Module 3: Visual Composition 1-Visual Montage (pre-production)

Feature image from Flickr licensed with creative commons


This module is our transition from strictly audio work to visual work. The readings from the textbook chapters and links that Professor Golden shared with the class were helpful to not only review some stuff I already knew about cameras and filming. And in our create section we begin our planning for recording our montage by completing some establishing still photo shots and a pre-planning document.

Reading and Writing:

The first reading for this week were chapters from The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video

Chapter 1: This chapter covers the basics of the camera. I previously knew how a camera captures an image just because a couple of science museums I have visited had exhibits based on the science of cameras. However, I had no idea how images were captured on a digital camera. The technology within handheld camera’s are truly amazing to be able to capture and collect twenty-five to thirty complete images per second (p.3). I know moving forward over these next few modules, exposure will play a large part in capturing good images. I know over exposed images appear too bright, while under exposed images appear too dark. However, I didn’t know that the size of the hole in the center of the lens (the aperture) is what was adjusted to fix the exposure (p. 4). There was a lot of insights in this first chapter some of which was straightforward and I could have guessed, but it was good to read more into detail about it. Some of these areas that is was nice to dive a little deeper into included using different types of lenses to capture different shots (p. 14) and how depth of field is affected by qualities like focal length and aperture size (p.21)

Chapter 2: Chapter 2 focuses on composition, and jogged my memory to a unit in art class back in high school where we worked briefly with photography and image composition. I never thought that having the subject of an image centered could be so visually unappealing. I would have thought centering the subject of a shot would have made it ‘balanced’ but placing the subject off-center and creating head room or lead room, actually balances the shot (according to the textbook) (p.31). Angles are also a great tool to use when capturing a shot. It’s crazy that you can manipulate the subject to give it depth just by capturing it from a different location (above or below) as opposed to appearing flat (p. 37).

Chapter 5: Camera moves are covered in this chapter. Actions that are considered moves include zooms, pans and tilts. Automatically, I know what a zoom is because I have used this function on my camera while taking pictures on vacations. I knew what a pan was just from having heard the phrase used and context. However, I could have gone my whole life without knowing what a camera tilt is if it weren’t for this class and the textbook. As I said, I know what a pan is, but I thought when it came to vertical movements, it would just be considered a vertical pan. I had no idea that this movement had a completely different name. I would never have thought that panning up and down is actually called a tilt. (p. 74). 

Chapter 6: Chapter 6 deals with montages. It’s a short chapter but definitely effective. When I think of a montage, I automatically think about the opening credits for The Office. Each shot is pretty different, changing from outdoors, to indoors, from workers, to office machinery (p.79). 

Video Pre-Production Planning Check-List – 11 Steps to a Successful Project

Just like with our audio project, this article suggests the best practice for video projects is pre-production planning. The steps laid out in the article, along with the guiding questions, make sense to try and make sure that you save time, energy, and money. The first question to answer is what do you want to happen when people finish watching your video? Should they be motivated to take action on a cause? Should they feel inclined to buy your product? By answering this question, you can better determine artistic decisions you will make for your video.

Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles August 2, 2013 attributed under creative commons license

Next, is to define your audience. Determining this will help to determine what they care about, and what should be included in the video to best connect with them. Developing the message comes next. Interestingly, the author makes a point to note that this step is still not ‘creative’ but instead what are “ideas, themes ad topics” that need to be communicated. Budget is next. I was surprised that this didn’t fall earlier on the checklist. Once again, the author notes that the placement of this step is debatable, and it could and maybe should be considered earlier on.

Planned Distribution comes next, and answers the question “how are people going to watch your video”. This question is more important than ever now that there are more streaming platforms and devices than ever before. The device it will be watched on might influence creative decisions. The 6thstep is “concept-what’s the big idea”. This is the first step to moving into the creative steps. Next comes the treatment and storyboard. A “treatment” is, a summary of how you realize the idea and a “storyboard” is created to outline the different sections of the video.  The next steps include obtaining approvals, pre-production meetings and scheduling and production planning. These steps will help to keep you on-track, on-time, and hopefully on-budget. Planning also includes details like location scouting, permits, who will make up the crew, identifying and obtaining equipment, identifying and obtaining talent, and taking considerations of weather and seasons if your shot will be outdoors.

All of this is a lot to consider before you even pick up a camera! 

12 of the Most Popular Camera Shots all Actors Should Know

This article further informed me on setting up and performing different types of shots (beyond the ones mentioned in the textbook). Of the 12 shots mentioned, I was most familiar with the establishing shot (I always think of the shot of the apartment, or Central Perk, in Friends), and the close up. I could never have imaged separate from the close up with be an extreme lose up, or a medium shot. Of all the shots, I think the Dolly Zoom is most impressive. As mentioned in the article as a tough shot to get, when achieved like it was in Jaws, it definitely stands out.   


Storyboarding is one of the most important steps to seeing your vision become a reality. I like the idea presented in this video and accompanying article, of thinking of a storyboard as a blueprint. An architect wouldn’t begin building a building if there wasn’t a blue print of the completed plans, and the step to take to accomplish it. I didn’t realize how detailed one should be in their storyboard, including details location, time of day, technical details, and even verbal delivery.

Research to Inform:

Here are some clips that after rematching, I found follow and exemplify guidelines for proper visual composition.

The Devil Wears Prada– Rule of Thirds and Balance

This is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies. This assignment though had me pay attention specifically to the structure of the scene and I think it takes into consideration a lot of the guidelines. For example, I never realized that no one in the scene is ever featured center. It doesn’t matter if it is a shot of Andy (the girl in the blue sweater) standing alone, she is off centered. Or when Miranda is seen speaking to Andy, surrounded by workers, she is never directly centered. Additionally, there is an element of balance in the scene. Miranda is flanked by additional actors in the scene who balance her out.

Spiderman Homecoming – Perspective and Leading Lines

I thought this scene effectively used these two visual composition guidelines. Beginning at 0:18, I thought this shot was a good mix of both perspective (the visual of Peter climbing the Washington Monument from below) as well as leading lines here and around 0:27 (the lines of the Washington Monument against the sky keeping your eyes following Peter’s movements towards the top of the monument where the action is taking place). Another great example of perspective, this time from above Peter, can be found at 1:00 and then again with moments of leading lines at 1:22-1:50.

Shallow from A Star is Born – Shallow Depth of Field

I won’t lie when I say that this scene was inspired by the name of this visual guideline. I revisited the scene from this new movie and paid attention not only to the rules of third placements of the lead actors throughout the scene, but also the depth. Specifically beginning at 3:35-4:00 when both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s character are visible, but the camera focuses solely on Lady GaGa since she is the one meant to be paid attention to. Having Lady GaGa closer to the camera creates depth for the scene and physically brings her into focus, blurring out Bradley. While maintaining the use of thirds and a nice balance to the scene.


To complete the create part of this week’s module. I borrowed a camera from the School of Communications. The camera was a canon EOS. Using a camera was trickier than I thought it would be. I took over 150 pictures in an effort to get the shots I needed. I also ran into issues 2 issues. 1, the camera I borrowed has been well used and a little beat up. Both the lens and the digital screen were a bit scratched up. This made it hard to review some of the shots in the moment. The second issue was user error. I thought I got a shot, but really didn’t, because when I took them and reviewed them on the camera outside, the sun tricked me into thinking the images were clear, but I could have focused them more.

Here is my Visual Composition Shot List

And here is my Pre-Production Planning Document (Montage)

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