Classic composition



I've done some recent research focusing on cinematography and have come across the concept of "classic composition" as it relates to how a scene is set up and filmed. In particular, Conrad Hall mentions how scenes in American Beauty were "classically composed." What does that mean?


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its probably a terminology which he has adopted for this paper? or book? dono what it is.

But every film film theorist hast a standard set of terms which are used, and then they build apon them and we usualy incorporate them in our cinema lingo.

But Classical composition sounds like it would have main character, secondary and thirshiary characters in frame... maybe main in forground and the two others in background...

Get some books which talk about Film Aesthetics and American Beauty, maybe you'll find your answers there


classic composition

classic composition

Classic composition referes to looking at your frame as a tic-tac-toe board. the most important subject in the frame should be on one of the intersecting lines of the board.


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... it would have been easyer if they would have said, Rule of 9 composition lol...

dont ask, no one told me it was also called classical


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It's called classical, if I remember rightly, because the Greeks used to have a defined proportion which they used for all their visual design including painting and architecture. They called it the 'Golden Mean' which is approx. a third.

It is what the Fibonnacci sequence is based upon - approx. 1:1.618. We've summarized it into the rule of thirds but it is not an exact third when it is defined as 'the golden mean'.

If you look at many renaissance classical paintings, many are based on this proportion of 1:1.618, again, if I remember rightly. Also many actual things occur naturally with these proportions in the world including our bodily proportions in all respects. Can you remember Leonardo Da Vinci's proportional study of a man?

Supposedly, we find this proportion naturally satisfying to our visual sensibilities which is why many artists use it for their visual creations.

Sorry I couldn't be more precise! I will have to look into this stuff again myself.

Of course on closer inspection, everything I have said might be completely false...


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Sory if I'm late on this...

I like Morgan's answer, that sounds very good to me as well as documented.

I just wanted to add that it's called "classical" since another "point of view" has been developped about composition.

This "modern" POV (as opposed to the "classical" one) considers that the human eye (and brain) is a "zoom lens" that one can "focus on any point one likes in the frame.

It applies to cinema vs photography, because the screen is supposed to be much wider than a photography, as well as the image is moving in time, what still picture is not.

Therefore there is a "dynamic" viewing, better than a static one.

It' based on the fact that there are three mental viewing angle possible.

The perception angle (about 180°) where you don't necessarly see but more likely "feel" the image ;

The observation angle, which likely 60°, in wich we see

The attention angle, that we use to examine details, that is around 1°

It also takes in account the fact that in really life everything seems to always be in focus, as an whole image.