"The Shots"

Home Up Comp Answers
FLMV Back Stage "The Shots" Editing Act One Pretest 1

Scene 1, Act One "The Shots" 

The choice of shot is very important as each shot has a purpose in the video, and/or an affect to the story. When it comes down to it, it's all about the shot, or at least it all starts with the shot. When you think about it; people always say that a picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture with sound must be worth at least ten times more. It's no wonder people believe what they see. That is what makes the composition of shots and how we put them together so powerful, so important.
Look how editing this very serious and infamous speech by Adolph Hitler is transformed into a very believable fun clip:

Editing and Composition Terms starting with individual shots:

Shot Composition http://video101course.com/Shots/s_100.html(Composition) >>>http://video101course.com/shooting/the-shots.html<<<

"The "talking head shot" is 90 % of what you see on television because television sets just cannot reproduce fine detail. Body language isn't able deliver the same effect as the facial expressions of a close up that best support or tell the (true) story."

It is important to know the story before you shoot the story in order to best shoot the the scenes that will, not only support, but perhaps, even tell the desired message. The shot compositions will keep the viewer oriented and focused on what is important. The editing that follows will allow fluid continuity and so on as you order your sequences that make up your movie/video. A sequence is simply a collection of shots, perhaps gathered at different times and stitched together so that they seem to flow.

Still Shots:

Wide shots

Wide shots or Long shots are also referred to as "establishing shots" because they establish,  in the mind of the viewer, where the scene or activity is taking place . They are zoomed out images that enable the viewer to orient themselves or locate what is happening. The CSI program uses a series of establishing shots on a continuous basis to put you in the right city, in a specific location of the city, at the scene of the crime. They may put you on a Warf, then in the next shot on a boat. Both shots can be considered establishing shots. One is just wider and less specific than the other.
An establishing shot can put it's subjects in the gym, in a classroom or at a camp. There is no specific depth or width to the shot. Generally speaking, if your camera is zoomed out all the way, that is as wide a shot you can take from that position. Remembering that the idea of the establishing shot is the orientation of the viewer to the surroundings/location of the subject, might mean that you may have to set your camera back to a position that will  allow the camera to take shot wide enough for the viewer to establish what's what.
Medium shot, which is generally defined as a waist-up shot of a person. Medium shots help place a subject in context--and they are also necessary for people who gesture a lot.


Tight shots are close up shots.


Classic close-up, when you want to capture emotional;  get a "close-up" shot of the person's face filling up a significant portion of the screen. A classic close-up includes the entire face and shoulders down to the armpit and leaves a little head room or a bit of space above the person's head...(not too much!);
Extreme close-up (or ECU). An extreme close-up includes just a person's facial features (eyes, nose, mouth and chin). 
Only use extreme close-ups to emphasis extreme emotion such as when someone is lying for example. 

Special Shots

  High Angle shots are shots taken with the camera pointing down on the subject.
  Low angle shots result in the camera pointing up during the take.
  Zoom shots zero in or out on a subject or target on the screen  
  Pan shots scan across a scene. Both zooms and pans are seen as amateurish techniques  

Action Shots:

Lead room is more space on the screen in the direction of the action so that it appears to have a place to go.

  • Panning is the left-to-right or right-to-left movement of the camera and should be reserved for action shots that follow a moving subject.

Shooting rules of thumb:

4 tips for close ups:

  • For best quality close ups; get close. Below you just how close the camera man got to Jimmy Rankin in front of the Red Shoe Pub despite the hundreds of fans in the audience. For best quality for close ups, make a point of getting close to your subjects and not use your zoom so much.
      A good close up puts emphasis on the subject, not on the background. Your subject should be in sharply  focused and the background slightly out of focus. You can accomplish this by:
    a) distancing your subject from the background, even to the point where you exaggerate the physical distance, but making it look like things are properly spaced on the screen. For example: your subject may be 8 to 10 feet from a wall, yet on screen it may appear that the wall is right behind them
    b) Manually focus, adjusting your depth of field
  • Headroom is the term given to the space above the subject's head. Unless you are going for an extreme close-up leave some room above the subject's head. Remember depending on software and hardware the fringe of your project may be cropped out when your final project is displayed. 

  • Try to avoid profiles when shooting close-ups. Make sure you can see both  eyes on your subject. You have to try extra hard in this case.


    Looking room is the space between the subject's face and the edge of the screen. It is good practice for close ups and otherwise..



<<<<<<<There should always be a little MORE room in the direction the subject is looking toward.


  • Unless you have a special purpose such as making someone appear submissive, you'll want to avoid shooting High Angle shots, especially when shooting youngsters. Get down to their level.

  • Although low angle shots are useful because it can make things look powerful, one usually tries to avoid these shots as well.

  • Wide shots are very important because they establish,  in the mind of the viewer, where the scene or activity is taking place. Be sure to include establishing shots at the start and re-establishing shots throughout your sequences or scenes.

  • Avoid zoom while shooting. Use the zoom to find your shot. However, if you only have one camera and you want to draw the viewer's focus to something specific that may be your only option.

  • Pan shots should only be used to follow a moving object only.

  • There should be lead room, more space on the screen in the direction that the action is going in when shooting moving objects.

  • Try to avoid dull, even 2 dimensional lines of perspective and position your shots so that the scene or subject is more dynamic, or three dimensional by making the diagonal lines of symmetry. 

  • To make a subject appear to be moving toward or away from you, get close to the object's path and let it go right by you, producing diagonal line of movement.

  • Always try to avoid straight on shots that produce horizontal lines. Diagonal lines are much more exciting and 3 dimensional.



  1. Why are "talking heads" most of what you see on TV?

  2. A standard close-up should cut the person off at:_____________________________________.

  3. Which is NOT term used to describe a shot which takes in a whole scene:

  4. Define "sequence".

  5. What is this shot called?______________________________________________________.


  6. What is this shot called? ______________________________________________________________

  7. Why is this a good action shot?

  8. What is the only time it is OK to zoom?

  9. In a well-composed shot, the space above the subjectís head is called:_______________________________________

  10. Professional camera operators realize that the key to a good shot is to: