#4 Sure Sign of Amateur Video: Too Much Headroom

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This week we’re going to tackle a common mistake people make when they want to record themselves or someone else talking directly to the camera.

If you do any kind of video blogging or conduct webinars – this applies to you!

Beginners tend to frame people so that their heads are in the exact centre of the shot.  If you place an imaginary “tic tac toe” grid on top of the shot, the head winds up in the centre square.

Here’s an example I found on YouTube to illustrate what I’m talking about:


Notice how the man’s head – and eyes – are in the exact centre of the screen.  It just looks … well, wrong. 

There’s too much empty space above the subject’s head.  In industry speak, there’s too much head room.

Head room refers to amount of space between the top of a subject’s head and the top of the frame.

Put too much and your subject will end up looking small and like they’re sinking into the ground.  Put too little (or none) and it will look like your subject’s head is stuck to the top of the frame.

Here’s the secret to getting the right amount of head room.

Remember that tic tac toe grid I referred to?  Imagine it once again on your screen (some video cameras actually have an overlay you can turn on to guide you with this).

Instead of placing the subject’s head in the centre square, I want you to put their eyes along that imaginary top third line in the tic tac toe grid.

Here’s what it would look like using our example above:

CorrectHeadroom copy

Doesn’t this look a whole lot better?  Now our subject has the correct amount of head room.

So the next time you go to frame yourself or someone else speaking directly to the camera, look for that “eye line” – and make sure it’s placed on that imaginary top third line of the tic tac toe grid.

Next week:  #5 Sure Sign of Amateur Video – Backlighting

Follow Cindy Burgess:

Pro Video Storyteller

Cindy Burgess is a former broadcast journalist who's been telling stories with video for more than 20 years. She's passionate about spreading video literacy to the world!

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