When students are acting on camera – like when they are participating in a virtual drama class, or doing an online performance – their playing space is the rectangular area visible in their webcam. Compared to the freedom of a stage, it can be easy for students to feel like their performances will be static and dull. However, there are ways for students to make their online performance active and interesting – they just have to think a little differently.
One of the ways is framing. Framing refers to the position of the actor in relation to the camera and the setting. Think of a framed photo – what is visible in the photo? What is the subject or focus of the image, and where is it positioned in relation to the camera?
Most students tend to sit at their device in a medium close-up shot – head and shoulders in frame. This is because they’re likely sitting in a chair with their device in front of them on a desk. So let’s get those students moving around! The following distance learning exercise introduces different framing positions, and teaches students about spatial awareness, dynamic blocking, and atmosphere creation – all by moving closer to and further away from their device.
1. Frame Awareness: Using their index finger, have students trace the outline of their camera frame in the air, starting from one corner and going around the four sides. Have them note how far they need to stretch their arms to do this task, depending on how close or far away from your device they are.
2. Actor Positioning: Choose a student (or ask for a volunteer) and have them position themselves at different distances from their camera. Here are some different framing positions for the camera:
Feel free to have a different student demonstrate the different framing positions for more student involvement. Have the rest of the students observe and answer the following questions:
3. Add Lines: Repeat the Actor Positioning exercise, but this time have a student perform a brief speech (3-4 lines) at each position. Again, have the rest of the students observe and answer these questions:
4. Add a Scene Partner: Repeat the Actor Positioning exercise, this time adding a scene partner. Have two students perform a brief dialogue, first while having both students in the same position, then having students in different positions (for example, Student A in a wide shot speaking to Student B in an extreme close up). Answer the following: