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Visual Arts 2


Videotape recording has basically replaced motion-picture film making. Motion video has a number of advantages compared to motion-picture coverage. Some of these advantages are as follows:

  • A videotape camera can record black and white as well as color.
  • No time-consuming film processing is required and recordings can be played back immediately.
  • When necessary videotape may be partially or completely erased and used again for several more recordings. It can be played back numerous times and may be stored indefinitely.
  • Videotape is edited or assembled more quickly than film.
  • Videotapes are duplicated and distributed easily to other locations.

A video camera is optically similar to a movie camera, except it does not use film. Considering the technical complexity of a video camera, it is fundamentally simple. To understand clearly motion video, you must be familiar with some key terms. These terms will be seen commonly in all publications pertaining to video.

KEY TERMS AGC-Automatic gain control. Regulates the volume of the audio or video light levels automatically within a camcorder.

Analog-An analog signal that fluctuates exactly like the original stimulus (examples, sweep second-hand clock, phonograph player).

Ambient Sound-Background sound or "wild" sound. Sound that surrounds the scene or location, received by the microphone and recorded onto magnetic tape.

Aspect Ratio-The ratio of the height to the width of the film or television frame. Three units high to four units wide (3:4).

Audio Track-The area of a videotape that is used for recording audio information.

Beam Splitter-An optical device within a color camera that splits the white light into three primary colors: red, green, and blue.

Camcorder-A portable video camera with videotape recorder (VTR) and a microphone attached to form a single unit.

Capstan-An electrically driven roller that rotates and transports the videotape past the recorder heads at precise and fixed speeds.

CCD-Charged-coupled device, also called a chip. A small, solid state (silicon resin) imaging device used in a video camera instead of camera pickup tubes. Inside the chip, image sensing elements translate the optical image into a video signal.

Character Generator-An electronic device used to create words or graphics that may be electronically inserted or "keyed" over the video picture.

Color Bars-A color standard used by the television industry for the alignment of cameras and videotape recordings.

Component-The processing of RGB (red, green, blue) channels as three separate channels.

Composite Signal (Y/C)-(Also called NTSC signal) The video signal in which luminance "Y" (black and white) and chrominance (red, green, blue) and sync information are encoded into a single signal.

Control Track-The area of the videotape used for recording the information necessary to synchronize the all elements during playback.

Digital VTR-A videotape recorder that translates and records the analog video signal in digital form. Dub-Duplication of an electronic recording. Dub is always one generation away from the original recording.

Dropout-A loss of part of the video signal, which appears as white glitches. Caused by dirty VTR heads or poor quality videotape.

Field-Scanning lines in one-half of one video or television frame. There are two fields (one odd and one even) in a frame. One field equals 262.5 scanning lines, which create a total of 525 standard television lines or one frame. Also known as the NTSC signal (U.S. TV system).

Frame-The smallest unit in television or film, a single picture. A complete scanning cycle of the two fields occurs every 1/30 second. A frame equals 525 scan lines.

Gain-The level of amplification for a video or audio signals. Increasing the video gain increases the picture contrast.

Generation-The number of dubs or copies away from the original recording. The greater the number of generations, the greater the loss of picture quality.

Heads-A small assemble within an audio or video recording system, which can erase, record or playback the signal in electromagnetic impulses.

Helical Scan, or Helical VTR-(Also called slant track). A videotape recording or a videotape recorder in which the video signal is put on tape in a slanted, diagonal way. Because the tape wraps around the head drum in a spiral-like configuration, it is called helical.

Noise-Unwanted sounds or electrical interference in a audio or video signal. In the audio track, there is a hiss or humming sound. In the video picture the interference appears as "snow."

NTSC-National Television Standards Committee. U.S. standards for television or video signal broad-casting. Also known as the composite signal (Y/C).

Pickup Tube-The imaging device in a video camera that converts light into electrical energy (video signal).

Pixel-The smallest single picture element with which an image is constructed. The light-sensitive elements in a CCD (chip) camera.

Preroll-To start a videotape and let it roll for a few seconds before it is put in the playback or record mode so that the electronic system has time to stabilize.

RGB-The separate red, green, and blue color (chrominance), or "C," video signals.

Slant Track-Same as helical scan.

Time Base Corrector (TBC)-An electronic accessory to a videotape recorder that helps make playbacks or transfers electronically stable. A TBC helps to maintain picture stability even in dubbing-up operations.

Video Cassette-A plastic container in which a videotape moves from a supply reel to a take-up reel. Used in all but the 1-inch VTRs. VTR-Videotape recorder or recording. Includes video cassette recorders.

Y/C-The separate processing of the luminance (Y) and chrominance (C) signals.





In handling a motion-media camera, two words you must keep in mind are STEADINESS and SMOOTHNESS. When you are shooting motion media, the camera must be held steady, and deliberate camera movements (such as tilts, pans, dollys, zooming, and so on) must be made smoothly. When viewed, the images undergo a high degree of enlargement. Image movement caused by camera unsteadiness is distracting to the audience.


Very few division officers or chiefs in an imaging facility expect a cameraperson to shoot every scene from a tripod. Tripods cut down on maneuverability. When you are shooting uncontrolled action, "shooting from the hip" is common practice. During a fast-breaking event, it is usually the only way you can get the required coverage. When there is plenty of action in the scene, people do not notice the effects of excessive camera movement by the cameraman.

There are many occasions when freedom of movement and mobility in handholding the camera are essential. You can still produce acceptable motion-video coverage if you use your body as a camera support and shock absorber. When handholding a camera, keep your arms in close to your body and your legs and feet spread about a shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly, keeping your weight on the balls of your feet. Lean your body backslightly for better balance. The camera should be over your knees for greatest stability. Hold the camera firmly against your face and place your hand in the camera strap.

Control your breathing while shooting. Each breath you take causes the camera to rise and fall slightly. The technique of taking a deep breath, exhaling a little, and holding the rest while you shoot is an effective way to help eliminate camera unsteadiness. When shooting a long scene, breathe as evenly and slowly as possible.

For added steadiness when handholding a camera, you can lean against something, such as a tree or a wall. Another method for handholding a video camera is to kneel on one leg and rest your elbow on the raised knee.

When you must pan the camera, keep your elbow free and pivot your body at the waist.

When handholding a video camera, keep the following facts in mind to reduce the shakiness problem:

Concentrate on handholding the camera steady while using a wide-angle lens. Your shakiness will be reduced considerably. When using a wide-angle lens, you must get as close to the subject as possible to provide an acceptable image size.

Shakiness is directly proportional to the focal length of the lens. Slight shakiness may be almost unnoticeable with a wide lens. With a long lens, the same amount of shakiness destroys the entire scene. (See table 13-1.)

Give yourself a steady platform. Before you squeeze the record button, inhale, then partially exhale. Now, squeeze. Do not pull or jerk the record button. Lean against a building, a tree, or the side of a car. Any support of this nature may provide more steadiness than free standing.








Wide Angle

6 to 9mm

13 to 17mm

35mm or less


25mm and above

38mm and above

100mm and above

Table 13-1.–Camera Sizes and Lens F-1 Lengths


A tripod can literally be considered the "basis" for most good motion-media products. To help you realize just how important a tripod is for shooting motion media, consider handholding a movie projector. You cannot hold the projector steady for any period of time. The picture weaves around on the screen and is very distracting to the viewers. ‘The same result is created when a motion-video camera is handheld, but in this case, images within the picture area appear to weave around because of camera movement. The image you see in the camera viewfinder is so small that you may not notice the camera movement. It is easy to think you are holding the camera steady. Bear in mind that the slightest amount of camera movement is magnified many times when the image is played back

While not all situations permit the use of a tripod, the use of a folded tripod as a unipod is preferable to shooting without camera support. Even the lightest weight, so-called "handheld" video camera produces much better results when supported adequately.

Camera steadiness is only one advantage of using a tripod. When using a tripod, you automatically take more time to compose and check scenes before recording them.


Sometimes you may have to record from a moving vehicle, such as a truck or a boat. For this type of assignment, the problem of holding the camera steady becomes even more difficult. In this situation you should handhold the camera, because a tripod transmits vibrations and movements from the vehicle to the camera. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, and keep your knees flexed so you can sway and bend as the vehicle rolls, pitches, or bounces. Watch the horizon in the viewfinder. A tilted or wobbly horizon is very detracting when being viewed. When shooting from moving vehicles you should use a short focal-length lens and a fast shutter speed.


When shooting from a moving vehicle, you must follow all safety precautions. Use common sense, you do not want to jeopardize yourself or the video equipment.


One of the most commonly abused motion-media techniques is panning. Panning is moving the camera from left to right or right to left. Moving it up or down is called tilting.

Only a few subjects require panning while you are actually taping. The use of panning can keep a moving procession, such as a marching unit in view, show a sweep of landscape, or show the relationship between objects or subjects.

There are definite and clear-cut rules and methods for panning. The very first is PAN ONLY WHEN PANNING IS NECESSARY. Panning a camera without a valid reason produces images that only irritate the viewer.

Making Pans

Making professional-quality pans takes practice and experience; however, you can easily gain this skill. One of the first and most important points to remember is to pan slowly and smoothly. Panning appears faster on the screen than it actually is; therefore, camera pans must be slow and consistent while maintaining a smooth, steady panning motion. When panning a moving object, you must keep pace with the object and allow for subject lead room. Panning too fast may make the viewer dizzy; therefore, it is advisable not to position the camera too close to the subject. The farther the subject is from the camera, the slower the pan required to follow the subject at a given speed.

Throughout the entire pan, the camera must be level without up and down wobbling. Whenever possible, rehearse the pan before you actually shoot. Know exactly where and when you want to start and end the pan. Practice the pan several times without recording on tape. Make the pan shot only after you can do it smoothly and accurately. The smoothest and best pans are made with the use of a tripod or other suitable camera support. Good handheld pans are always difficult to achieve.

Before you pan with a tripod, be sure the camera is absolutely level. Check the camera for level throughout the entire arc of the pan with a spirit bubble level located on top of the tripod head.

To produce better pan shots, position yourself comfortably for the end of the pan. Then, keeping your feet in this position, "wind" yourself around to the start pan position. As the pan progresses, "unwind" into the most comfortable position for a smooth stop. When using a tripod, be careful not to bump into the tripod as you are shooting.

Tilting the Camera

Moving a camera up and down vertically is called tilting. Tilting is useful when you want to photograph tall structures in one shot or to follow action, such as a parachute jumper.

Most of the rules that apply to horizontal panning apply equally well to tilting. As with horizontal panning, tilting should be used only when stationary shots cannot accomplish the desired effect.

A tilt should be made slowly and smoothly. Know where and when you want to start and end the tilt.

Usually, you start and end a tilt with a stationary shot.

To photograph a tall building or object, you should normally start the tilt at the bottom and move up. This is the way people naturally look at tall objects. There may be times, however, when you may start a tilt at the top and move down; for example, you might show flames coming out from the top-floor windows of a skyscraper, then tilt down to show the fire trucks arriving. When you are following action with a tilt, the type of action determines the direction of tilt. Also, as with a horizontal pan, you should show enough of the surrounding area so the audience can associate the subject with its location.


One of the great advantages of motion media is that it involves the viewers in the action. Viewers feel that they are there and participating in whatever is happening on the screen. They can be made to feel that they are moving along with the action as it develops, they become even more involved. Changes in the camera angle permit the viewers to see the same subject from several different positions, as though they were moving within the scene. This adds variety and makes the images they see more interesting because something is a little different about each one. However, be careful to keep these camera-angle changes from confusing the viewers. If the changes are so different that they seem to be in other locations, the viewers lose their orientation. When choosing the camera angle, be sure you present the subject from the best possible vantage point and create the proper psychological effect.


When you can control the angle at which the action passes across the camera lens axis, your shots will show the apparent speeding up or slowing down action. Objects moving at right angles to the lens (across the lens axis) appear to be moving faster than objects approaching the lens directly or going straight away from it. You can vary the apparent speed of objects by selecting various camera angles.

Good motion-media footage needs movement. Movement can take place in front of the camera, of the camera itself, and of course in the picture itself. The movements necessary for good motion video are divided into three categories:

Primary movement (movement of the subject)

Secondary movement (movement of the camera)

Tertiary movement (movement produced by successive shots from different cameras)

Primary Movement

Movement in front of the camera, usually that of the subject, is called primary movement. Primary movement toward or away from the camera is stronger than lateral movement. More emphasis is created by having the subject move toward or away from the camera. Exits and entrances are more impressive when they occur toward or away from the camera. Lateral movement of a subject should always be lead with the camera The viewer wants to know where the subject is going, not where it has been.

Secondary Movement

Secondary or camera movement is normally done in television studios. Secondary movements include: pans, tilts, dollys, zooms, trucks, and pedestal movements. Secondary movements are used to follow primary movement, to change or adjust picture composition, or to emphasize or dramatize something. Secondary movements must have a valid purpose. Do not make them just for something to do.

DOLLY.-A dolly is a piece of equipment that normally requires a small crew to operate. You can dolly-in to increase the size of an object gradually on the screen or dolly-out to decrease the size of the object on the screen. Likewise, dollying decreases or increases the field of view. A zoom lens can be used for the same purpose as a dolly. During a zoom, the camera does not move; therefore, perspective does not change as it does during a dolly.

TRUCK.-A truck is a piece of equipment that is basically a tripod with wheels. The camera is used to follow lateral subject movement or you could truck the camera along the objects. In either case, camera-to-subject distance does not change.

PEDESTAL.-A pedestal is used to either raise or lower the camera. Pedestalling can provide the audience with a view looking down on the subject or up at the subject. A pedestal may also be used to compensate for tall or short camerapersons or subjects.

Tertiary Movement

Tertiary movement results from a sequence of shots from two or more cameras. When two or more cameras are used, you can select from a variety of pictures and determine which picture is to be recorded and when. When more than one camera is used, you can easily emphasize, de-emphasize, show action and reaction in rapid or slow succession. The effect of tertiary movement is accomplished through videotape editing.


Video images, like still photographs, are subject to the aesthetic rules of picture composition. There are, however, factors peculiar to video that more or less influence television composition. These factors are as follows:

The small monitor requires objects to be shown relatively large so they can be seen clearly on a small screen. You must shoot more extreme close-ups (ECU), close-ups (CU), medium shots (MS), few long shots (LS), and very few extreme long shots (ELS).

The 3:4 aspect ratio of the picture cannot be changed so all picture elements must be composed to fit it. The aspect ratio is the ratio of picture height to width. There is no vertical format in television. You must always think horizontal format.

The video camera is the eyes of the viewer. Therefore, camera movement, as well as the static arrangement of elements within the frame, must be considered.

When shooting uncontrolled action, you may not be able to predetermine composition. Sometimes all you can do is correct certain compositional errors.

In motion media, the picture on the screen is referred to as a shot. A shot is one continuous camera run from the time the recording starts to the time the recording stops. A shot may last a few seconds, several minutes, or the entire program. A motion-video cameraperson must always think in terms of shots.

Most rules of composition in still photography apply equally well to composition in motion media. Composition was covered earlier in chapter 5. The simple line drawing examples of TV framing (fig. 13-9) indicates how to stage and show elements within the confines of the small 3:4 fixed aspect ratio of a television picture.

 fig1311.gif (19378 bytes)

Use high- and low-camera angles with caution. High angles tend to shorten the legs of a person. Low angles may distort the body and face of the subject. Of course, watch for objects that seem to be growing out of or are balanced on a person's head.

Area of Talent Included

Most motion-media assignments involve people. You may find it convenient to identify people shots by the section of the body that is included in the frame. The person's head is usually in the top of the picture; therefore, shots vary according to the lowest part of the talent shown at the bottom of the screen. Thus the terms used to describe various people shots are as follows: full figure shot, knee shot, thigh shot, waist shot, bust shot, head shot, tight head shot.

Number of People Included

The shot designations that are easiest to remember are the ones that refer to the number of people included in the picture. When only one person is to be shot, it is a one-shot. Obviously, a shot that shows two people is a two-shot, three people make a three-shot, and so on; however, when five or six people are pictured it is called a group-shot. A crowd-shot is when a large group of 20 or more people is being framed.


During motion-media recording, you can change the image size by changing the camera-to-subject distance or by using a zoom lens (which also changes the field of view).

When recording an event on motion media, there are three basic shots or sequences you must use: long shots (LS), medium shots (MS), and closeup shots (CU) (fig. 13-10). The type of shot being used can limit or increase the amount of visual information presented to the viewer. Long shots generally establish a location. A medium shot is used primarily as a transition between a long shot and closeup shot. Closeup shots create impact and provide more detail and less visual information pertaining to the subject's surroundings.

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Shot classifications can be broken down into five categories: extreme long shots, long shots, medium shots, closeup shots, and extreme closeup shots.

Extreme Long Shots

An extreme long shot (ELS) is used to portray a vast area from an apparently very long distance. An ELS is used to impress the viewer with the immense scope of the setting or scene. An ELS is best usually when made with a stationary camera. Camera panning for an ELS 13-15.should be avoided unless panning is needed to show more of the setting or to help increase audience interest in the film. An extreme long shot can be used to give the audience an overall view of the setting before the main action is introduced The use of an ELS is an effective way to capture audience interest from the start. Extreme long shots should normally be taken from a high vantage point, such as from a tall building, a hilltop, or an aircraft. Extreme long shots are used primarily in films and are seldom used in video productions.

Long Shots

A long shot (LS) shows the entire scene area where the action is to take place. The setting, the actors, and the props are shown with an LS to acquaint the audience with their overall appearance and location within the scene. An LS is used to establish all elements within the scene so the audience knows who and what is involved and where they are located An LS, therefore, tells where. It establishes where the action is taking place.

The subject's entrances, exits, and movements within a scene should normally be shown with an LS when their locations in the scene are significant.

Following actors from location to location within a scene area with closeup shots confuses the viewer about the location of the subject within the scene.

The composition for an LS is usually ‘loose," giving room for the subject to move about. While this may make identification of actors somewhat difficult, an LS is usually short and the subjects will be identifiable in closer shots.

Medium Shots

A medium shot (MS) is usually used between a long shot and a closeup shot. After the scene location has been established with an LS, the camera is moved closer to the main subject or a longer focal-length lens is used to bring the main element of the scene into full frame or near full-frame size. A medium shot tends to narrow the center of interest for the audience and answers the question "what." In an MS, actors are usually photographed to show them from the waist up. An MS is normally sufficient to show clearly the facial expressions, gestures, or movements of a single actor or a small group of actors.

With an MS, movement of the subject can be followed with a pan or other camera movement while still showing enough of the surroundings so the audience does not become disoriented. Motion-media coverage should normally progress from a long shot, to a medium shot, to a close-up, then back to a medium shot. This reestablishes the scene location or the actors within the scene.

Closeup Shots

The closeup shot (CU) fills a frame with the most important part of a scene. The CU should include only action of primary interest The portion selected of an overall scene, such as a face, a small object, or a small part of the action, may be filmed with a closeup shot. Close-ups give the audience a detailed view of the most important part or action within a scene. Close-ups also help to build audience interest in the film. The CU shot can be used to "move" the audience into the scene, eliminate nonessentials, or isolate a significant incident.

As a motion-media cameraperson, one of the strongest storytelling devices you have are close-ups. Closeup shots should be reserved for important parts of the story so they deliver impact to the audience.

Extreme Closeup Shots

Very small objects or areas or small portions of large objects can be photographed with an extreme closeup shot (ECU), so their images are magnified on the screen. Small machine parts, such as calibrations on a ruler or a match at the end of a cigarette, can be very effective when shown on a full screen in an ECU.

Do not forget, you must change camera angles between shots within a shot sequence.




Motion media should present an event in a continuous, smooth, logical and coherent manner. When this goal is reached, the film has good continuity.

Continuity plays a major role in the success or failure of a project. Without good continuity, a motion video would be nothing more than a jumbled mass of unrelated still-pictures. On the other hand, good continuity in a film encourages the audience to become absorbed in the film. Continuity then is the smooth flow of action or events from one shot or sequence to the next. Continuity is the correlation of details such as props, lighting, sound level, image placement, and direction of movement across the screen between successive shots of the same piece of action.

The shooting of all motion media should be based on a shooting plan. This plan may be as simple as a few scribbled notes, or it can be an elaborate script. The better the shooting plan, the better your chances of success in achieving good continuity. Another way you can learn to create good continuity is to watch and 13-16.analyze "Hollywood" movies. The next time you see a Hollywood production, notice how the action flows smoothly from shot to shot and from scene to scene. Try to visualize the techniques and camera angles that were used. Then, on your next assignment, plan them first, then use some of these professional techniques to achieve good continuity.

The first step toward good continuity in your films is the planning beforehand. You should plan your continuity and put your ideas on paper. Do not get the idea that all your shots have to follow a written script.

News events, and other uncontrolled action, are usually shot without a script; nevertheless, you should be able to anticipate action and prepare a mental script. The information you must know before starting to shoot is what scenes and actions are needed to satisfy the requestor.


In motion-media photography, the direction a person or object either looks or moves can cause continuity problems. The direction a person or object looks or moves is called screen direction. When a look or move in a particular direction is unaccountably changed from one shot or scene to another, the continuity of the film is disrupted. Any change in screen direction must be explained or the subject may suddenly change screen direction and appear to be going the wrong way.

How the camera "sees" the action-not how the action actually appears-is important. In other words, the audience judges the action by its screen appearance, not by the way it actually appeared during filming.

There are four types of screen direction. They are as follows: neutral, constant, contrasting, and static.

Neutral Screen Direction

Neutral screen direction movement shows subjects moving toward or away from the camera. Because neutral screen direction movement is nondirectional, it may be used or intercut with scenes that show movement in either right or left directions. The following are neutral screen direction movements.

Head-on and tail-away shots show the subject moving directly toward or away from the camera. For an absolutely neutral shot, only the front or back of the subject should be shown. When one side of the subject is shown, the shot will show some direction and not be absolutely neutral. Entrance and exit shots also show direction and therefore are not neutral.

A shot can start as a neutral shot and transition into a directional shot, or vice versa; for example, start with a head-on shot of a car and continue filming as the car turns to the right and exits the frame, or start with a direction showing a shot of the car entering the frame from the left, and continue filming as the car turns left to a tail-away neutral shot (fig. 13-11). These types of shots can be used to change screen direction by temporarily showing a neutral condition between two shots when the subject moves in opposite directions.

Tracking shots are accomplished by moving the camera directly ahead or behind the subject, either leading or following the subject, respectively.

As with head-on or tail-away shots, tracking shots are neutral only when the subject is not shown entering or leaving the frame and when only the front or back of the subject is shown.

High-or-low camera angle shots-The subject moves directly toward and under or over the camera so, the subject exits at either the bottom or the top of the frame. Examples: a train, shot from a high-camera angle, may move directly under the camera and exit at the bottom of the frame, or an aircraft may take off and move over a low-angled camera and exit at the top of the frame.

Subjects traveling abreast shots-Two or more subjects move directly toward the camera and split up to exit the frame on both sides of the camera, or enter the frame on both sides of the camera and join up, moving directly away from the camera.
A neutral shot inserted between two shots of a subject moving in opposite cross-screen directions distracts the audience momentarily to allow for the change in direction.

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To open a sequence, you can use a head-on shot to bring a moving subject from a distant point toward the audience. To close a sequence, you can use a tail-away shot of a subject moving away from the camera. Shots, such as these, present moving images that increase or decrease in size and have more of an effect on apparent depth than do cross-screen movements.

Head-on and tail-away tracking shots add variety by offering a change from the usual three-quarter side shots. Head-on shots tend to produce greater audience impact because the audience is "placed" dead center with the action advancing toward them.

Constant Screen Direction

Constant screen direction shows subjects moving in one direction only. When one subject moves in the same direction through a series of shots, progression is represented.

Once screen direction has been established, it should be maintained until a change in direction can be explained. When a shot suddenly shows a subject traveling in the opposite direction to the previous shot, the audience will get the impression that the subject has turned around and is heading back to the starting point. Any change in screen direction must be explained.

One way to change screen direction (for example, a head-on to a tail-away) and explain the change to the viewers is to film the subject in the following sequence. First, record a head-on shot. Secondly, cut the shot to a three-quarter angle of the subject moving left to right. Next, cut the three-quarter angle to a view of the subject crossing the screen, then to a rear three-quarter angle of the subject. Finally, cut from the rear three-quarter angle to a tail-away shot (fig. 13-12).

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A way to maintain constant screen direction is to use the action-axis technique. An action axis is nothing more than an imaginary line created by subject movement.

When the camera is positioned on the same side of the action axis each time it is moved for a series of shots, the screen direction remains the same throughout the series. The relationship between the camera and subject movement or action axis remains the same if the camera does not cross the action axis. Once established, screen direction can be maintained by keeping the camera on the same side of the action axis.

When constant screen direction cannot be maintained, any change in direction MUST be visually explained to the audience. Constant screen direction changes can be explained in the following ways:

  • Show the moving subject actually changing direction. This is the most effective way to change screen direction because the audience sees the subject change direction and there is no doubt in their minds how it took place.
  • Film the moving subject crossing the action axis on a corner or curve. This permits the subject to exit the frame on the "wrong side," thus changing screen direction (fig. 13-13).
  • Use a reaction closeup shot of an observer viewing the movement in the new direction. A reaction close-up serves as a neutral shot and distracts the audience, so the change in screen direction can take place. A reaction close-up, in this situation, could be a close-up of an observer’s head turning to follow the movement of the previous scene. The head of the observer should turn as though the action is taking place behind the camera, thus putting the camera between the action and the observer.
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Contrasting Screen Direction

Contrasting screen direction is used to show subject movement in opposite directions. This can be shown by a subject moving toward a distant destination and then returning to the starting place. An example would be a sailor who leaves the ship and walks in a left to right screen direction to town. Therefore, the ship-to-town direction is established as left to right. Movement of the sailor to the right is toward the town and movement to the left is toward the ship. The viewer will associate the sailor’s walking in a right to left screen direction as returning to the ship. Once the direction of travel is established, you must maintain it.

Contrasting screen direction is also used to show opposing subjects moving toward each other. An example would be two warships that are headed into battle. The first ship is shown steaming from left to right, and the second ship is shown steaming from right to left. This pattern gives viewers the impression that the ships are closing the distance between them and will soon meet.

Static Screen Direction

Static screen direction refers to the direction that subjects look or face. Screen direction must be established and maintained even when the subject does not move about within the scene. The direction in which the subject looks should match throughout a series of consecutive shots. The direction the subject faces can be different from the direction that the subject looks; therefore, the static screen direction is the direction in which the subject is looking. To maintain static screen direction, the camera operator must remain on one side of the action axis (fig. 13-14).

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In filming uncontrolled action, it is almost impossible at times to film overlapping action. This is where cut shots come into play. Cut shots are extremely valuable because they provide a form of audience distraction In addition, the cutaway can account for lapses of time and stimulate audience interest; therefore, if you shoot plenty of cutaways and cut-ins, you have passed a major stumbling block in shooting uncontrolled action. Shooting a football game is a good example of uncontrolled action; but can you imagine how boring it would be if there were no cutaways or cut-ins? An audience would soon get tired of seeing nothing but football plays. By using different scenes, you can show just the highlights of the game and the audience will go away satisfied, feeling that they have seen the entire game.

Cut-ins and cutaways are related to the primary subject or action. They show something that may or may not have occurred simultaneously with the primary action. Both cut-ins and cutaways fill gaps between scenes where the action does not match. The use of cut-ins and cutaways can account for a lapse of time or they are used to create or enhance the mood of a film.

Cutaway shots are scenes that "cut" away from the action. Crowds, cheering fans, cheerleaders, and side-line action are all examples of cutaway shots. Ideally, cutaways should smooth out the continuity of the film, so the audience does not realize that some of the action that took place on the field has been removed from the film.

A cutaway also can be used when you want to condense an extended flow of action; for example, if you start a sequence with a closeup shot of the time clock indicating 12 minutes left in the quarter, then cut to the primary action on the field for about 10 seconds, then cut back to the clock indicating 3 minutes left-the elapsed time of 9 minutes would be indicated to the audience.

An example of a cut-in is a close-up of one player's foot as he kicks the ball. This close-up could have been shot at any time; however, by inserting the cut-in into the film during editing, the audience feels that the kick actually happened during the game.

The difference between a cut-in and a cutaway is simple. When filming the football game, the camera operator "went in" and took a close-up of the kicker's foot as he kicked the ball. The operator of the camera cut-in to the action. However, when the camera operator shoots a close-up of a fan's foot kicking another fan who had been rooting for the wrong team, that is a cutaway, because it cut away from the primary action of the game. Cutaway shots represent secondary action. Cut-in shots represent primary action.



As the name implies, in controlled action you can control all aspects of a production. This includes actors, their actions, the set lighting, and sound recording, if any. You usually work from a well-developed script that includes all the details. If the actors speak, the dialogue is in the script. If the action is described by a narrator, the narration is in the script. If the film is silent, the titles appear in the script. Examples of controlled-action films include training films, some documentaries and historical records, and many publicity or recruiting films. Controlled action, motion-media productions are produced only by personnel with specialized "C" school or university training. As a nonspecialized Photographer's Mate, you will be faced with uncontrolled or semicontrolled action elements of a production or film.


In a controlled-action situation, everything is normally written in the form of a detailed shooting script. Predictable filming is performed and there are few crises, except the occasional human oversights and mechanical malfunctions.

The other world of motion-video recording (uncontrolled action) is full of crises and surprises. Success primarily is due to good reflexes, accurate guesswork, and quick thinking. Careful planning is not the most significant factor. Most of your motion-media assignments will be uncontrolled or semicontrolled action. Your success as a maker of uncontrolled-action films depends on your knowledge of the capabilities and operation of video equipment. You must also possess a high level of technical skill. There is neither time nor opportunity for research or practice while doing this kind of assignment. You must be prepared in advance.

News, sports, special events, and on site-coverage of ongoing activities make up the bulk of this type of assignment. Another class of uncontrolled action is the documentation of events that follow a known course or pattern, such as parades and ceremonies. These are called semicontrolled, because you know in advance approximately what is going to happen, even though you cannot influence it for recording purposes. Both types of assignments are challenging, exciting, and usually welcomed by confident camerapersons. But, they can be "unfortunate experiences" for those not properly prepared to cope with them.


Obviously you cannot develop a specific, detailed plan for shooting uncontrolled or semicontrolled action. You must get as much information about the assignment as possible and in as far in advance as possible. This information helps to provide an estimate of requirements for equipment, supplies, scheduling of personnel, transportation, camera positions, lighting, and other technical details.

Whenever you are assigned to cover VIP arrivals, award presentations, or special events, you should immediately contact the person or agency in charge of the project. This person is usually the public affairs officer (PAO). The PAO can furnish you the full scope of your assignment and provide the following basic information:

  • Name and title of the person(s) involved
  • Place and time of arrival
  • Complete schedule of activities

When possible, you should personally inspect the location and route of the proposed action (site survey). If this cannot be done, try to get drawings, maps, plans, or photographs of the area. Eyewitness descriptions or pictures of similar events also may be helpful. Ask questions about the location of the subject, the type and direction of movement, and the sequence of actions to be recorded.

With this information, you can draft a rough plan. By working closely with the project officer, you should be kept reasonably well informed and can arrange your shooting in a logical order. Be careful, however, not to "plan yourself into a trap." Expect last minute changes in your plan, and, therefore, keep alternative plans in mind and ways they can be put into effect quickly.

Next, determine shooting requirements and the number of cameras and people you need. Check probable camera locations for the long, medium, and closeup shots. Determine the amount of tape you require, and consider the possibility of some unplanned requirements. Determine whether you will need transportation and additional equipment.

A hypothetical assignment: The lab has received the following orders: "The Chief of Naval Operations and his party are expected to arrive aboard your ship tomorrow. The flag requires complete photographic coverage of all official activities of the CNO and his party while on the ship." The division chief has assigned you to cover the motion media.

After you check with the officer in charge of the event, you find that the CNO and his party are expected to arrive by aircraft at 1300 hours. The party consists of the Chief of Naval Operations and three aides. The purpose of this visit is to inspect the ship and to present several awards. The CNO and his party plan to depart at 1700 the same day.

With this information you can now plan your shooting outline. In an event of this kind, you cannot expect to stage or control many shots.

The following shooting outline is an example of what you might come up with:

Scene 1: Aircraft (A/C) with CNO landing.

Scene 2: Side boys, flag officer, and CO on deck in front of island.

Scene 3: A/C taxies to island.

Scene 4: CNO’s party disembarks A/C.

Scene 5: Flag officer and CO greet CNO.

Scene 6: CNO inspects side boys.

Scene 7: LS, MS, and CU of CNO presenting awards.

Scene 8: CNO makes speech Scene 9: CNO and party tour ship.

Scene 10: CNO and party return to A/C.

Scene 11: A/C taxies to fantail for deck launch.

Scene 12: A/C takes off.

Now, how do you get the coverage?

In scene 1, you could be in a high position for an establishing shot showing the flight deck with the A/C landing. After the A/C lands, you move down to the flight deck and shoot scene 2, MS, of the side boys, the flag officer, and the CO taking their positions on deck to greet the CNO. Scene 3 is an LS showing the A/C taxiing to the island. For scene 4, shoot an MS of the CNO and his party leaving the A/C. Scene 5 is a CU of the flag officer and CO greeting the CNO. Scene 6 starts with an LS of the CNO inspecting the side boys. Circumstances permitting, move in for an MS and CU of the inspection. Scenes 7 and 8 should be easy to shoot because of the time it takes to read citations, make awards, and give a speech. This should allow plenty of time for you to move about and get long shots, medium shots, close-ups, and cut shots. Follow your judgment and intuition for shooting scenes 9, 10, and 11. Scene 12 is your closing shot. Again, shoot from a high position to show the flight deck. Pan the A/C and follow it until it is out of sight.

The shooting outline not only serves as a "program" for planning the sequence of coverage, but it also provides a basis for determining camera placement, movement, and shot framing.


Graphics have many applications, such as title cards, cast lists, maps, tables, charts, photographs, and inserts. Graphics should not be treated casually. Without precautions, graphics can become unsharp, confusing, tilted, distorted, and incomplete. Much of the graphics and text used in motion-video productions are created on a character generator. A character generator is an electronic device used to create words or graphics and electronically inserts them over a video picture. When a character generator is not available, graphics must be recorded by a camera

When you are shooting graphics that will be viewed on a monitor, the camera lens must be centered and parallel the graphic. The graphic and camera must be level. Your framing must be correct.

Get in close enough with the video camera to show clearly all detail, but not so close that some of the information area is lost. Avoid using a wide-angle lens. Besides the possibility of camera shadows falling on the graphic, distortion is likely to occur and will be most noticeable when panning over the graphic. A longer focal-length lens overcomes the distortion problem, but is less smoothly panned.


Because light reflections can obscure detail on a shiny graphic, the experienced graphic artist and photographer will avoid glossy materials and glossy photographs. However, when it is causing objectionable reflections, the graphic can sometimes be tilted slightly to help clear them; otherwise, relighting or surface dulling may become necessary. The lighting for a TV graphic is similar to lighting reflection originals in copy work. Graphics must be flat. Unmounted, warped, or curved surfaces easily show unwanted reflections.


In the production of slides for use as television graphics, important picture information must be confined within the area of the TV monitor.

Figure 13-15 is drawn in proportion to a 35mm film frame and shows the safe title area, maximum transmitted area, and film frame.

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If you were notified that you won a brand new Jaguar or Lamborgini, you would probably be ecstatic. If you were presented with a truckload of unidentified, assorted parts and told that you now had everything required to put the new car together, you probably would not be entirely grateful. Maybe you could assemble it (if you were an experienced mechanic), but you know that more information would save you time, frustration, duplication of effort, and help tremendously toward a successful outcome. On the other hand, if every part were clearly identified and the exact relationship to every other part was unmistakably described, you would certainly appreciate the gift much more. Being faced with several thousand feet of unidentified videotape is very much the same kind of situation.

The biggest problem encountered by imaging personnel in the Department of Defense during Operation Desert Storm was the lack of identification of exposed imagery. There were literally boxes of film and videotape lining the passageways in the Pentagon. Most of this imagery was of little value because it was not identified, or it was labeled inaccurately.

Accurate records are almost as important as good video coverage in achieving a professional product. Imaging products must be labeled, so the subject matter and subject location are easily identifiable on the tape. Often, there is no opportunity for personal contact between the cameraperson and editor; therefore, records identifying the filmed image content are the only information available. Logically, the better the records, the more useful the videotape. The opposite rule is also true. Inaccurate records can make the video coverage useless. Do not let that happen to your work.


The slate you use to identify video scenes may take several forms. In emergencies you may even write scene identification on a scrap of paper and film it before shooting the scene; however, in most instances, your slate is more formal. Your regular slate is made to show whatever information is necessary. Generally, this includes the command or unit, title or subject, name of the cameraperson (identifies who is responsible for filming or videotaping the good or bad footage), date, location, and camera serial number (fig. 13-16). If you are part of a large organization that has several crews, then also include the unit number. In short, the slate should contain information needed for proper identification of each scene on your film.

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The slate may actually be a piece of slate with the data written or lettered on it in white chalk. Quite often the "slate" is white with an acetate surface, and the data is written on it with a black grease pencil. When you slate a scene, hold the slate in front of the camera lens and record it for about 10 seconds for videotape or 3 feet for motion-picture film.

Of the information you place on your slate should be clearly printed in large, block letters. Film your slate so it fills the complete frame. If your slate is not full frame, the lettering may be too small to read when the tape is viewed.

If you do not have time to film the slate at the beginning of the scene, do it at the end of the scene. This is known as tail slating. Record the slate upside down, then rotate it right side up when tail slating. This shows that a tail slate was used; otherwise, the viewer might assume that it is associated with the scene following it  on the tape. When recording without a script, you have no scene numbers to slate for each scene; therefore, for identification purposes, you slate only at the beginning of each tape. If for some reason you cannot slate at the beginning, tail slating applies.

Although you, the camera operator, do not derive any particular value from the slate, the person editing your film becomes frustrated, if not completely lost, when slates are not included. This is particularly true when your scenes are not shot in the same order as the script is written. The task of locating individual shots is almost impossible unless each scene is slated when it is originally filmed. You can understand now why you must slate each scene when shooting from a script.


Video/film data sheets are valuable to you (fig. 13-17). By looking at them you can tell the scenes that have been shot and those that still need to be done. Their main value, however, is to the editor. Without data sheets, the editor does not know the order in which the scenes were shot. Notice how the slate and data sheets work hand in hand. For a large project, the editor can check the data sheets and find a particular tape or scene easily. By screening just one videotape, the editor can spot the scene by checking the slate images. Imagine looking for a particular scene, at random, when it could be anywhere in a dozen or more tapes. Many hours are wasted when your data sheets are not properly prepared. The data sheet also may prevent accidental use of the wrong footage. If a scene was refilmed to correct an error, both the rejected and corrected versions of the same scene can be identified.

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The performance of videotape is often directly related to the care and proper maintenance it has or has not received. Temperature extremes should be avoided when storing tape between recording and playback. Wide temperature variations can result in a tremendous amount of stress on the innermost tape layers caused by dimensional changes. If a tape has been in storage at sub-zero temperatures, for example, you must "condition" it to room temperature. Complete dimensional equilibrium may take as much as about 16 hours. Never use direct heat to speed up the conditioning process. High temperatures can create harmful differences in layer-to-layer tension on the reel. Never use extreme cold, such as a freezer, to cool down a hot tape. In general, recommended storage conditions for videotapes are as follows:

Relative Humidity . . . . . 50% - 60%

Temperature . . . . . . . . 60F - 80F

For best long-term storage, rewind video cassettes uniformly for even tension before boxing. Tapes should always be in one of two places-in the VTR or in the original box. Stand videotape boxes upright. Do not store tapes in a horizontal position. This can cause a prime cause bending and distorting of reel flanges that can be a major cause of tape edge damage.

To prevent damage, you should protect videotapes by covering them when they are not in use. Keeping them in dustproof cassette containers prevents the accumulation of airborne dust on the tapes. Dust can be of dropout. Body oils and salts from your fingertips can pick up and hold foreign particles that,  when transferred to the tape, cause dropouts.



Photographic composition is the pleasing arrangement of subject matter elements within the picture area. Creative photography depends foremost on the photographer's ability to see as the camera sees because a photograph does not reproduce a scene quite the way we see it. The camera sees and records only a small isolated part of the larger scene, reduces it to only two dimensions, frames it, and freezes it. It does not discriminate as we do. When we look at a scene we selectively see only the important elements and more or less ignore the rest. A camera, on the other hand, sees all the details within the field of view. This is the reason some of our pictures are often disappointing. Backgrounds may be cluttered with objects we do not remember, our subjects are smaller in the frame or less striking than we recall, or the entire scene may lack significance and life.

Good pictures are seldom created by chance. To make the most of any subject, you must understand the basic principles of composition. The way you arrange the elements of a scene within a picture, catch the viewer’s attention, please the eye, or make a clear statement are all qualities of good composition. By developing photographic composition skills, you can produce photographs that suggest movement, life, depth, shape, and form, recreating the impact of the original scene.

How are photographic composition skills developed? You look, you study, you practice. Every time you take a picture, look all around within the viewfinder. Consider the way each element will be recorded and how it relates to the overall composition. You must become thoroughly familiar with the camera and learn how the operation of each control alters the image. Experiment with the camera and look at the results carefully to see if they meet your expectations. With experience and knowledge of your equipment, you begin to "think through your camera" so you are free to concentrate on composition. Devote serious study to the principles of good composition. Study books and magazine articles on composition. You should analyze various media: motion pictures, TV, magazines, books and newspapers, and evaluate what you see. What is good about this picture or that TV image? What is bad about it? What principles of good composition could you apply in a different way to make the picture better.

Good or correct composition is impossible to define precisely. There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow that ensure good composition in every photograph. There are only the principles and elements that provide a means of achieving pleasing composition when applied properly. Some of these principles and elements are as follows:

  • Center of interest
  • Subject placement
  • Simplicity
  • Viewpoint and camera angle
  • Balance
  • Shapes and lines
  • Pattern
  • Volume
  • Lighting
  • Texture
  • Tone
  • Contrast
  • Framing
  • Foreground
  • Background
  • Perspective

As you study these principles of composition, you should soon come to a realization that some are very similar and overlap one another a great deal.

Because all or most of these principles must be considered and applied each time you take a picture, it may all seem quite confusing at first. With experience you can develop a sense of composition, and your consideration and application of the principles will become almost second nature. This is not to suggest that you can allow yourself to become complacent or careless in the application of the principles of composition. Doing so will be immediately obvious because the results you produce will be snapshots, not professional photographs.

The principles of composition that follow apply equally to both still and motion media photography.


Each picture should have only one principal idea, topic, or center of interest to which the viewer's eyes are attracted. Subordinate elements within the picture must support and focus attention on the principal feature so it alone is emphasized.

A picture without a dominant center of interest or one with more than one dominant center of interest is puzzling to a viewer. Subsequently, the viewer becomes confused and wonders what the picture is all about. When the picture has one, and only one, dominant "point of interest," the viewer quickly understands the picture.

NOTE: "Point of interest," as used here, has the same meaning as center of interest; however, using the term point of interest prevents giving the impression that the center of interest should be located in the center of the picture.

The specific topic, idea, or object to be portrayed must be set in your mind as you prepare to take a picture. When there is nothing in the picture to attract attention to a particular area or object, the eyes wander throughout the scene. The center of interest may be a single object or numerous ones arranged so attention is directed to one definite area

When the center of interest is a single object that fills most of the picture area or one that stands out boldly, such as a white sail against a background of dark water, attention is attracted immediately to it. As may be expected, not all subjects are as simple to arrange or as bold and impressive.

A photographer usually has at his or her disposal many factors or elements that can be used and arranged within the picture area to draw or direct attention to the primary idea of the picture. Some of these elements are lines, shapes, human figures, tone, and texture.

Human figures attract attention more strongly than almost any other subject matter and unless they are the main object of the photograph should probably be kept out of the picture; for instance, a photograph showing a person standing at some distance in front of a building may leave the observer wondering whether the person or the building is the primary subject. When people are included in a scene for comparative size of objects or just for atmosphere, keep them from looking directly at the camera. When people look at the camera and therefore at the viewer of the picture, the viewer tends to return their gaze by looking directly back into their eyes. When they are not the intended point of interest, we miss the statement and purpose of the picture. When people are subordinate elements within the picture and they are looking in a direction other than at the camera, the viewer’s attention is directed from the people to what they are looking at, which should be the center of interest; for example, when people are grouped around a piece of machinery that is the center of interest of the picture, have them look at the machine, rather than the camera.


Sometimes good composition is obtained by placing the center of interest in the geometrical center of the picture; it is generally not a good idea to place it there. Too frequently it divides the picture into equal halves and makes the picture uninteresting and difficult to balance. By dividing the picture area into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and locating the center of interest at one of the intersections of the imaginary lines, you can usually create a feeling of balance to the composition (fig. 5-5).


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In photographic composition there are two general guides for determining the best location for the center of interest. The first is the principle of thirds. The other is dynamic symmetry. In the principle of thirds, the intersection of lines that divide the picture area into thirds are marked by O’s. These intersections are good locations for the center of interest in most photographs. Notice we said THE center of interest. Remember, have only one center of interest to a picture-keep it simple. The principle of dynamic symmetry is a similar idea. A good location for the center of interest is found by drawing or imagining a diagonal line from one corner to an opposite corner. Then, draw a second line perpendicular to the first from a third corner (fig. 5-6). The intersections of the lines are the location for the center of interest.

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Simplicity is the key to most good pictures. The simpler and more direct a picture is, the clearer and stronger is the resulting statement. There are several things to be considered when we discuss simplicity. First, select a subject that lends itself to a simple arrangement; for example, instead of photographing an entire area that would confuse the viewer, frame in on some important element within the area. Second, select different viewpoints or camera angles. Move around the scene or object being photographed. View the scene through the camera viewfinder. Look at the foreground and background. Try high and low angles as well as normal eye-level viewpoints. Evaluate each view and angle. Only after considering all possibilities should you take the picture. See beyond and in front of your subject. Be sure there is nothing in the background to distract the viewer's attention from the main point of the picture. Likewise, check to see there is nothing objectional in the foreground to block the entrance of the human eye into the picture.

A last point of simplicity-tell only one story. Ensure there is only enough material in the picture to convey one single idea. Although each picture is composed of numerous small parts and contributing elements, none should attract more of the viewer's attention than the primary object of the picture. The primary object is the reason the picture is being made in the first place; therefore, all other elements should merely support and emphasize the main object. Do not allow the scene to be cluttered with confusing elements and lines that detract from the primary point of the picture. Select a viewpoint that eliminates distractions so the principal subject is readily recognized. When numerous lines or shapes are competing for interest with the subject, it is difficult to recognize the primary object or determine why the picture was made.


The proper viewpoint or camera angle is an important factor in good composition. Repositioning your subject within the viewfinder frame and changing the camera viewpoint or camera angle are two simple ways of controlling composition.

Photographing from a different viewpoint or camera angle can often add drama and excitement or even bring out an unusual aspect of a subject. Most of the subjects you photograph are three-dimensional and should be photographed from an angle (to the right or left of and/or from higher or lower than the subject) that allows the viewer to see more than one side of the subject. The photographer should study the subject from different sides and angles. Walk around the subject and look at it from all viewpoints. See it from elevated and low positions as well as from eye level to find the best composition. This greatly assists in composing the subject for the best balance and helps to select a background that compliments, not distracts from the subject.

The terms viewpoint and camera angle are often used in conjunction with one another and sometimes used interchangeably. They can also have different meanings depending on how they are applied. Viewpoint" is the camera position in relationship to the subject. "Camera angle" is the angle in which the camera lens is tilted; for example, a picture of sailors marching, made from ground level with the camera held horizontal with reference to the ground, may be referred to as a "low viewpoint" (or camera position); however, when this picture is made, again from ground level, but with the camera pointed up, it may be referred to as a "low camera angle." Likewise, a picture made from an elevated or high position, with the camera again held horizontal with reference to the ground, or even pointed straight down, can be referred to as a "high viewpoint"; however, if the camera is not held horizontal to the ground or pointed straight down, but pointed at some angle between horizontal and vertical, the camera position could be referred to as a "high camera angle."

Eye-Level Shots

With the camera held horizontal, eye-level shots are usualIy made at a height of about 5 1/2 feet, the height from which the average adult sees, and with the camera horizontal. With the camera held at eye level but pointed up or down, the camera position changes and you have either a low or high camera angle, respectively.

Low Viewpoint and Low Camera Angle

Low viewpoints and low camera angles can add emphasis and interest to many ordinary photographs. A low viewpoint can be used to distort scale or add strength to a picture or to emphasize certain elements within the picture. A low camera angle is achieved when the camera angle is located below the point of primary interest and pointed upward. Low angles tend to lend strength and dominance to a subject and dramatize the subject. Low angle shots are used when dramatic impact is desired. This type of shot is very useful for separating the subject from the background, for eliminating unwanted foreground and background, and for creating the illusion of greater size and speed (fig. 5-7).

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High Viewpoint and High Camera Angle

High viewpoints and high camera angles help orient the viewer, because they show relationships among all elements within the picture area and produce a psychological effect by minimizing the apparent strength or size of the subject (fig. 5-8).

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Balance in photographic composition is a matter of making pictures look harmonious. Each element in a picture has a certain amount of value in respect to all the other elements. Every tone, mass, shape, tree, rock figure, building, line, or shadow contributes a certain amount of weight that must be arranged correctly in the composition to give the impression of balance. The subject placement within the picture area is the factor that must be carefully considered.

Composition is kept in balance by two different methods: symmetrical, or formal, balance and asymmetrical, or informal, balance.

Symmetrical, or Formal, Balance

Symmetrical, or formal, balance in a photograph is achieved when elements on both sides of the picture are of equal weight (fig. 5-9A). The idea of formal balance can be related to a seesaw, When there are two equally weighted objects on the seesaw and they are equidistant from the pivot point, or fulcrum, the board will be in balance.

Pictures with formal balance may look static and unexciting; however, they do present an air of dignity. Formal balance does not always mean a picture has to the seesaw in perspective. The forces or weights are be symmetrical. Symmetrical pictures, in which both presumed to be approximately equal; but, the imaginary sides are exactly the same, are produced only when you pivot point is set deep into the picture space. With this want a special effect; therefore, they are not often variation to symmetrical balance, a more interesting produced. A variation of symmetrical balance deals with photograph is usually created (fig. 5-9B).

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Asymmetrical, or Informal, Balance

Asymmetrical, or informal, balance is usually much more interesting than symmetrical balance. In asymmetrical balance the imaginary central pivot point is still presumed to be present; however, instead of mirror images on each side of the picture area, the subject elements are notably different in size, shape, weight, tone, and placement. Balance is established by equalizing the element forces in spite of their differences.

Asymmetrical balance is introduced when the presumed weight of two or more lighter objects is equalized by a single heavier object placed on the other side of the imaginary pivot point (fig. 5-10). Asymmetrical balance is more difficult to achieve than symmetrical balance, because of the problem of establishing relative weight values for dissimilar elements within the picture area as well as presenting some form of stability.

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Aspects of Balance

There are many other factors to consider in order to make pictures appear balanced. Some of these are as follows:

  • An object far from the center of the picture seems to have more weight than one near the center.
  • Objects in the upperpart of a picture seem heavier than objects of the same size in the lower part of a picture.
  • Isolation seems to increase the weight of an object.
  • Intensely interesting objects seem to have more compositional weight.
  • Regular shapes seem to have more weight than irregular shapes.
  • Elements on the right side of an asymmetrical picture appear to have more weight than elements of the same size on the left side of the picture.
  • The directions in which figures, lines, and shapes appear to be moving within the picture area are important to balance; for example, a person may be walking in a direction, or his eyes may be looking in a direction, or the shape of some element creates a feeling of movement. When the feeling of direction is present within a scene, it tends to upset the balance if judged on the size of the subject alone.

Understanding the factors required to create pictorial balance is essential for you to produce good pictures. To gain this understanding, you can continually test your feelings for balance as you look through your camera viewfinder. Once you gain an understanding of the principles of pictorial balance, achieving balance in your photographs becomes an easy process.

World-wide archaeology

Dr Rick Jones and Dr Robin Coningham

The summer of 1994 saw teams from Bradford's Department of Archaeological Sciences working across the globe in two World Heritage Sites. At Pompeii in Italy and at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, the two projects share common aims of investigating the process of ancient urbanisation. Ancient cities were very different from their modern industrial descendants, but they were first. They raise key questions about human development, how people have come together in complex societies in tight urban concentrations.

Eruption of Vesuvius

1994 saw the start of Bradford work at Pompeii, in what looks like it will be a long and exciting programme. Pompeii is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites. Destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in August AD79, the city cleared of volcanic debris gives one of the most intimate impressions of ancient life. As the millions of visitors walk through the city streets they see bars, shops and houses, that seem to invite you to walk in and join the life of nineteen centuries ago. A city suddenly stopped in time, its houses destroyed and its people killed, has an evocative power to remind us of our own mortality.


To the visitor it must seem that everything to know about Pompeii has been discovered. What's left to do ? Yet it has been the excitement of exposing the ancient city over the past two centuries that has presented it own problems. In the scramble to clear ancient buildings of volcanic debris the basic standards of archaeological recording have often been overlooked, especially in the earliest excavations. This means that many parts of the city may be exposed, but were never properly studied. This is important not only for understanding what is there, but also for recording what is disappearing. The constant erosion from vegetation, weathering and visitors is sometimes aggravated by dramatic events like the earthquake of 1980. There is an urgent need to document the remains before they are damaged more.

Modern archaeology also must analyse the remains. Pompeii represents a unique opportunity to study the dynamics of an ancient city at a single point in time. Yet the nature of the city can't be understood without research on the processes of social and economic change over time which formed the city and community that was destroyed. Our research is tackling both aspects. Damian Robinson is using a digital map of the ancient city and powerful Geographical Information Systems programmes to analyse different patterns of land-use around the time of its destruction. This work is based upon the plan that is already known. Our field research is working out new information on how one particular part of the city was changed over the centuries of its occupation.

Pirates and Brigands

Insula 1 of Regio VI of the city is a complete block of buildings next to one of the city's main gates. It was cleared two centuries ago, allegedly by pirates and brigands! Not surprisingly they left few records. The block contains what is probably one of the oldest standing buildings in the city, the House of the Surgeon, three hundred years old by AD79. It was named from a find of Roman surgical instruments, Other properties include another large residence, shops and workshops and bars. There is an elegant colonnaded garden that formed part of a house that had been created by adding two earlier houses together, in themselves made from an earlier four or five buildings. A lavish reception room has had a wide door knocked into the street, with a ramp wide enough to take a cart laid over a mosaic floor. There is also a tunnel or gallery that has never been excavated.

Unravelling the mysteries of how people were organising the places where they lived and how they kept changing them is now to be done. It gives the exciting opportunity to recover the whole history of how people used this part of the city from the start to finish, perhaps half a millennium. It involves not only the traditional study of the buildings, but also using modern environmental archaeology to examine bones, seeds and pollen. At least five more seasons are planned of recording and selective excavation to find details of the earlier buildings hidden beneath those standing at the time of the eruption. It should show the interplay between houses and workshops, rich and poor, along one of the city's main streets.

Classical problem

The practical task of making records of so many walls fast means that modern technology will be used, digital photography and computer image processing. The team brings modern scientific archaeology to a Classical problem. The enterprise is an international one. The project is directed by Rick Jones and Damian Robinson (Archaeological Sciences) and Sara Bon (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill). From 1995 they will be joined by Bernice Kurchin (City University of New York), who will be running a student Field School. There are many other specialists in the group. In 1994 Paul Cheetham (Archaeological Sciences) and Richard Frankel (San Francisco State University) carried out archaeological geophysical survey to seek traces of earlier buildings below the ground surface of AD79. Jane Richardson (Sheffield University) worked on the animal bones left in the city, revealing many horses and dogs that had lived and died there. Rob Janaway (Archaeological Sciences) investigated textile workshops. The team was completed by Archaeological Sciences undergraduates.

Bradford - Pompeii link

But the most fundamental collaboration is with the Italian authorities, the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei. The support and encouragement of those charged with the permanent responsibility of such an important site has been essential. It now looks like Bradford-Pompeii links will continue to grow in other ways. The Soprintendenza has recently opened excellently equipped laboratories, allow a continuing programme of scientific co-operation.

Alongside colleagues from many countries and in many projects, Bradford archaeologists have the privilege of making their contribution to finding new understandings of how the Pompeii that was destroyed was created. It is a unique opportunity to discover how an ancient urban community worked.


With the creation in April 1994 of a temporary lectureship in South Asian Archaeology, Bradford's Department of Archaeological Sciences has found itself linked with a number of ongoing and new collaborative research projects in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. One of these projects, working in Sri Lanka, has been working at the ancient city of Anuradhapura, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. In the summer of 1994 four members of Bradford University, Dr Robin Coningham, Mr Rob Janaway, Steven Cheshire and Gary Dooney, spent six weeks working at the site with members of the Government Department of Archaeology and the University of Peradeniya.

Home to the royal court

Anuradhapura or 'the city of Anura', is the earliest capital of Sri Lanka and was home to the royal court from 437 BC to 1017 AD. However it is not only a city, but one of the great centres of Buddhism in South Asia visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year. The site consists of a central ten metre high mound covered in jungle, marking the old urban core, surrounded by over thirty square kilometres of Buddhist monasteries and huge reservoirs. Amongst the most spectacular of the Buddhist monuments are four great stupas, solid domes of earth and brick built over a Buddhist relic, which reach heights of over eighty metres and dominate the landscape of paddy fields and coconut trees.

New evidence

Our work at the World Heritage site has been based on the research orientated question of how and when the first recognisable urban form emerged in Sri Lanka. According to most scholars, Anuradhapura was expected to have been founded in c.250 BC as a direct result of contact with north Indian cities, which themselves had emerged some two hundred years earlier in the Ganges. The results of our collaborative work have, however, overturned this belief and show evidence of the presence of an urban form at the site as early as c.400 BC. This suggests that the mechanism which were responsible for the emergence of cities in north India were presumably a subcontinental wide phenomena. Indeed antecedents for the first city at Anuradhapura can now be identified in its archaeological sequence which stretches as far back as the Iron Age.

Our particular task for the summer of 1994 was to help the Government Department of Archaeology to define the full extent of the ancient city so that it could be adequately protected and managed. This was because there is a major threat to the site from an encroachment of the site by modern settlements and farming land. As we only had six weeks to complete this task we decided to mainly restrict ourselves to the use of archaeological geophysical survey. Through a combination of old land maps and surviving topography we identified areas in the surrounding paddyfields where shallow linear depressions suggested the presence of a silted moat. We cleared areas of jungle at the edges of the mound and set up grids which stretched down into the paddyfields and used a resistivity meter to survey areas on the east, south and north of the mound. This survey identified substantial anomalies which were then tested with a hand auger. The auger confirmed that we had successfully identified a silted rock-cut moat some 5 metres deep and 40 metres wide surrounding the city. This work has enabled this UNESCO World Heritage site to be protected and curated.

Royal medium

Another important area of Bradford's research programme at Anuradhapura has recently been acknowledged in the national press (Guardian, 12th January, On-Line Magazine pp.10-11). This particular topic concerns the early development of writing in South Asia. For over a hundred and fifty years scholars have believed that the first script was developed c. 250 BC in the north of the subcontinent as a result of interaction with the Persian empire. The emergent script was first used a royal medium and then became widely available for other uses such as helping merchants keep accounts. Following this initial development in the north it was assumed that the use of this script slowly spread south until it reached Sri Lanka one hundred years later. However, our work at Anuradhapura has overturned this theory by yielding evidence that the earliest script, known as Brahmi, was present in Sri Lanka from as early as c.450 BC. Moreover, we have evidence of a developmental sequence which saw the script alter in form from large irregular and rather crude characters to small, well formed ones. This early date of this sequence suggests that we might actually be witnessing the very development and adoption of the script itself. All the early inscriptions were found inscribed on ceramic vessel and consist of personal names in the dative cases - signifying ownership. We are currently working on a theory that suggest that the names do not necessarily refer to the owner of the ceramic vessel but of the contents. Ceramic vessels are often used today in Sri Lanka as containers and goods are often transported in them. Furthermore we are suggesting that the initial adoption of a script was connected with a demand for means of ownership to facilitate long distance trade and exchange and was only later adopted as a royal medium.

Our collaborative work at Anuradhapura in the summer of 1994 has helped to preserve one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites as well as to strengthen Bradford's academic links with South Asia. We also hope that the questions and theories which were are currently formulating will also be of interest to the general academic world. Archaeology at Bradford can now be said to be world-wide.