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Tips for Widescreen Image Framing

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Here are a few tips for setting up great widescreen visuals with your digital video camera, whether consumer or professional.

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    Going Big

    Framing is the art of arranging images in your digital video frame. Most people are used to the home video standard of 4:3 because that is what televisions have been set at for most of their history. Now that people have voted in favor of widescreen, or 16:9, those standards need to be revised somewhat to get great visuals.

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    Classic Principles

    The first thing to consider is that most of the image principles that have been established through art aesthetics, photography, and film will translate perfectly. For example, the rule of thirds is still relevant, if not even more so. Instead of thinking about it as a series of nine squares you have to make them rectangular to match the rectangular shape of a widescreen image. Principles like asymmetry, z-axis, and character positioning are just as important as they were in 4:3.

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    Centering the Images

    Though widescreen viewing is absolutely preferable for all situations, you may not be able to make that happen every time. What has happened through the history of home video for widescreen cinema was a "pan and scan" effort where the sides of the image are essentially cropped off. This means that the center of the image will then be the only viewable image. This should then inspire you to keep the main action in the center of the frame, but if you are bent on keeping it in widescreen then you can focus on a wider range of view. If you have to show it on a standard television always opt to format it in letterbox.

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    Using Wide Benefits

    If you are going to make sure that you focus on the entire space you should try and maximize it anyway possible. Wide landscape and vista shots are a great way to establish the epic feel of widescreen and translate very well in this aspect ratio. You can position people farther apart when you want them to be interacting in the same frame. Often times 4:3 will force people very close together, but widescreen allows them to continue being seen but be at a more aesthetic or realistic distance.

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    Using Profound Tactics

    Try to hyperrealize some of the aesthetic principles that you have learned before. Instead of focusing on just the foreground try using asymmetry and have a full set of background action occurring. These things are not easily realized in 4:3 formats, but can be done in widescreen.

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    Art

    Go ahead and focus in on a variety of artwork that uses a similarly proportioned canvas, especially in the fine arts. You will quickly realize that many of the best ways to compose wide visuals have been used for centuries.