Composition: Dynamic Balance II
Lesson: Dynamic Composition II
If, as we discussed in the first lesson, the elements in the frame have mass – the greater the visual pull of an element, the greater the mass – how do those elements interact with the frame to acheive a sense of dynamic balance?
Good question. Glad you asked.
Remember the rule of thirds and the fact that there are 5 poles of attraction within the frame – four corners and the centre. What we did not discuss is that not all 5 poles of attraction have an equal pull. Just like the elements within the frame have different “mass”, so the five poles of attraction within the frame have different pull or “gravity” (it’ll all make sense. I promise.)
Rules of visual force dictate that the lower corners exert greater force than higher corners – think gravity here. Equally, the visual force increases as you move from left to right within the frame. I’m going to go out on limb here and suggest that it’s our western language that dictates this. We learn to read from left to right and from top to bottom. We begin at the top left but we know where we’re heading – to the bottom right. And that habit and expectation forms in us the sense that the bottom has greater pull or gravity, because we always end up there. If this is total bologna (try learning that word, Hooked On Phonics!) then at least it gives you an easy hook by which to remember the concept of visual gravity.
If this is so, and there is greater pull exerted by the frame on the elements within it, then it would have the effect of displacing the rule of thirds, and pulling it slightly out of alignment, as in this diagram:
The four intersections are where the rule of thirds points usually lie. But in a discussion involving dynamic tension and the pull of the frame – two of those points are pulled down and right, making the power points askew from their usual position.
So. How do we refer to this gravity that the frame exerts? The easiest way is in terms of height. Or high and low. Top left is HIGH. Bottom right is LOW. Refer back to the diagram. So far we’ve discussed which elements have greater mass and which one have less. Now we’re covered which areas of the frame have greater gravity. The high point of the frame (area of least force) is top left, the low point (area of greatest force, or pull) is lower right. The other two corners would be of intermediate height.
We’re getting there. Hang with me a while longer. Remember, this is all about balanceing the elements within the frame. More specifically it’s about balancing elements of particular visual mass with areas of the frame that exert particular pull to achieve a sense of balance. Dynamic balance. So, because rules make things easier, here is the Rule of Visual Energy: The greater the visual mass of the element, and the HIGHER it is placed within the frame, the greater its visual energy.
This rule of energy directly affects the rules of balance (aha! Balance! He’s getting to the point! Yes, I am. But don’t hold you’re breath.) Within the frame you can balance on two planes only – horizontally or vertically.
Something balanced horizontally leans neither left nor right. Within the frame, this means elements on either side of the frame need to be balanced or equalized. For example, the newly-learned Rule of Visual Energy tells us a small element (less mass) placed high left (greater gravity) will balance a large element (greater mass) placed lower right (less pull).
There are two kinds of vertical balance. One is like a traditional pyramid, bottom heavy and stable, but balanced. Static. Or you could invert that pyramid, it would be heavy on top, but still balanced. But inverted, this balanced pyramid contains the feeling of possible motion – it’s balanced but dynamically so. The visual mass is on top where the greatest pull exists.