Master cinematographers approach every frame as an opportunity to convey the feel of the scene. And one of the things that really helps them to achieve it is composition—the way elements (actors, scenery, props, etc) are placed on screen in respect to each other and within the frame itself has a huge impact on our viewing experience.
To show the brilliance behind a frame's layout, Raymond Thi of Composition Cam analyzes visually stunning films, adding simple, bold lines to demonstrate triangles, quadrants, and other geometric shapes that please our eyes.
As you will see, some pictures use the grid method to create balanced frames while others focus on a central character instead. Many of these films feature relatively simple compositions too, proving that a few elements can make a lasting impact. If you know how to use them.
Blade Runner 2049
Film director and cinematographer (a combo that makes her a rare breed), Elena Rossini, appreciates Thi's work, putting the spotlight on frame composition. "Whenever people discuss the work of great directors, they often fail to mention the art of cinematography," she told Bored Panda. "But for me, it is truly essential and is what separates good from masterful directors. After all, film is a visual art."
Rossini's favorite filmmakers are also those who put a lot of effort into composition. "Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, and Céline Sciamma [are probably at the top of this list]. 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' was a masterpiece in my opinion, with every shot carefully composed as if it were a painting.
For her, the most successful compositions are those that help the storytelling, creating a sense of awe and wonder (Sciamma, Kubrick) or make you relate to a character (Anderson).
The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Space Odyssey
"My favorite composition technique is the one-point perspective," Rossini said. "It's Stanley Kubrick's signature shot (I talked about it in my blog), where all the lines in the composition harmoniously converge to a point in the distance. It is no coincidence that Kubrick's shots are so beautifully crafted, as he started working as a photographer and then made the transition to cinema."
Since the filmmaker also admires Wes Anderson, Rossini loves his high-angle POV shots "as they put you in the shoes of the characters, creating an added sense of intimacy."
If you would like to try these composition techniques for yourself, Thi has created an app that applies these lines to your iOS device.
Star Wars: Episode Iv - A New Hope (1977)
Isle Of Dogs
Twin Peaks (The Return, Part 2)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)⠀
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
500 Days Of Summer (2009)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)⠀
The King's Speech (2010)⠀
Rule Of Thirds In Star Wars (Original Trilogy)
The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
Game Of Thrones (TV Series)
Black Swan (2010)
The Neon Demon
Note: this post originally had 118 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.