Visual Composition (Module 3)

Unique Perspective – The Low Angle Shot

It’s time for me to begin the video design process! A process that, like audio design, is completely new to me. But, never fear, because that’s why I’m here – to learn and develop some new skills. 

In preparation to make a video montage of a location with subjects of my choosing, there have been quite a few tasks to do. First, it proved necessary to catch up on some reading to know how to go about it; then, find some video examples that help me to visualize good composition; and lastly, to create some documents that will help the pre-production process.


I began by reading a few chapters from The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video – Chapter 1: Basics, Chapter 2: Composition, Chapter 5: Camera Moves, and Chapter 6: Montages. 

Schroeppel starts his book with the basics of the camera, which really goes into the nitty-gritty of it – what cameras are, what goes into them and how they work, and how to use them. So, what do I need to know about how to use cameras? Well, there are image sensors (CCD or CMOS), exposure, aperture, color temperature, light meters, and depth of field for starters. Schroeppel clearly explains each one, and how to use them for the best photo or video. 

Chapter 2: Composition, Schroeppel lists several composition rules for optimal pictures or videos. To name a few – rule of thirds, balance with leading looks, color, and masses, angles, frames in a frame, leading lines, and backgrounds. To see visuals for each of these composition rules, check out my visual comp shot list document below.

Chapters 5 and 6 go over different camera moves and montages. Moves with the camera add to the look and feel, in addition to the composition rules, these can be used to create the overall picture. Different camera moves include tilts, pans, and zooms ins and outs. Where montages, to get an idea, are primarily used in commercials, include several different shots of separate locations, angles, and other compositional aspects. 

In addition to the book’s readings, I also indulged in a few articles. “Video Pre-Production Planning Check-List – 11 Steps to a Successful Project” is the first of the three. Within this article, author Jimm Fox sets a clear checklist for planning before production. The checklist is made to help those planning a video to accomplish accordingly with steps like defining objectives, audience, and budgeting for beginning the process. Then more planning steps to follow include getting approvals, length of the video, and scheduling to stay on track.

Acting Tips: 12 Camera Shots Every Actor Should Know” is the next article, written by Helen Kantilaftis. Kantilaftis breaks down different shots and why they’re important. Each explanation of the camera shots are written specifically for actors to understand, but it’s also very helpful for people like me who are learning video design. The shots listed are written as subheadings and include their acronym like a wide shot (WS), medium shot (MS), and close up (CU). See more examples of these camera shots in my visual comp shot list document below.

The last article I read is “Storyboarding Tips: How to Plan & Visualize Your Next Video” which helps to visualize a video design before execution with drawn pictures of the scene. Author Mark R Robertson lays out three notable considerations for storyboards, including – always do them before filming, they’re like the blueprints; don’t worry about being an artist; and that it helps to visualize the process at the beginning. As a part of the article, Robertson also includes a video that helps to visually experience why storyboarding is important. 


This video is a great montage of different places in Italy with a light music track and nice ambient audio. There are many different composition rules used within the montage, like the rule of thirds at 0:38, and balancing masses – a lot of the time, but specifically at 0:20, and framing 0:26.

This 2014 commercial for Chevy uses balance-leading looks at 0:11. It’s also just an awesome story!

This Nike commercial is another great story. There are a few different rules used, like the rule of thirds at 0:12 and leading lines at 0:40.

Developing My Own Video Montage:

For my own montage, I put together a pre-production planning document, which includes my first time using storyboarding! The document below clearly states what my intentions are with the video montage – to shoot a light-hearted piece about a local neighborhood park and trails – with a drafted script and storyboards for visuals. 

To learn the camera better, I also put together a document of different shots for good composition. While I can manage to read how to do something like this, actually doing it is definitely a challenge – especially when using subjects that don’t always take direction well. I tried my best to get nice shots that clearly show the composition rules, and I learned a lot by doing it first-hand!

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