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Rule of thirds in Film: Learn how applying the “rule of thirds” will drastically improve your images

13 March 2011

This quite simple rule of thumb, which was first documented in the 18th century, is today used by filmmakers and artists, who want to achieve a more interesting image composition.

Applying the rule

The rule states, that you separate an image into nine equal parts, dividing it twice vertically and twice horizontally. Points of interest should now be placed along these lines or their intersections. By following this rule, the image becomes more interesting, by creating tension and energy.

When placing a character or other moving object on these lines, make sure it has more space in the direction it moves. (unless you have a reason not to, eg. the character is being followed)

rule of thirds explained with "evolution" by alex glawion


Lets look at some pretty pictures and see how this rule was applied in Pixar’s Film “The Incredibles”


Live-Action Films such as Steven Spielbergs “Warhorse” use this rule as well:


Obviously, using this rule on every one of your shots and images won’t magically make them look like filmstills from a blockuster. There is much to be considered when composing images, such as light, depth, weight, movement, lines, forms, masses, balance, focus and color, to name a few, that are equally important to achieve aesthetic imagery. Of course rules can be broken, but I find it wise to know how and why to apply them first before I do so.

More in-depth information on this subject:

cgdirector - post author

Hi, I am Alex, a passionate Director and 3D Generalist currently working in an Animation Studio.


Share your opinion by posting or replying to others comments.

Hassan Yola

21. Mar, 2013 at 9:15 PM - 4 years ago

this rules work well personaly I use it for evry single shot that I create …


24. Mar, 2014 at 6:06 PM - 3 years ago

looks pretty random to me, can’t tell any difference where the points of interests are.

Week 1: Unit 1 – Framing and Composition – Katie McCamley

24. Sep, 2016 at 11:19 PM - 5 months ago

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