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< Part 6 | Introduction | Part 8 >

The Videomaker's Journey: part seven
Framing and composing the shots - 2.

Use the links in the text to move between sections.


Shot Sizes.

The three most used shots are:-

  1. The Long Shot (LS) - which is the full height of a person. The whole picture of a building or all of the important features of a scene. See Fig. 7g.
  2. The Medium Shot or Mid Shot (MS) - which is from just below the waist to above the person’s head. Part of the building or part the scene. See Fig. 7e.
  3. The Close Up (CU) - which is from the shoulder to above the person's head. A close detail of the building or the scene. See Fig. 7c.
    The frame should not noticeably cut the main subject at the eyes, mouth, hands or ankles. If the breasts, elbows, waist or knees are easily noticeable, then the latter should also not be cut by the frame.The hand should be fully in or fully out of the frame.

A list of shot sizes.

Refer to “Use of different shot sizes”.

Example of a big close-up. Example of a big close-up. Example of a close-up shot.
Fig. 7a Big Close Up (BCU)

Fig. 7b Big Close Up (BCU)

Fig.7c Close Up (CU)

Example of a medium close-up shot. Example of a mid shot.

Fig. 7d Medium Close Up (MCU)

Fig. 7e Mid Shot (MS)

Example of a medium long shot. Example of a long shot. Example of a very long shot.

Fig. 7f Medium Long Shot (MLS)

Fig.7g Long Shot (LS)

Fig. 7h Very Long Shot (VLS)

Composing shots - a summary.

  1. The main subject should be off-centre - this is roughly, part of the Rule off Thirds. Fig’s 8,9
  2. Provide looking and walking space. See Fig’s 7g, 7h, 8 and 9.
  3. Use framing devices.
  4. With scenic views - having the sun behind you, helps avoid backlight problems, but often, the early morning or late afternoon sun out to one side, will cast good contrasting shadows.
  5. Be aware of everything in the frame. Make sure that objects in the background don’t appear to grow out of people’s heads or otherwise spoil the scene. It’s also important to look at what’s kept out of the frame - compared to what you are including in the frame. Refer also to Part 8 (Framing Devices and Dealing with the Background).

The main subject should be off-centre - and the Rule of Thirds.

It is not essential to strictly follow the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds is - divide the frame into imaginary thirds, horizontally and vertically and place the subject matter approximately along these lines.

Excessive backlight caused by large areas of sky or water (even in rainy weather) can cause the automatic exposure to darken the other parts of the scene when recording - the automatic exposure control has closed the iris down slightly. Manual adjustment of the exposure will not fix the problem - it spoils the main part of the picture. As a result, the common practice is to ignore the Rule of Thirds in this case - by zooming in closer to reduce the amount of sky or water.

Many professional movie makers keep the main subject to the left or right of centre - sometimes by a small amount, sometimes a significant amount - the extra space is then provided for looking or walking. The vertical location of the subject is a matter of what looks right. If possible keep the sun behind you or to one side when taking the shots.

Looking and walking space.

Provide looking and moving space in front of a face, person, animals or moving machinery and objects. See Fig’s 7g, 7h, 8 and 9. Pan to follow the action, unless the subject is to move out of the frame.

Example of an off-centre shot with looking space. Example of an off-centre shot with looking space.
Fig. 8 Off-centre with looking space

Fig.9 Off-centre with looking space

Over the shoulder shots (OTS).

These are often used in dramas for two person dialogues. See Fig. 10. Do not use more than two consecutive (OTS) shots at a time; mix in other types of shots. The person with their back to the video camera - should show part of the side of their face.

Example of a shot from a high angle and over the shoulder.

Another example of an over-the-shoulder shot.
Fig. 10 High angle and over the shoulder (OTS)

This example is from my film
The Problem With Harry

Click the picture to see a clip from
The Problem With Harry

Double-click for a larger image.

< Part 6 | Introduction | Part 8 >

© copyright Arthur Bullock, 2007

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