What Is 'Hitchcock's Rule' & How Can It Help You Tell Better Visual Stories?
When it comes to visual storytelling, few directors were as precise as Alfred Hitchcock.
In fact, many of Hitchcock's filmmaking techniques, some of which have gone on to become essential parts of the cinematic language, are relatively simple, and can even be distilled down into easy-to-remember rules. One such rule has become known simply as "Hitchcock's Rule," and when you apply it to your filmmaking, it can help you frame your shots more intentionally and cut to the correct shots at the correct moments in the editing room.
In a quick tutorial from our friends at The Academy of Storytellers, Amina Moreau of Stillmotion describes Hitchcock's Rule and shows you how to apply it in several different filmmaking contexts. Check it out:
So, what is Hitchcock's rule? Here's how Amina summarizes it in the video:
It's one of those things that seems obvious — only cut in close if something is important and relevant to the story at that moment in time. However, something that I often see in amateur filmmaking is close-up shots and inserts that don't really serve the story in any way. Unfortunately, that can be really distracting to an audience. Since most of us have been conditioned to understand that close-ups convey a heightened sense of importance, it can be offputting and confusing when a close-up doesn't contain information that will further enhance our understanding of and emotional investment in the story.
That's where Hitchcock's Rule comes into play. It can be applied both when you're on set and when you're in the editing room. In production, Hitchcock's Rule can help guide you towards only capturing the shots and details that you really need. More than that, it can help you decide how wide or tight you should frame those shots. And in the editing room, Hitchcock's Rule can help you cut to the right shots at the right time. Quite simply, if you understand your story and its individual elements, Hitchcock's Rule can help guide you towards telling the story efficiently, and in a way that the audience will inherently understand.
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