Our composition of this individual is getting better, but the centre framing is not working so well. Notice how the face in the centre of the screen is looking off to the side — at someone or something yet to be shown in another shot. A centralized framing like this is very solid but perhaps it is too uniform, too symmetrical, or too compositionally boring. Let us create more look room.
Look room (also called looking room or nose room ) is the empty space that we have provided within the frame, between the talent’s eyes and the edge of the frame opposite the face. It is this empty area, or “ negative space ” that helps balance out this new frame where the weight of the object (the talent’s head) occupies the frame left and the weight of the empty space occupies the frame right. In this case, the word “ weight ”
really implies a visual mass whether it is an actual object, such as a head, or an empty space, such as the void filling frame right. We will see later how this negative space and the direction of the actor’s gaze impel an audience to also want to see what the actor is looking at, but for now, let us stay focused on where in the frame the head is placed.
What if we moved the head to the opposite side of the screen but kept the face and eyes looking in the current direction? The look room for this framing is severely cut off on frame right and we have a large, empty space on frame left. Our weighted objects — the head and the void — still exist, but their placement just does not feel correct.
The actor’s face is too close to the near “ wall ” of the frame, making it look congested, claustrophobic, and trapped. Also, one gets the sense that the empty space occupying the majority of the frame left is crying out to be filled with someone or something. That negative space behind the head can imply negative feelings of suspense, dread, vulnerability, and so on and unless that is your creative intention, it would be best to not frame the actor this way.
Our original example MCU with the head at the centre of the frame is not wrong, mind you; it is just not always as visually interesting to keep your objects of interest at the centre of the frame. That may work well for still photographic portraiture, but it lacks a certain punch for motion picture imagery. You will become quite adept at placing important objects on one side of the frame or the other over time. We will discuss the direction of the look room in more detail later in the text, but right now let us introduce you to another rule or guideline that will help you place these objects within the frame