Television Broadcasting Tutorial 3



Now it’s time to talk about how to film for television. The basic principles of TV grammar that help you capture the images you need to tell your story.

As you will remember from Tutorial 2, the best TV news scripts complement the footage on screen. They work in partnership. And this also applies to scripts for other factual programme-making, including documentaries.

So when it comes to filming footage for your story, what are the important points to remember before going out with your camera?

Firstly, how will you frame your shot? The Rule of Thirds will help you here, a visual rule that applies to art, photography and film. Basically, it means the screen divides into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and you frame your subject on these lines and where they intersect. The video below illustrates how this works.

There is one more rule to bear in mind before you press record. That’s the 180 Degree Rule, otherwise known as ‘crossing the line’. To get a good understanding of this, watch the video clip below from a classic BBC comedy series. Then ask yourself why it works, even though it seems to break obvious TV conventions.

This sketch from The Fast Show works because Paul Whitehouse’s character walks in the same direction, always looking to his right at the camera. He never looks to his left, so he never ‘crosses the line’. Despite the constant change of location, his abidance by the 180 Degree Rule makes this feel perfectly normal to the viewer and not awkward on the eye.

Look at the diagram below and you’ll see how there is a 180-degree line of vision that divides this next scene being filmed. The three cameras on one side of the line can move anywhere on that side and they will not break the 180 Degree Rule. You can film in front of, alongside or behind the subject, and the shot still works. But if your camera crosses the line, you break the rule and disorientate the viewer. This should be avoided.


There are different frame sizes:

  • Wide shot
  • Midshot & Medium Close-Up
  • Close-Up & Extreme Close-Up


1)      Always use a tripod for steady shots, interviews, etc.

2)      If you don’t have a tripod, use a wideshot of the subject (the wider the shot, the steadier it will be).

3)      When framing someone in shot, don’t cut on the person’s limbs as that looks odd. Frame just above or below elbows, waists, knees, etc.

4)      Don’t leave too much headroom above the person you’re shooting – that’s dead space.

5)      When you’re shooting someone standing, don’t cut them off around the knees. Put the entire person in frame.

6)      Make the subject feel less two-dimensional by creating a depth of field. This means thinking about the foreground or background of your shot. For example, place objects in the background like ornaments, a lamp, a mantelpiece, etc.

7)      But beware of exactly where you place them. It may look like a plant or a door handle is coming out of the subject’s head, which isn’t ideal.

8)      Don’t be afraid to move items around to improve your shot, with permission of course. Your interviewee will want to look as good as possible in shot.

9)      Or stop filming and ask your interviewee to move somewhere else, if that’s the best option.

10)   Don’t forget the Rule of Thirds.

Right, time to think about how to tell stories with pictures, which is called filming sequences. This will be the topic of the next tutorial.


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