Lead Space and Headroom

Lead Space (or Nose Room)
Subjects that have direction, such as a person, a car, a television, even a house, should be composed in shots that provide them with lead space. It's a psychological space in front of the subject that gives them somewhere to move into. 


Lead space is intuitive - if a person isn't given enough lead space the viewer perceives the person as being boxed in with no where to go; the empty space behind the subject is just dead air. Providing lead space gives a more balanced and comfortable composition. When you perceive a lack of lead space, just pan the camera a little, giving your subject space in front of them. But in movies and some TV shows, the lead space isn't always followed precisely. Sometimes there are artistic reasons to make people appear boxed in, or to show something behind them that might play a part symbolically in the story. The example of the chimpanzee below shows two possible compositions, either of which would still be acceptable, although the shot without lead space shows more emphasis on the chimp's grip with motion appearing right to left should the chimp pull itself toward that side of the screen.


Headroom
Proper headroom is also intuitive. Too much headroom leaves nothing but dead air above the head. Too little headroom and you get that sense the person is boxed in. Generally, close-up and medium close-up shots of people should show a small amount of space above their heads. 


Interview compositions always provide lead space so the person is looking just off-camera at the interviewer. In a 3/4 Profile Shot, we see both of the person's eyes as they're looking off-camera. 

When you need to shoot several interviews, try to alternate the lead space so that people aren't always looking in the same direction. This is especially helpful when editing interviews back-to-back, especially if the subjects have opposing points of view. Debates and point-counterpoint discussions are examples where it may be useful to alternate lead space. Alternating Lead Space is illustrated nicely in studio productions where interviews between a host and guest take place. But in field production, you might interview people in different locations, but edit them back-to-back in the final show so not everyone is looking in the same direction all the time. 

Alternate the lead space between back-to-back interviews.