Created By: ginsengaddictFebruary 29, 2012 Last Edited By: ginsengaddictOctober 8, 2012

Rule of Thirds

Important aspects will always be positioned between either a third or two thirds of the way through.

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Not to be confused with Rule Of Three, though that does function on the same principle.

When composing a shot for film or television, or painting a landscape, or even writing a novel, creators of works will position stuff they want the audience to focus on on an invisible third of the screen or page or canvas.

Imagine a 3x3 grid on a frame of film. Now, looking at that grid, take not of what intersects with it on screen. Nineteen times out of twenty, the thing you're supposed to be looking at (a protagonist, the Mac Guffin, etc) will intersect. This is the Rule Of Thirds.

Likewise, look at a landscape painting, and superimpose that same imaginary grid over it. The horizontal lines will almost always line up with the horizon. This is known as "more sky, less sky". If the horizon matches the top third, it's "less sky" and most of the paiting will be whats on the ground (rivers, forests, etc). If the horizon matches the bottom third, it's "more sky" and the focus will be what's above ground (clouds, mountains etc). The same is true of the vertical thirds. An object which is a centrepiece, such as a mountain, will never be placed in the centre; it will always line up between one third and two thirds of the frame.

This is not actually a trope, but a basic rule of media. As such it qualifies as an Omnipresent Trope.

Related to Rule Of Three. No, it's not the same.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • February 29, 2012
    shimaspawn
    That's not what trivia is for. This is obvious when looking at the work itself. Otherwise, good trope.
  • February 29, 2012
    surgoshan
    This is a result of Three-Act structure found in Eurasian literature and arts.

    The first act establishes the characters and setting and culminates with the first turning point. This turning point overturns the established order, forces the protagonist to act, and raises a question answered by the climax of the piece.

    The second (rising) act follows the protagonist's attempt to deal with the first turning point. Things usually get worse for the protagonist during this act as he hasn't yet developed to the point where he deserves resolution.

    The third act wraps up the story and the sub-plots, and culminates in the climax, or second turning point, where the question raised by the first turning point is resolved.

    The rule of thirds places the first turning point at the end of the first act, and the end of the second act, the nadir of the piece, usually involves other significant developments (the death of Vito Corleone, Luke I Am Your Father).
  • February 29, 2012
    MorganWick
    The term you're looking for is Omnipresent Trope, not trivia.
  • March 1, 2012
    peccantis
    You probably want Golden Ratio.
  • March 1, 2012
    Shnakepup
    From what I understand, the Golden Ratio is related, but not the same.
  • March 1, 2012
    ginsengaddict
    ^^^ Thanks, correction made.
  • March 1, 2012
    ginsengaddict
    Here's some images that might work.

  • March 1, 2012
    Stratadrake
    The Golden Ratio is indeed not the same as the rule of thirds; it would divide a space into approximate fifths, with the golden lines falling about 2/5 from either side.
  • March 1, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Gene Kelly film Invitation to the Dance one segemnt had him as Sinbad dancing with two animated guards; each of them took up about one third of the screen. Ruined that part of the film when it was chopped down to 4x3 for TV.
  • March 4, 2012
    ginsengaddict2
    bump
  • March 4, 2012
    Vidor
    An aversion in the 1962 film adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate. When Janet Leigh's character is first introduced her head is square in the middle of the frame. It's a bit startling.
  • March 4, 2012
    83244genesis
    The Wadsworth Constant states that you can skip the first 1/3 of any video, conversation or text and still retain the most important facts.
  • March 13, 2012
    Shnakepup
    Note: the Wadsworth Constant isn't an actual "thing", it's an internet meme/joke that originated on Reddit. It "works" through a combination of confirmation bias and the propensity for some crappy You Tube videos to have lengthy, pointless, and/or redundant intros.
  • March 13, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Would something like Image Focus be a better title?
  • March 13, 2012
    MorganWick
    Laconic misled me into thinking surgoshan's comment was actually on-topic. Now I'm not sure if this is necessarily omnipresent either. It's just a thing.
  • March 17, 2012
    ginsengaddict2
    ^ It is omnipresent. Just about every frame of film you've ever watched uses this principle. Certainly most paintings and photographs follow it. In fact, when it's not followed, it's really noticeable and slightly off-putting.

    It may not qualify as a "trope", since no plot-relevant information is conveyed to the audience by it's use (there are exceptions), but it is a standard rule of visual media.
  • October 8, 2012
    ergeis
    Bumping because I think it might be good for a Useful Notes kind of thing.

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