Thursday, June 9, 2011

Five Basic Shots in Filmmaking

Human eyes perceive things in a gradual and smooth fashion. For example when you enter your living room to watch TV, you will first see the entire room, and then you see the couch and then the remote control. You might not be aware but these transitions happen in the background subconsciously. This makes the shots below the basis for any video to grab and hold on to the viewer’s attention.

Wide/Long Shot (WS/LS)

The wide shot also known as establishing shot sets up the scene. For example if you are shooting a bank robbery scene, establishing shot would be a good wide shot of the bank building from the outside. A good long shot will convey to the viewer where exactly the shots following it are going to happen. An establishing shot could also be a combination of multiple wide shots. Starting with multiple aerial shots of the high rise buildings in the city, followed by the street in which the bank is and then to the bank building.

Medium Shot (MS)

This will bring the audience closer to the scene as things start to happen. For example the masked robber rushing in through the bank doors with his rifle in one hand and a bag in the other.

While shooting of conversations or interviews a medium shot will include the person from his waist above in the frame. The robber holding his gun to the cashier demanding him to fill the bag with cash is one example.

Close Up (CU)

This powerful shot type when used intelligently conveys the emotion of the scene to perfection. Close up shows the person’s shoulders and above. The shot of the tensed cashiers face elevates the dramatic situation.

Television was mostly close up and still is.

Extreme Close up (ECU)

ECU takes the viewer to the parts of the scene which are not obviously visible to the naked eye. Example would be the drops of sweat on the scared cashiers face or the denomination of the dollar bundles in the bag.

Re-Establishing Shot

This is the same as wide shot except that it happens again. The shot of the robber running out of the bank and getting in to his car.

Cut Away

A cut away is a transition shot between two scenes. It helps smoothen the flow from one scene to another. The following guideline helps to come up with a good cut away shot. It should be a shot of something in the scene but not directly from the main action.

As the robber rushes out of the bank and before we move on to the high speed pursuit scene a good cutaway would be the shot of the tire marks left behind by the robber’s car.

Considering the Re-Establishing shot same as the wide shot these five basic filmmaking shots when used wisely can be very effective.