Homework 1 /7: Composing the Frame


Start by reading the following:

  • Chapter 1. Content and Development in Making Media [1]
  • Chapter 2. Composing the Frame in Making Media

Keep notes in your notebook as you read and jot down questions to look up later or ask about during class discussion.

After you finish the readings, engage in the following activities: [2]


  1. Watch some of your favorite online video content with the sound off so you can concentrate on the formal aspects, not the content. Watch for differences in balance and shot sizes. Watch for using the golden mean, rule of thirds, headroom, look space, and lead room. Be aware of the differences in aspect ratios and the ways those differences are dealt with.
  2. Watch the videos in Video Playlist 1 in Video Playlists and write a brief response to each of the videos in your notebook.


  1. Find six images online with static or dynamic compositions (three of each). Cite the source of each image. 
  2. In your notebook, discuss the aspects of their composition that contribute to their sense of stasis or dynamism. Include each image in your notebook and cite the source (note the website URL, the creator's name, and other relevant information).
    • Are the images pleasing or disturbing?
    • Does their composition reinforce their message?


Begin writing a short script (in your own format and style, in your notebook for Video 1: Personal Video Essay (which you should iterate over the next few days). This project will be accomplished using locations and resources you can access easily. The video should be personal regarding point of view, style, and approach; make up your own visual language vocabulary if you like. As long as the technical craft is good, you’ll be fine. This video could take many directions; for example, here are some ideas to get your process started:

  • Tell a story about how the pandemic changed your life
  • Create a media portrait of yourself and share some things you want the class to know about you
  • A personal manifesto (e.g., Lizzie Peirce's Why I'm a Creator)
  • Share with us your point of view on something significant to you (e.g., a passion project, hobby, creative practice, group you’re a member of, etc.)
  • Mediate a dream you’ve had using the logic of dreams (e.g., Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon)
  • Create a video time capsule of your life now to show your children 20 years from now.
  • Tell us something about your birthplace and how it shapes your life today.
  • Express your identity through a visual essay (e.g., Sadie Benning’s Me and Rubyfruit).
  • Create an essay about a place that captures how you feel about the place.


Practice using the following terms in various sentences to demonstrate that you understand the concept's meaning and how to use it to describe media production practices and artifacts. If you’re not sure about a term, review the reading. You will use these terms in writing, discussion, description, and analysis of works, so take some time to review the reading if the concepts are unclear. 

  • aspect ratio
  • asymmetrical balance
  • closure
  • frame
  • golden mean
  • headroom
  • leadroom
  • letterboxing
  • lookspace
  • pan and scan
  • pillarboxing
  • rule of thirds
  • shot size(s)
  • symmetrical balance
  • windowboxing (a.k.a. “curtains”)

  1. Making Media: Foundations of Sound and Image Production by Jan Roberts-Breslin (4th edition, Routledge, 2018), is available for online reading from O'Reilly Media (requires subscription or access through your educational institution). E-book and print editions are also available from booksellers including Amazon. If you choose to purchase, I suggest the newer edition↩︎
  2. Acknowledgment: This text is based, in part, on the "Putting it into practice” sections in Making Media and has been revised better to fit the structure and learning objectives of the course.↩︎