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The rule of thirds – part 1: What is it?

November 16, 2009

The rule of thirds is a useful guideline for composing your slides in a way that delivers most impact which is used extensively by those in photography, film and graphic design circles, in this post I hope to discuss a little about the concept itself, and then just as importantly in the next post I will show you HOW to do it in PowerPoint.

The rule of thirds is a simple guide to image composition that dictates that by dividing a photo, poster, slide etc into thirds both horizontally and vertically, and aligning key objects of focus with these divisions, you can create more engaging and interesting visuals.

There are a few ways of using this rule to produce great visuals. Let’s take a look at some examples. On the shelf directly above my computer there are a couple of DVD’s, among others I have “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Into the Wild”, “In Bruges” and “Fargo”. So for a little experiment I searched on Google for some images of scenes from those movies and decided to check out if they followed this “Rule of thirds”.

Slide5

In the closing scenes of The Shawshank Redemption we see Mr. Dufresne tending to his boat. As you can see he is clearly aligned with the line on the right, his boat and the horizon are also closely aligned with the bottom line.

Slide4

Alexander “Supertramp” McCandless walking along in some great scenery in “Into the Wild”. He is aligned with the left line and the beginning of the tree line is aligned with the bottom line.

Slide6In this scene from Fargo we can see the character in line with the right line, and where the right and upper lines meet – (where two lines meet there is a particularly strong focus known as a “powerpoint”) – we can see our attention is being drawn to her facial expression.

Slide7The movie “In Bruges” provides us with an example of near perfect adherence to the rule of thirds. Each of the main actors is aligned with a side line, both faces are aligned with both upper “powerpoint” and the bench is aligned with the lower 1/3rd. A greatly composed shot, and movie.

So, now that we have seen how movies use this rule, it’s time to learn how we can implement it, it’s one thing to know what the theory is, but only partly useful unless we can easily use it with our presentation software. In my next post I will show you how it can be done with ease.

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