"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Importance Of Staging 'aka' Composition !

Recently I saw a movie - The Reader. This is a brilliant movie in many many aspects, be it the story, the performances(Kate Winslet bagged an Oscar for her superb performance) by almost everyone who came into focus in any frame, production design, the look and feel of the entire movie and the amazing work done from a Director's point of view in terms of Camera Angles and directing the viewer's eyes to the place which actually matters - Staging or Composition. I really recommend watching this movie.

Now this post is not about the movie per se, but to talk about how important Staging/Composition is in film-making(be it live-action, animated or a blend of both) with examples taken from the movie - The Reader. I have chosen 3 frames which stood out for me as to how powerful Staging can be to impact/heightened the story and the scene in particular and make the viewer see what has to be seen. Now this not to say, rest of the movie has bad staging, but for me these Framing were the cream so as to speak ! Watch the movie and see what else stands out for you !

So lets get started -

Frame - 1

To break it down in terms of shapes and lines -

In the above picture, from the Staging itself you can instantly understand who is leading the scene here or where the Director wants you to focus on.

Any frame can be framed in a million ways. This one works beautifully but so can many others. The key is to choose what will work best in any given situation.

Notice the green lines, how the objects, the characters in the scene are placed or are shot in such a way that naturally your focus will go on the circle where the action is taking place. Now the characters can be moved around as desired, but the background(props, objects) in this case doesnt have the flexibility to be moved around at will because of the scale of the set.

Again there can be a million different designs of how a classroom can be, but here this one seems perfect because the people behind the camera were able to squeeze out all the juice required. If the set was different, definitely the framing would have been different too.

Too many choices in any aspect can be good or bad. For films this is the really difficult part as there are no set way or rules to do it this way or that. There are so many different permutations and combinations possible and considering an equal no. of contrast in the audience, to have something which will please all is definitely not possible but if you can please majority of them you have done your work !

Frame - 2

To break it down in terms of shapes and lines -

Another fantastic example of a good framing. See how the stairs on either side, the character on the left side and the two characters on the right side converge in terms of geometric shapes to the people in the circle. Also notice the triangle which gets formed due to the placement of the characters in the scene.

There is another triangle on top of the circle thanks to the stairs on each side.

So two opposite triangle, both pointing to where it matters most. Awesome stuff !

Frame - 3

To break it down in terms of lines and shapes -

I simply love this one ! See how everything is framed to direct you to the circle. Also notice how the characters are place. See how the objects in the set also converge to the circle. You change one placement and the entire scene attains a fresh new composition. What if the girl was placed in the same row as the boy who is sitting on the table? What if the camera was placed somewhere else, say it was the left side from the character in the circle or it was on top, in the middle between the characters and focusing on the circle? It would look a whole different than it is now !

The magic of Staging and Composition !

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