner.

👉 The camera does not know what to compensate for over others. For example, you might want a bokeh effect (or blur background or shallow depth of field) at the cost of shutter speed – only you’ll know that, not the camera.

When we customize all 3 exposure settings (Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO) together, we can create the desired effect and the kind of photo that we want to click.

Vertex #1 – Aperture:

Simply put, an aperture is an opening (or hole) through which light travels.

The main purpose of having an aperture is to control the amount of light that passes through the lens and then reaches the sensor. The major function of a lens is to focus the light from the source to the camera. Aperture plays a big role in this process.

Aperture - for Shallow Depth of Fied

Allowing just the right amount of light is really important in photography. If you overdo it, your image will be over-exposed and will seem blown out. Do the opposite, and you’ll under-expose the image (means the image will seem darker)

… aperture is the first door through which the light passes.

Thanks to aperture – now we can create a shallow depth of field – which means we can blur the background to drag the focus to our subjects. It’s the effect that most of the photographers look for when starting out.

Here’s an example: (this is me on the image 😃)

In this image (portrait kind of image), the focus is on me (or the subject) and the background is blurred out a bit to drag the focus on me. Hence, we can see the people in the background – but not with a sharp focus.

This is the effect that aperture creates.

Aperture is measured in terms of f-stops.

Basically, the higher the f-stop number, the lesser the hole opens. And, lesser the hole opens, the sharp the depth of field will be (everything will be in focus). Hence to create the blurred background, the f-stop should be as low as possible.

In the portrait, you might want to use aperture as low as f/4, f/2.8 or even lower.

While in the landscape, you might want to use aperture as high as f/11 or even higher with higher ISO.

… all depends on the situation and the moment you’re trying to capture.

This might interest you: 21 Days Videography Training in Nepal

Vertex #2 – Shutter Speed:

After the light passes through the aperture (of the lens), it passes through the next door – that is shutter (of the camera).

Now you might wonder …

… why is there 2 settings (or the ways) to let the light in when one can do the job? Well, it’s for a creative reason. While aperture is responsible to create the shallow depth of field, shutter speed is responsible to freeze the motion. This comes in quite handy when we are shooting the movements.

Shutter Speed is the measure of the time it takes for the shutter to open and close it. The faster the shutter speed is, the better the motion freeze the camera does – because the shutter only opens for a short time. In case, you shoot the motion with slower shutter speed, the image will get blurry – because when the subject moves before the light gets in completely.

Basically, this is the idea:

  1. Faster Shutter Speed = Freeze the motion
  2. Slower Shutter Speed = Blurs the action

Shutter Speed is measured in terms of “1/number” seconds.

Basically, the higher the number – the slower the shutter speed is. This can be confusing for the beginner – since it’s the opposite because the shutter speed is measured in terms of 1/number.

Let’s assume that you want to record a flying bird …

In this case, you’ll want to use a faster shutter speed (1/1000) to freeze the motion of the bird. Since the shutter opens for a very short period of time (in this case), it captures the bird for that short time period.

Possible shutter speed usage:

Shutter SpeedUsage
1/1000 (or faster)Freezes the motion of the birds and faster objects
1/500Freezes the motion of vehicles (cars, bike etc.) and runners
1/250Freeze slower motion (eg: people walking)
1/80Regular Footage – does not freeze
1/8 (or slower)Blurs the flowing-water or the people walking

Summarizing till now:

You can think this way – aperture is mostly related to Space dimension (how wider it opens) and shutter speed is mostly related to Time dimension (how faster it opens).

Vertex #3 – ISO:

The camera has a light-sensitive material – “sensor”.

ISO = light sensitivity value. ISO is particularly valuable in the low light situation – where you have opened the aperture as widest as possible and shutter speed for the longest (where it does not get blurred), the only option you have is to increase your ISO.

… but there’s a downside to it.

When you start increasing your ISO value more than a certain point, it will start to see grains (or noise) in the photo. Hence – the general rule is to use the ISO value as low as possible.

Possible ISO usage:

ISO ValuePossible Situation
Daylight / Outdoor100
Studio Set-up400 – 800
Low Light Room1600

If it’s possible, always try to use ISO 100. In order to make the exposure right while using the ISO – 100, there’s always an option of using a professional LED light. You have to use anyways, not just for the exposure but also for the lighting purpose (in order to make the image look flattery).

In Conclusion

You’re always in control of your exposure.

No matter how your lighting is, or how your composition is – if your exposure sucks, then your whole photo or video clip will suck. That’s because it will be the first impression.

Hence please try to take care of the exposure while shooting !!

Screenplay - The Foundations of Screenwriting

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting – Book Summary

A screenplay is the story told with pictures, in dialogue and description and placed within the context of dramatic structure.

Chapter 1 – What is a screenplay?

A screenplay is not a novel and for certain it’s not a play.

If you look at the novel and try to define its fundamental nature, you’ll see that the dramatic action, the storyline, usually takes place inside the head of the main character. A play is different – the action, or the storyline, occurs onstage, under the proscenium arch, and the audience becomes the fourth wall, eavesdropping on the lives of the characters, what they think and feel and say.

Film is a VISUAL medium that dramatizes a basic story line.

Screenplays have a basic linear structure that creates the form of the screenplay because it holds all the elements, or pieces of the story line in place.

3-Act Structure

The word “structure” has basically 2 meanings:

  • “to build or put something together”
  • the relationship between the parts and the whole

A story is the whole and the elements that make up the story – the action, characters, conflicts, scenes, sequences, 3-acts, dialogue, action, events, music, location, etc. are the parts – and the relationship between the parts and the whole make up the story.

Act – I: “Set up”(app. 1- 30)
Act – II: “Confrontation”(app. 30 – 90)
Act – III: “Resolution”(app. 90 – 120)

Act I – “Set-up”:

Act – I is about the context. Context is the space that holds something in place.

  • Sets up the story
  • Establishes the character
  • Launches the dramatic premise.
  • Illustrates the situation
  • Creates the relationships between the main character and the other characters who inhabit the landscape of his/her world.

Act II – “Confrontation”:

In the second act, the main character encounters obstacle after obstacle that keeps him/her from achieving the dramatic need.

Dramatic need: “what the character wants to win, gain, get or achieve during the course of the screenplay”.

All drama is conflict. Without conflict, you have no action; without action you have no character ; without character, you have no story and without story , you have no screenplay.

Act III – “Resolution”:

It’s important to remember that resolution is not the ending; resolution means solution. Ending is the specific scene or shot or sequence that ends the script.

What’s the solution of your screenplay?

Does the main character live or die? Get Married or not? Win the race or not? Escape safety or not? Win the election or not? Leave her husband or not? Return the home or not? Act – III is the unit of action that resolves the story.

What’s a plot point?

A plot point is defined as any incident, episode or event that hooks into the action and spins it around in another direction. A plot point is always the function of the main character. Plot points serve an essential purpose in the screenplay; they are the major story progression and keep the story line anchored in place.

Plot points do not have to be big, dynamic scenes or sequences; they can be quiet scenes in which a decision is made.

Dramatic Structure: Linear arrangement of the related incidents, episodes, or events leading to a dramatic resolution.

Chapter 2 – The Subject

Every screenplay has a subject – it is what the story is about.

You need a subject to embody and dramatize the idea. A subject is defined as an action and a character. An action is what the story is about – a character is who the story is about. Knowing your subject is the starting point of your screenplay.

When you can articulate your subject, in terms of action and character, you’re ready to begin expanding the elements of structure and story. It may take several pages of the free association writing about your story before you can begin to grasp the essentials and reduce the complex storyline to a simple sentence or two.

Subject:
Action:Physical
Emotional
Character:
Define the need
Action is the character

Ask yourself what kind of story you are writing – Is it an outdoor action adventure movie? Or, is it a story about a relationship, an emotional story? Once you determine the kind of action you’re dealing with, you can move into the life of your character.

First, define the dramatic need of your character. What does your character want? What’s his/her need? What drives him to the resolution of the story? You must define the need of your character.

Know your SUBJECT !!

Chapter 3 – The Creation of Character

What is character but the determination of incident? And what is incident but the illumination of the character? – Henry James

Henry James says that incidents you create for your characters are the best ways to illuminate who they are – that is – reveal their true nature, their essential character. How they respond to a particular incident or event, how they act and react, what they say and do is what really defines the essence of their character.

Character is the essential internal foundations of your screenplay.

Before you can put one word down on paper, you must know your character. How do you determine whether your character will drive a car or ride a motorcycle or take the bus or subway, and what kind of paintings or posters hang out in his/her apartment?

Who is your main character?

The way you drive your story forward is by focusing on the actions of the character and the dramatic choices he or she makes during the narrative story line. You can have more than 1 main character, of course, but it certainly clarifies things if you identifies single hero or heroine.

First, establish the main character. Separate the components of his/her life into two basic categories:

  • interior
  • exterior

The interior of your character takes place from birth up until the time your story begins. It is a process that forms character.

The exterior life of your character takes place from the moment film begins to the conclusion of your story. It is the process that reveals the character.

Character:
Internal:takes place from birth – story
Emotional life – forms character
External:
from the start of the movie to end.
Physical Life – reveals the character

Character Biography:

The character biography is an exercise that reveals your character’s interior life, the emotional forces the emotional forces working on your character from birth. Continue to trace your character’s life until the story begins.

Writing is the ability to ask yourself the questions and wait for the answers.

The exterior aspect of your character takes place during the eventual time of the screenplay, from the first fade-in to the final fade-out. The best way to do this is to separate your character’s life into 3 basic components – their professional, personal and private life. (These areas of your characters’ lives can be dramatized over the course of the screenplay)

Professional: What does the protagonist do for the living?

Personal: Relationship / Love / Family

Private: What does your character do when s/he is alone?

Action is Character

Film is behavior. Pictures, or images reveal different aspects of character. Whereas character reveals the deep-seated nature of who people are, in terms of their values, actions and beliefs, characterization is expressed in the way people live, the cars they drive, the pictures they hang on the wall, their likes and dislikes, what they eat, and other forms of individual expression.

Form your characters by creating a character biography, and then reveal them by showing who they are in the professional, personal and private life.


Exercise:

Choose a character and write a character biography. Free Associate. Just throw down some thoughts, words or ideas. Write in fragments. You may want to start from birth, but you don’t have to follow the character’s life in a linear form. Let your creative consciousness dictate the flow of character.

As you have completed the character biography, think about your character’s professional, personal and private life. Focus on the relationships that occur during the screenplay.

Know Your Character !!

Chapter 4 – Building The Character

Building character is part of the mystery and magic of the creative process.

In is an ongoing, never-ending, continuing practice. In order to really solve the problem of character, it’s essential to go into your characters and build the foundations and fabric of their lives, then add ingredients that will heighten and expand the portrait of who they are.

Four essential qualities that seems to go into making a good character:

  • the characters have dramatic need
  • they have an individual Point-of-View (POV)
  • they personify an attitude
  • they go through some kind of change, or transformation

1. Dramatic Need:

A dramatic need is defined as what your main characters want to win, gain, get or achieve during the course of your screenplay. The dramatic need is what drives your character through the story line. It is their purpose, their mission, their motivation, driving them through the narrative action of the story line.

In most cases you can express the dramatic need in a sentence or two.

It is usually simple and can be stated through a line of dialogue, if you choose; or it does not have to be expressed at all. But you as a writer, must know your character’s dramatic need.

There are times when the dramatic need will change during the course of your story. If your character’s dramatic need dos change, it will usually occur at Plot Point I, the true beginning of your story. If you like, you can establish dramatic needs for other characters in the screenplay.

The dramatic need is the engine that powers the character through the story line.

2. Point-Of-View

4 Best Screenwriting Books That Every Aspiring Filmmaker Should Read

4 Best Screenwriting Books That Every Aspiring Filmmaker Should Read

Watch the interview from your favorite director!!

Well, chances are high that they will recommend you to write a script or practice screenwriting. The reason is because a film is a script in a true sense. It all starts with a script. Regardless of what kind of cinematic shots are used, or how it’s edited – all of those things won’t matter if we don’t craft a good script.

Here are a few screenwriting books that I recommend to every aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker:

#1 Screenplay – by Syd Field

As the title suggests, Screenplay is about the fundamentals of screenwriting. Think of it like a ‘Screenwriting 101’. I admire the writing style of the writer – Syd Field – clear and simple.

There are a lot of screenwriting books in the market as of today, and every book will add something of value to you as a writer. However, this book remains the must-have on every screenwriter’s shelf, because it helps you learn about the fundamentals – the core that builds the screenplay.

And, don’t get mistaken.

It’s not about formulas, nor about the 3-act structure. Yes, they are an important part of learning screenwriting. However, this book goes much beyond that. And, this book is not a one time read – it’s a reference book. The more you write, the more you should keep coming back to this book and review the script you wrote.

In this way, you’ll be a much better screenwriter.

Screenplay – by Syd Field

#2 The Coffee Break Screenwriter – by Pillar Alessandra

Do you have only 10 minutes a day to write?

Well, this book comes to the rescue. Although this book is targeted to 9-5 job holders (or someone who has less time for writing), I think this book caters to almost all the screenwriters because it follows a practical approach to writing a script.

All the exercise to follow are bite sized and really easy to digest.

However, the most important thing is to use them consistently.

The Coffee-Break Screenwriter

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#3 Save the Cat- by Blake Snyder

This book is another must-have on shelf. It effectively breaks down the genres and beats that every good script tends to follow. Although I don’t believe much in formulas for creative crafts like writing, this book provide you with an ample examples of the pattern that goes into the movies.

It provides you with a template you can follow to write your screenplay.

… this might be particularly helpful when you’re starting out. The best thing about learning screenwriting this way is that you can speed up your writing and the more you write, the more you learn. There’s no doubt on that.

Save the Cat – by Blake Snyder

#4 The Hero With a Thousand Faces – by Joseph Campbell

This book is not about screenwriting, it’s about writing in general. It’s about the story that our ancestors have been telling to us for ages – it’s something that has been there since the beginning of humanity.

Read this book to gain knowledge on what every good story has in common.

The ‘Hero’ in the title does not mean the hero in a filmic sense. It’s about the character and how s/he resolves the conflict along the way. Read the book and you, probably will not be disappointed.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces – by Joseph Campbell

In Conclusion,

Well, writing is a personal experience and books are there to help you along your journey. At the end of the day, it’s you who will craft your story. You can learn about 3-act structure, beat sheets or any other writing methodologies, nevertheless, you’ll probably discover your own style and method along the way – which is closely personal to you.

17 Lighting Terminologies That Every Filmmaker Should Know

17 Lighting Terminologies That Every Filmmaker Should Know

Here are a few of the lighting terminologies that every filmmaker and cinematographer should know about.

Key Light:

The dominant or main light in the scene. The “key” illuminates the surface. Generally, the key light is the brightest light in the set-up.

Fill Light:

While key light lights up the subject, it also casts the shadow. Sometimes, we may want to keep the shadow – but most of the times, we need to get rid of those shadows. The fill light fills in the shadow, not lit by the keylight.

Lighting is sometimes described in terms of the “key/fill” ratio.

Backlight:

Light that hits the person or object from behind or above.

This might interest you: 21 Days Videography Training in Nepal

3 Point Lighting:

The above 3 lights (key, fill and backlight) together form the 3-point lighting set-up, which is the standard method used in the movies and shows. Even in photography, 3-point is among the first lighting set-ups that beginners photographers learn.

3 Point Lighting - Key, Fill, back Light
Source: https://biteable.com/

Kicker:

A kicker is the light from behind that grazes along an actor’s cheek, on the fill side. Often a kicker defines the face well enough that a fill is not even necessary.

Sidelight:

A light that comes from the side, relative to the actors. Sidelight makes the subject look dramatic.

Topper:

Light directly from above. The word can also be referred to a flag that cuts off the upper part of a light.

Quality of Lighting:

In terms of the quality of the lighting, there are 2 terminologies that we need to know:

Hard Light:

Light from the sun, or small lighting source that creates sharp well-defined shadows. Hard light makes the subject look dramatic (hence, used as a sidelight). The hardness of the light depends of 2 factors:

Light Source Size – smaller the source is, harder the light will be.

Distance from the subject – farther the subject is from the source, harder the light will be.

Soft Light:

Light from a large source that creates soft, ill-defined shadows, or no shadows at all. Soft light illuminates a larger part of the subject – hence used in commercials and such.

Ambient Light:

Light that just happens to be in a location; soft-overhead light that is sort of there.

Practicals:

Actual working light, table lamps, floor lamps, sconces and so on. Practicals are lights within the frame.

Upstage:

Part of the scene on the other side of the camera. Downstage is the side the camera is on.

High Key:

Lighting that is bright and fairly shadowless, with lots of fill light.

Low Key:

Light that is dark and shadowy with little or no fill light – use mostly in dark scenes.

Bounce Light:

Light that is reflected off something – a wall, ceiling, a white or neutral surface, a silk, etc.

Available Light:

Whatever light already exists at the location. Maybe natural light (sun, sky, overcast day) or artificial light (street lights, overhead fluorescents)

Motivated Lighting:

Where light in the scene appears to have a source, such as a window, a lamp, a fireplace and so on.

10 Composition Techniques (for Filmmakers & Cinematographers)

10 Composition Techniques (for Filmmakers & Cinematographers)

The composition is an important aspect of getting cinematic footage.

Whether you use a $100 DSLR camera or a $60,000+ ARRI Cameras – does not matter, if your composition sucks, then your footage will not seem cinematic. The composition is much more important than anything else. If you shoot the crap, it’s just the crap (with a higher dynamic range 😃)

What is Composition?

The composition is about arranging the elements in the frame (or viewfinder) so that it makes sense to the viewer.

How we compose the story will eventually define the story. Especially in movies, composition alone can evoke certain emotions – hence an important tool for cinematographers.

If you want your footage to look cinematic, then you have to learn to follow the composition guidelines (although you might want to break it later on)

Remember that these are not the rules (and just the guidelines)

Even rules are meant to be broken, it does not hurt to break the guidelines. However, you can only do that when you know the purpose of the composition. Every form of composition serves a purpose and not every kind of framing works best for every kind of shots.

Hence, it’s absolutely essential to learn the purpose of the composition techniques and why does it exist. There might be 1000’s of composition techniques, some of them are more important over others. Here are few of those:

1. Fill the Frame

It’s the mistake most of the beginner cinematographer’s make – not fill the frame with the subjects.

When you don’t fill the frame with the subjects and the related objects, your composition will feel dead or dull. The subject should not necessarily be a person or objects, it can be a theme, a landscape or something that reveals a part of the story.

That being said, when the composition contains unnecessary details (or distracting elements), it takes the focus away from our subject. Look at the picture below 👇

What do you see? A lot of things, right?

That’s an example of a composition where the frame is not filled with the subject.

Maybe the subject in this picture is the man who is looking at something (to the left). What is he looking at? That area should have been there in the frame. Rather than keeping the distracting elements in the right, the photographer should have clicked with the person on the right side of the frame, and a little bit of looking room on the left side. As far as possible, fill the frame with subjects …

… that brings the life to your cinematography.

2. Rule of Thirds

Imagine dividing your frame into 3 rows and 3 columns.

Rule of third states that when you place your subject at or near to the four intersecting points, your subject will get enough attention from the viewers. And, it will also feel natural composition to the viewer. Here’s an example: 👇

In this example, had we placed the girl at the center of the frame, it would not seem more balanced. Keeping the subject in one-third of the left or right ensures the composition is balanced. In this case, the photographer keeps her in the right third because she is looking at the left. This way, there’s also a looking room which makes it feel natural.

3. Symmetry

Symmetry breaks the rule of thirds. 😃🤔

Symmetry is one of those powerful ways of showcasing the subjects in the frame, which makes the composition lively. It’s not always applicable though. In order to create symmetry in the frame, we need to find such places (like bridges, symmetrical landscapes and such).

Even when there is a camera movement, we can still keep it symmetrical moving the camera to the front or the back. This way, symmetry is preserved even when the camera moves …

… camera movement is an important aspect of cinematography.

4. Creating Depth

We see depth in the real world. For example, I am seeing my hands which are typing before the laptop, and then the books, the table and such

This is how we see the world.

But when beginners filmmakers (or cinematographers) capture images, we tend to forget about the depth of field. Sometimes, all we want to do is place the subject and create a Bokeh effect behind him/her. That’s fine (in most cases)

Nevertheless, maintaining the depth in the composition brings the place to life. It almost feels like we are at the place experiencing the moment.

Hence I try to add as much depth as possible without hindering any other guidelines mentioned.

In this example, the lights add depth to the scene. Had we taken the picture from the side (90 degrees), the depth would not have been visible.

5. Leading Lines

Adding leading lines is a powerful method to draw the viewer’s attention to a point. As the name suggests, the line (imaginary) leads the viewer to a certain point (most probably – subject). Leading lines can be anything – mountains, field, bridges, etc. The line is imaginary – the basic idea is that the line should lead within the frame and take the audience somewhere.

Here’s an example 👇

Had we just clicked the picture of just the subject in this picture, it might have been OK. But, keeping in mind the leading lines, it added a new dimension to the picture. Similar is the case in cinematography. Here, the leading lines also add a sense of depth.

6. Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines are much similar to the leading lines. The only difference is that the lines are diagonal (means the lines goes from left to right or vice-versa).

Diagonal lines also add a sense of depth in the frame.

7. Pattern / Repetition

Pattern (or repetition) is a composition technique that works well for cinematography (more than photography). Patterns are so natural. In fact, nature is filled with patterns.

Think about the mountains – All the mountains are similar to each other. When we shoot one mountain and pan the camera to show the other – audience feels the pattern in this case. It seems a powerful tool to capture certain scenes.

If you find the places with patterns or repetitions of certain elements, try to incorporate that within your camera viewfinder.

8. Framing

Framing is about surrounding your subject with interesting elements.

It brings a new dimension to the story – revealing something essential (or hiding something important). Just like the frame we hang in our homes, we cover our subject or the action with something interesting. These can be anything – any objects within the viewfinder can act as a frame.

Framing makes the scene even more interesting. Especially when we find something that relates to our story. Keep in mind that the frame should not be a distracting element to the story. In fact, it should bring something to the story and the scene.

9. Dominance

Remember the first picture that I showed to you. See the picture once again and answer this question – “What’s the dominant part of the shot?”

You’ll find it very difficult to answer that.

Because the shot is composed in a way that reveals everything while the audience is confused about what’s the dominant subject.

That’s what every director needs to consider. Whether it be film or photography, you’re directing the audience’s attention. The audience does not know anything about the scene until you show them. This is where filmmaking can be utilized to the fullest as well – you can direct the audience’s interest in a way that’s rarely possible in any other art forms.

10. Focus

Needless to say, that focus is important. Simple, yet super essential. Because if the subject is not in focus, then every other composition techniques will seem worthless. Hence, always keep your subject – the thing that you want to show, in focus.

As a viewer, we only think about one thing at a time – it’s upon your job as a filmmaker and cinematographer to make me think about the story. Focus helps a lot in this case.

It’s also about getting rid of the distracting elements.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s it …

These are the important composition techniques – we need to tweak, and twist them to tell our story, and make every scene valuable. Once again – these are just the guidelines and not the hard and fast rules. These are meant to be broken – once we understand the purpose and motivation of every composition techniques.

If I missed anything, let me know in the comment section below 👇