Oh sure, everyone knows the “Rule of Thirds”.
Everyone knows that you divide your frame into thirds and make sure that important elements in your frame happen on those lines. It often makes for a more interesting image than one that just lies in the center in your frame. Even consumer cameras often have overlays available for their view-screens dividing the image into “thirds”.
This post is not about the “Rule of Thirds”; It’s about the “Principle of Three”.
The “principle of three” is something I carry in my mind every time I step out the door with my camera. It’s an instruction I give to my DP every time I’m a director on set.
It comes in two parts:
In Filming: Wide/ Medium/ Close Up
This is actually as old as classic Hollywood. When you’re filming, make sure you go for the wide medium and close up (throw in some cutaways and you’ve really got something you can work with). That’s pretty straight forward, but it’s easy to forget when you are on set and the pressures and demands of direction come upon you.
In Editing: A series of three cutaways is (generally) better than two.
When I sit down for the edit, I find that a series of three quick b-roll clips can really tell the story more quickly and more interestingly than just one or two. This is not always the case, but when we start out with it as a principle, I think it helps.
Note how the three clips together give you a more complete and interesting sequence than just a shot of the van going by. Give it a try and let me know what you think.