If you know anything about composition, you may have heard of the Rule of Thirds. This grid divided into 9 segments can help with eye level, head space, converging lines and countless other uses; it is a simple reference tool to help create aesthetically pleasing shots time and time again. Inside the the Rule of Thirds grid, there are quadrants – Right, Left, Top, and Bottom – and when used unconventionally, help to make your scene come alive. In the following video, Every Frame a Painting, analyzes the use of quadrants in the 2011 film Drive.
In the video review, Tony Zhou discusses how director Nicolas Winding Refn creates scenes that tell two parallel stories without the use of exposition just by using simple composition. An example is a simple scene like the two leads walking down a hall. A shot like this can be take it or leave it, but Refn doesn’t waist film or use exposition. The shot establishes the relationship between the two lead characters. So much is being told in this scene that you are constantly engaged.
Using this technique can establish rivalries. By keeping the the two actors in the same quadrant they fight for dominance and try to control the scene. As the sequence plays out, we see that one actor remains while the other is visually diminished in the frame.
The Quadrant System
In the single frames of photography, we can use quadrants to tell two stores at once, though not as easily as film. We can show subtle emotions through the uses of body language; how people hold themselves as a person and in the frame. Think about your composition and your subjects. Do they dominate the frame?
For more about composition and Rule of Thirds check out Chapter 5 of our Photography 101 course.