November 13, 2015

What Is 'Hitchcock's Rule' & How Can It Help You Tell Better Visual Stories?

Alfred Hitchcock
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:

Alfred Hitchcock's Rule of Framing

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.

The current promotion at the Academy of Storytellers ends tonight at 10pm Pacific, so if you're interested in saving $80 on a year of membership, check out their registration page to learn more and enter the code "awesomesauce" at checkout.      

Your Comment

7 Comments

The should make monthly billing. I would gladly pay even 50$ for 1 month. Let's be honest - their site is horrible in terms of selling stuff. How can people pay 350$ for unknown content. I would never pay such amount for an unknown product. If it was 50$ billed monthly I might give it a try, but risking 350$ is too much for a product which could just suck (& I think it does suck, that's why they give literally no info about their products).

November 13, 2015 at 4:27PM, Edited November 13, 4:28PM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1318

I completely agree with you that they should offer an option for monthly billing, but I don't think it's fair to say that their product isn't good and that they're being deceptive by not telling you what's inside.

You can find lists of the tutorials that they've produced so far (there's one in the second "cutting short documentaries" post I did). Plus, there are a bunch of free sample tutorials out there, most of which were pulled directly from the Academy, that you can watch to decide if you want to invest in their program.

I totally get it if you don't like the extremely upbeat "call and response" style of the tutorials, but the quality of the educational content is really top notch. Again, it's not for everyone, especially if your primary focus is narrative filmmaking, but there's definitely lots of value in the content they're producing.

November 13, 2015 at 5:02PM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4276

I did a full review of their service (http://daredreamermag.com/2015/08/20/just-in-time-learning-and-the-acade...) and during the time I had access I loved what I saw. As I wrote in my review, I called it "just in time" learning. The bite-sized portions of the education is less overwhelming than something like a Lydia or CreativeLive where you have full, in-depth tutorials. Not saying it's better, just different. There will be times you will want something more in-depth. But there are also times when you need a spark of education, or a quick refresher, or a new concept right before a shoot or edit.

I also agree they should have either a monthly plan, a money-back guarantee, or at least a trial period. But I know the guys over there and they're dedicated to making the service better. I have no doubt they'll read these comments. So it's good you're making your voices heard (er, or rather, read. :)

November 15, 2015 at 11:58AM

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Ron Dawson
Frame.io Blog Editor & Host of "Radio Film School"
252

I'm just turned off by the Nickelodeon style of the production.

November 16, 2015 at 12:57PM

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Inder
Filmmaker
88

Great little tidbit. Call me old fashioned, but seems like a sin to talk about Hitchcock over the example footage they use.

November 20, 2015 at 1:58PM, Edited November 20, 1:58PM

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I joined just so I could say how offputting this video was. I'm sorry but Hitchcock and cutting vegetables?! Don't promote this stuff no film school!

August 5, 2017 at 8:30AM

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Yup it is scary that one person might be dumb enough to pay these hacks for these awful videos. "Let's take a basic idea and put a yellow background behind it. Then lets brand the living shit out of it so we can make some money." Nofilmschool's job is to sift through this trash even if they are getting paid a bunch to post it.

August 5, 2017 at 4:02PM, Edited August 5, 4:03PM

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Jake
67

I honestly imagine their studio has a Ukulele player in a dungeon being forced to produce happy twee pop around the clock. Maybe they have to play a xylophone with their toes or they lose a toe. There's an outline for a video that could properly demonstrate Hitchcock's rule.

August 5, 2017 at 3:49PM

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Gordon Byrd
Owner, Byrd Pictures
352