GLOBAL – Even when you’re shooting with a camera as versatile as the Nokia N8, there are only so many different shots and angles you can use. In this article, we explore eight classical ways of framing video scenes – and how to use them to their full effect.
1) Establishing shot – A shot used from far away to give the viewer an impression of the context of where you are. You can film the people in the scene from a great distance, for example, or the outside of the building where the next part of the action is taking place.
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2) Long shot – With a long shot, you’re close enough that you can see what the actors are doing, but they’re too far away for you to be able to see all the details. Long shots are often used in combination with motion towards or away from the camera, to give a feeling of travel – or when you are photographing in locations where the surroundings themselves add to the scene.
3) Full shot – When you frame your actors in a way where you can see them from top to toe – but not much more – you have a full shot. These are great for sequences where the context of the person is important, such as when someone is doing sports, getting into a car or similar.
4) Medium shot – This is a shot you can use where you get quite close to the actors without feeling as if you are ‘infringing’ on their personal space. This is a shot that feels quite comfortable to most viewers, as it is comparable to the field of vision we have normally when in normal conversation – not too close, not too far away.
5) Close-up – Tears welling out of someone’s eyes, a character’s face changing as they are realising that something horrible has happened, or even a completely blank stare into the distance can be powerful tools to get the people on-screen to come to life. A close-up shot is great when you have a good actor and a point to make, so don’t be shy.
6) Two-shot – The imaginatively named two-shot is a shot where two people are in the same frame, usually facing each other in dialogue. It’s a great shot to use when you want to establish a relationship between two characters. By seeing both people on screen at the same time, the viewers can use the actors’ body language to gain a deeper understanding of what is happening between them.
7) Over-the shoulder shot – When you’re filming a conversation between two people, it’s often a good idea to use a series of over-the-shoulder shots. You can do this two ways: Film the person who is speaking, or the person who is reacting to what is being said. It’s possible to do the same thing with a medium shot, but by shooting in a way where part of the person who is being spoken to is in the frame, we keep the feeling of voyeurism alive, as if we are casual observers.
8 ) Reverse angle shot – In filmmaking, it is considered poor form to make a cut where the camera moves ‘around’ two actors so they appear to have swapped places. That’s also why you always see establishing shots at football games filmed from the same side: it is confusing if a team still plays left-to-right when they have swapped sides. Having said that, you can distract and confuse the viewers on purpose by doing shooting a reverse angle shot – great if confusion or discomfort is an emotion you are trying to evoke in your audience.
Each of these eight shots has its own advantages and challenges, but you soon get a feel for what works best for the mood you are trying to create. Best of all, with a solid wide-angle lens like the one found on the Nokia N8, you can experiment with all of them to really up the stakes in your cinematic storytelling!