HRD: Screenshot Guide




Artful Fiver here. One of the coolest things about Halo Reach Daily is the Screenshot Of The Day feature, showcasing us, the members of Halo Nation in pitched battle. However, not all Screenshots are created equal. Here is one Spartan’s advice on how to create compelling Screenshots of you doing your thing and maybe score yourself some Front Page action.

Bungie made your Spartan model a statuesque tank who strikes poses just standing around, so your job is to supply the game play that yields explosions, shattered vehicles, flying bodies, stuff like that. At the same time you should keep an eye out for interesting moments in the game play in between those big, loud, dramatic moments. The first lesson of the Theater is that you can learn from watching Halo as well as playing Halo. Watch yourself play campaign, watch yourself in multiplayer, watch your opponents in multiplayer. Watch and learn.

Photographers talk about the “Rule of Thirds.” Psychologically, the human eye naturally drifts to a point two-thirds of the way up an image. A good rule of thumb when composing your Screenshot is to put your horizon line on a “third”: one-third from the top (emphasis on the sky) or one-third from the bottom (emphasis moves to the sky). See the two diagrams at left (stacked top and bottom) for examples.

Advanced applications: Imagine the page is divided into three columns and three rows; the intersections are the compositional sweet spots. (See the diagram with the red dots for an example.) Try to compose your image with the key action or focus falling exactly on one of these spots and you’ll already be ahead of the game.

This just represents the basics, and all you’ll need to get started; if you want to learn more, look up “The Golden Section” on Google as it applies to visual composition; lots of great stuff on the concept — you’ll be amazed how much you already knew without realizing it.

You lookin' at me? 'Cause I'm lookin' at YOU!

Camera placement is probably the next most important consideration.

As the “cinematographer”, you’re in charge of framing the shot. A camera placed low and looking up will generally make your Spartan seem more grand and iconic. Placing the camera at eye level can create the impression that behind the visor, that Spartan is looking at YOU, mister.

Look below at the sample images from the same opening moment of Nightfall and notice how camera placement radically changes things.

Bungie spent a lot of time making Reach a highly detailed world for you to play in. The background of your Screenshot can accentuate your portrait (explosive action with busy background) or contrast it (simple, uncluttered backgrounds will focus the eye on the detailed figure). Artsy-tartsy folks will talk about each picture having a foreground, middle-ground, and background, and remind you to make deliberate choices for each zone when designing your image.

The Screenshot of the shotgun kill in Reflection (below) is an example of background supporting the action. If I were a snooty art professor, I might claim: “the repeating geometric architecture rendered in three-point perspective is echoed in the angled limbs of the tumbling figure in the foreground, whose legs frame our protagonist”. Or you could do away with the artsy mumbo-jumbo, and just say, “That dude got owned! He landed on his head!”

Other times the background can become a framing device if you strategically align the action with scenery, distinct architecture, or even empty space.

Busy background on Reflection

Architectural accent on Countdown

Quiet sky on Nightfall

Negative space (the empty area surrounding a figure) is important; always give your subject room to look into. The Rule of Space says that a person looking off stage and placed too close to the edge looks like he’s exiting. The more dramatic the pose, the more asymmetrically you can place the figure and still maintain balance.

How many knives can you spot? Give the man some room!

Depth of field can be another powerful device: Remember that you can click the right thumbstick to zoom the camera in. This is great for close-ups as well as compressing distances. Consider placing something (or someone) large in the foreground, then using the zoomed-in camera to peer over their shoulder.

Over-the-shoulder depth, figures placed on thirds, simple background highlights action... wait, is that a shotgun? *BAM!*

The pose you see the most while playing and watching Halo is your running Spartan with weapon shouldered. The only thing wrong with this pose? Everybody uses it.

Halo: Reach has built in model animations for all kinds of things. When you climb in or out of a vehicle, you see an animation different from 90% of your regular gameplay (running and gunning). Most of the Screenshot examples in this article capture specific animations that come and go in the blink of eye when you’re playing. Assassinations, melees, sprinting, jumping, assassinations (and did I mention assassinations?) — even hitting the button to change weapons will allow you to capture your Spartan with his gun down in a “resting” stance, and where you can see his face from either side.

Wait...did I mention Assassinations? OK, just checking.

Did you see my Melee animation? Wanna see it again?

So next time you have a great game, head for the Theater for the play-by-play. Remember to slow down and view potential Screenshot moments from different angles, making use of the right-click-to-zoom technique when needed.

When you get to a Screenshot-worthy event, watch it a couple of times so you can be sure you’re capturing the pivotal moment. Be aware of your background, the placement of figures, and the lighting. Hopefully we’ll see some of your excellent Screenshots here on Halo Reach Daily soon!

About the Author: Artful Fiver has been playing Halo since 2001 and is currently a Field Marshall in Halo: Reach. If you play with him in matchmaking, chances are you’ll never see him coming. Because, oh yeah, he DOES love those Assassinations!


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