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Imbalanced Composition

by Jeremy Butler

 Classical television favors compositions that are balanced—that is, where the main point of interest is right in the middle of the frame. If more than one point of interest exists within the frame, then they are placed in such a way as to balance one another visually. For instance, the young man dancing in the woods on the left of the frame in the Coca-Cola commercial above is visually balanced by his friends watching him on the right. A counter-television commercial breaks this convention by locating points of interest near the edge of the frame—as in a Marshall’s/T.J. Maxx commercial, where a woman is placed on the left of the frame, looking to the left. This image would be more conventional if she were looking to the right, into the center of the frame, but she is not. Instead, she’s looking to the left and out of frame. The result is a strikingly imbalanced composition. Also notable is the fact that two-thirds of this shot is markedly out-of-focus and remains that way for the duration of the shot. That is, we do not shift focus to the background. Similarly, a Lyrica drug ad superimposes its logo and a side-effect warning over an outof- focus image of women in a garden. With virtually the entire image out of focus, we can do nothing but read the warning, but also its lack of focus catches our eye as we try to make sense of the blurry image. 

Imbalanced Composition in a Marshall's/T.J. Maxx Commercial

Imbalanced visual composition in a TV commercial.

from Marshall's/T.J. Maxx Commercial (2010)
Creator: Marshall's/T.J. Maxx
Distributor: Marshall's/T.J. Maxx
Posted by Jeremy Butler