Train the Trainer Part 3: Recording 101
The way a subject is positioned in a frame is key to the shot’s composition. Over the years, we’ve come to understand a certain language to the framing of a shot. The first thing to understand is the size of the shot. A shot which depicts the subject's whole body is a wide shot, and a shot of just their face (or any other part of them) is a close-up. Everything between that ranges from wide /long, to medium, to close. For lectures, we like to stick to medium close-ups and close-ups. Exercises on the other hand should show the full body to accurately detail the exercise.
The angle is also critical when framing a shot. A subject shot from above appears weak, a subject shot from below appears commanding, and a subject shot from an even level appears neutral. Below are examples of high and low-angle shots. In the high-angle shot, the perspective implies they are being viewed by someone bigger than they are, which triggers a feeling of vulnerability in our brains. In the low-angle shot, the perspective implies the opposite, which conveys a sense of authority. The further you go with either angle, the more dramatic the effect. The high-angle shot for example is higher than the low-angle shot is low. We don't want anything as dramatic as these angles in our lessons or exercises, so we try to stick to very neutral angles.
A sideways tilt of the camera (known either as a Dutch or canted angle) conveys a sense of wrongness and is also far too dramatic for lectures or exercises. Below is a picture which features a canted shot. As we are not trying to disorient our audience, we recommend keeping our camera as level as possible.
The positioning of the subject in the frame is important as well. Independent of shot size, the subject should have an appropriate amount of space around them. Too much headroom will cause them to appear small in the frame, too little and the top of their head will be cut off. The subject's head should have a bit of space in every direction around them, including side to side. If shooting from head-on, which you likely will be for lectures, the subject should be in the centre of the frame with an even amount of space on either side. Below are some examples of these concepts.
Finally, the Rule of Thirds is an important visualization tool. People like it when key features of the image fall along certain lines of the frame. For lectures, the subject's eyes should ideally be positioned in the middle of the upper horizontal line, with just a bit of space between the top of their head and the top of the frame. Below is an example of visualizing these lines against the properly composed image above. This reveals that while the framing is good, it could be made more engaging by properly lining up the eyes with the red upper horizontal line.