Video Composition
Static and Dynamic Subjects:

How to Create Scenes That Have Impact!

Video Composition Static and Dynamic SubjectsVideo Composition Static and Dynamic Subjects

In film and video making, a good way to decide what kind of treatment a subject needs is to classify it according to its basic or inherent features or characteristics... Static or Dynamic...!

Let's take a closer look at this…!

When you're first starting to compose a shot or scene you must first decide what specific approach or viewpoint you're going to take in shooting the subject...  in video terms this is called the Treatment.

A good way to start is to classify the subject of the shot according to its most basic characteristics or features.

One of the most basic characteristics of any subject is whether it's moving or not. Is it Static or or is it Dynamic?

Is Your Subject Static or Dynamic?

Part of the video production process is figuring out if your subject is Static or DynamicPart of the video production process is figuring out if your subject is Static or Dynamic

Classifying subjects as to whether they are Static or Dynamic... Is the first broad step in deciding how you will approach the film or video production process regarding this subject.

There are different problems involved with shooting and editing film or video clips of subjects that are Static  and subjects that are Dynamic.

Let's break these two qualities down a little bit so that you have a better understanding of how to handle these factors.

Static Subjects Are Primarily Inanimate...

Static SubjectStatic Subject

The quality common to static subjects is stillness  or immobility...

It covers the content of fixed images, such as paintings or still photographs, however it can also be used in film or video to great effect.

Definition: Static

What is "Static "...

* Static simply means Still, Unmoving, or without Force.

Static composition in a scene is usually unmoving, centered and balanced. This type of composition can convey serenity, solidarity, stillness, etc. to the audience.

They remain still unless moved by external forces.

What is a "Subject"?

A "Subject" is a something. A person, an object, a scene or a concept. It is selected by an artist, photographer, filmmaker or videographer for graphic representation.

Typical immobile subjects of this kind are, for example...

Landscapes, seascapes, flowers and trees.

And... also inanimate objects such as...

  • Architecture
  • Machinery
  • Works of art
  • Objects of daily life
  • Posed portraits or fashion shots
  • Paintings, such as...
  • Still lifes and
  • Reproductions

Use static scenes to slow down the pace of your film or video or to orient your audience on what something is or what is the current location of the scene.

Video production Tip: static and dynamic subjects

And ... Just a Note…

Unless you're careful... using a lot of static scenes in your video production can also engender boredom in your audience… Which is not what you normally want to convey in your videos (laugh)!

You Can Take Your Time When Shooting Static Subjects...

Video Composition – Shooting Static SubjectsVideo Composition – Shooting Static Subjects

Static subjects allow you all the time you need to shoot your best quality video.

A key to the successful shooting of static subjects is what is called "Contemplation".

Definition: contemplation

What is "Contemplation "...

* This Means a Calm, Lengthy and Careful Consideration of How Are You Going to Execute the Shots, Scenes and Sequences.

This, of course, will influence both your approach to the subject and your choice of technique. You can take more time to study and shoot the subject from different angles and under different conditions.

You can also give more attention to the film/video technical problems of rendition than if you were videoing or filming a dynamic  subject.

In addition... You can work with larger cameras on stabilized platforms which are usually too cumbersome and slow in operation to be used to shoot dynamic subjects.

Working with Larger Cameras on Stabilize PlatformsWorking with Larger Cameras on Stabilize Platforms

In comparison to smaller cameras...  The larger cameras have the advantage of producing pictures of superior technical quality.

And... You don't have to rush…! You can take full advantage of the fact that your subject will not change, move or run away.

You can take your time and study the subject carefully from many different angles and points of view (literally as well as figuratively).

You can figure out what the best shot type and camera angle is before  you start to capture it on film or video.

It's much easier to pay attention to often-neglected factors such as...

And... if you and your audiences appreciate technical quality...  then it is easier to video your subject in the highest definition possible.

Dynamic Subjects Are Primarily Animate...

Dynamic SubjectsDynamic Subjects

In videoing or filming a dynamic subject you must take into consideration the slow or rapid change of time and space in your shot.

Moment-to-moment change...However slow or fast!

What is " Dynamic "...

* It means Forceful, Changing or Moving.

This change or motion can be within a single shot ... and this includes camera movement and/or subject movement...

Or... it can also apply to a sequence of scenes created through video editing. Here is an example... The San Francisco car chase scene from the movie Bullitt (1968).

Dynamic composition is activeoff-center, sometimes unbalanced, and much more exciting to the viewer. 

It can have an off-center point of view, unpredictable motion, diagonal or zig-zag lines in the scene etc.

For example, one reason that mountains make for good landscape photography is that the horizon is rarely horizontal... They are unbalanced and off-center which gives the video a dynamic  feel.

When Shooting Dynamic Subjects You Have To Work Fast!

A quality common to all dynamic subjects is motion or mobility.

 A consistent  change  of  position  in space and time.

Typical dynamic subjects are...

  • People and children
  • Animals
  • Sports events
  • War
  • Objects in motion...

And that is just to name a few.

 Dynamic subjects with their consistent change and motion are never exactly alike and once the significant moment (action) is past... It is gone forever!

Working with dynamic subjects means that you (the photographer, filmmaker or videographer) have to be prepared and ready to move fast to catch the proper shot.

How Do You Catch a "Dynamic Moment"?

When you must try to capture a single dynamic scene or clip it's a good idea to just... leave your video camera running as you sometimes cannot know in advance what will take place in the course of the whole event or when "it" (that one great shot) may happen.

You have to be aware that if you were to try to conserve film or video you might miss taking that one… Once-in-a-lifetime… best picture, shot, scene or clip .

In shooting dynamic subjects it is not  wasteful to use large amounts of film or video to capture that one important moment.

A lot of times you don't know when these moments may happen and you may never be able to capture them on film or video again .

The "waste" would be for you to put in the time and effort to shoot the subject and fail  to get that picture, scene or clip!

As a camera-person you must not only be observant and alert for the shot... But also, be able to anticipate when  the significant moment may happen so that you will be ready when it arrives.

This presupposes that you have, at least to some degree, knowledge of the subject or event so that you know what to look for and, more or less, when it will happen. 

In other words, you need to do your homework before you go out to shoot the scene or event.

You Must Have a Thorough Knowledge of How to Operate Your Camera...


The state of being ready for specific or unpredictable events or situations.

Quick reaction and reflexes are necessary to be successful in shooting dynamic subjects. But even more important... you need to know how to operate your video camera expertly  so that you're not fumbling with it if and when the shot presents itself.

The key to successful filming or videoing of dynamic subjects or events is...  Figure out what you're going to do beforehand as once the action starts you'll need to be ready!

So...the old Boy Scout motto applies here: "Be Prepared".

That way you always get the shot you're looking for!

Knowing how to handle the filming or videoing of static and dynamic subjects will help you create scenes with real impact and interest... and...

Help you capture outstanding video you might not otherwise had been able to get...!

Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

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