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Visual Elements in Digital Video Imaging

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/15/2010

Certain principles will help you to have crisp, clean looking images in your digital video projects.

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    Video Is Unique

    Digital video is a uniquely visual and literal medium. When recording footage it is important to make the images have a dynamic feel so that the screen itself remains engaging. While you are gazing at the images through the viewfinder of your camera, there are a number of ways to make the images appear three-dimensional even though they are on a two-dimensional platform.

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    Z-Axis

    One of the most common principles that videographers both on film and digital video look for is the Z-Axis. The Z-Axis, in contrast to the X and Y axis, is an angle of view that gives the action depth on the screen. The X axis runs from right to left, and the Y axis goes up and down. The Z-Axis is different from these two as it runs from one corner to the opposite corner. The idea is to get action that is coming toward or away from the camera to run slightly from one of these corners to the opposite one. An example of this is if a person is riding a bicycle toward the camera you do not put the camera head on the subject, but instead slightly to the right or left of their path of motion. That way they are not only coming toward the camera but also moving either left or right. This make the image pop out of the screen and the action suddenly becomes more engaging.

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    Graphical Vectors

    The best way to use the Z-Axis in the images you record is by using Graphical Vectors. Graphical Vectors are graphical images that have lines that go in certain directions. For example, when you are recording a house the trim of the house that goes off in one direction when the camera is at an angle is a Graphical Vector. All of the lines and angles that are created by objects in your video maintain these Vectors. When capturing these vectors you can try and keep them in line with the Z-Axis as a way of maintaining the same kind of depth in the image.

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    Avoid Symmetry

    One of the most important visual elements that can keep the images from looking conformist and stale is to make sure to break up any symmetry that may be in the picture. Though some artists may want to have symmetry as a way of illustrating an unusual perspective, traditionally too many of these images bore people. Try and keep the images off balance by having two different depths of fields on different parts of the image. This stays in line with the Z-Axis principles which put objects at an angle, where part of the image is closer on one side of the screen than the other.

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    You Already Have Instincts

    You, as a digital videographer, already have an eye for effective and engaging images because you have been dealing with them your whole life as a video viewer. Make sure to engage depth of field through the Z-Axis, keep an eye on establishing this idea with your Graphical Vectors, and make sure to keep the images on the screen from constantly running parallel. This way you can ensure that what you record will be viewed with as much enthusiasm as you put into them.