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Grammar of the Shot, 2nd Edition by Christopher J. Bowen, Roy Thompson

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Place Important Objects in the Top Half of Your Frame

The eyes of a motion picture audience member will normally gravitate to the top half of the picture frame. We normally view things from the top down (pages of a book, a person walking at us, etc.). Compositionally speaking, the space about one-third down from the top will be a zone occupied by the eyes of human characters when shot in close-up so this phenomenon makes sense. Filmmakers have taken advantage of this and created meaning around an object’s placement within the frame. Objects (including people’s heads) that are placed in the top half of the frame receive more attention from the viewer—the objects have more “weight” or visual presence and are assigned a greater importance within ...

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