According to Tony Zhou, you don’t need an expensive camera to tell a story. All you need are the four quadrants in a frame: left, right, top and bottom.
In his video essay ‘The Quadrant System’, Zhou explains how director Nicolas Winding Refn uses the different parts of the frame to bring a scene to life. In a scene where The Driver (Ryan Gosling) and Irene (Carey Mulligan) return home, the left and right sides of the frame are telling different but complementary stories. The top and bottom of the frame can be used likewise.
In ‘Five-O’, the sixth episode of Better Call Saul’s first season, Mike (Jonathan Banks) is talking to his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon). Stacey’s face is framed in the top left hand corner of the frame. In the bottom right corner, Stacey’s young daughter is playing in a sandpit in the background of the shot. As they discuss her dead husband, this composition is a reminder of how Stacey is always thinking about her daughter’s needs and welfare.
When composing shots, the quadrant system is a good reminder that creating rich and dynamic shots is a matter of carefully considering what you put in each part of the frame and how it contributes to your story.