The Basic Camera Shots:
  A Quick Overview !

The basic camera shots

The basic camera shots are usually described in relation to a particular view and framing of a subject in a film, video scene or clip.The exact terminology varies between video production environments but the basic principles are the same.

Let's take a look at some of these basic principles so that you can shoot your video like the Pros do…!


The Camera Shots Are All About "Framing"

If you are skillful… You can control the audience's attention and emotional response with proper framing and... in doing so... can make a much greater impact with your video production.

Now... let me make  an important distinction here…  When we're talking about the "camera shots" we are not talking about the "camera angles"… We are actually talking about how the shot is framed  so that it has its intended effect on your audience!

Camera Shot: What is Framing?

What is... "Framing"?

* "Framing" is the action of positioning the camera shot (camera's view) so that the audience's attention is focused on the subject or a certain aspect of the scene.

So... The shots roughly break down into four categories:

Camera Shots – Framing the Shot

*  Long Shots

*  Medium Shots

*  Close-ups

*  Extreme Close-ups

They break down like this simply because that is what you see  when you frame  the subject or scene in your digital camera's or camcorder's viewfinder or LCD screen... And... More importantly... it is what your audience will  see if you include the shot in your video or film.

The camera shots are all about "framing" the subject or scene. They are defined by how much  of the subject or scene you show in your frame. 

Camera Shot – framing by controlling distance and focal length

Framing the shot can be controlled in a few different ways...

  • One way would be to change the distance between the video camera and your subject by physically moving the camera closer or farther away.
  • Another way would be to change the focal length of your lens, which controls the perceived distance to the subject.

For instance...  A zoom lens (which virtually all digital video cameras and camcorders have) is a combination wide angle, normal and telephoto lens. You change the angle of view and the perceived distance to the subject by zooming in to a narrow angle of view (telephoto) or zooming out to a wide angle of view.

By changing the distance to the subject or the focal length of your lens you control the framing of the subject… How large or small the subject appears in your viewfinder or LCD screen and ultimately on film or in the video.

The framing of the subject gives the audience visual clues as to what they should be thinking and feeling about this scene as well as the perception of distance, location and space.

Some examples would be…

Long shot

The Long Shot...

* You may use a long shot to give the audience the perception of vast distance or to orient them as to where the action is now taking place. The long shot can also be used as an establishing shot to orient your audience as far as location.

Close-up shot

The Close-Up Shot...

* A close-up on the subject can be used, in a tense moment, to heighten the audience's anxiety. This type of shot can really bring the audiences attention into the scene! You have to be careful however when using this shot as too many close-ups can disorient an audience as to the location of the scene.

Extreme close-up shot

The Extreme Close-Up Shot...

* The extreme close-up shot is where you can get "up close and personal". A little goes a long way with his shot... It has to be used carefully but... If you use it at the right moment it can really snap the audiences attention right into the scene!

Medium camera shot

The Medium Shot...

* You may use a medium shot to give the audience the feeling that they're sitting there right alongside the subject in the video or film. The medium shot is the "normal view" and gets the audience close enough to see the subject and the details of the scene clearly but... Far enough away to stay oriented in the surroundings and and know where the scene is taking place.

You can use the shot types in many ways to produce your desired effect on your audiences.


The "Grammar" of Film and Video…

There is a "Convention (a way in which something is usually done, especially within a particular area or activity) in the video, film and television industries that assigns names and guidelines to common types of shots and video production processes so that they are as standard as possible throughout the industry.

Video Production Set

These conventions are often referred to as part of the “Grammar ” of video and film production and they cover the whole gamut of the video production process.

These video production terms are part of the language that film and video producers speak.

The exact terminology varies between video and film production environments but ... the basic principles and terms that we will go over here are the same.

The naming of each camera shot is done so that when you get into the production phase of the video or film (the actual filming)... the framing and composition of the camera shots are understood and can be agreed upon by all.

Video Production Checklist

If you're creating your video using the video production process then...

Once the shots are agreed upon they'll make their way into the script and then on to the video production storyboard.

The camera person shooting the film or video now knows how he or she is going to frame each shot in the overall production...

And can then go about planning what is needed to do this and the equipment that he must use.

If you're a home videographer you may not be using a storyboard and script (even though you should plan out your video is much as possible)... But… Just knowing the basic shots and how they can impact the video will help you to shoot much better shots that can then be edited into a much more interesting video production.

So… If you want to "speak the language" of film and video production... learning the basic shot types are a good place to start!

And... more importantly, of course...using the camera shots types when you shooting your video will help you produce much more interesting material... and... Your audience will love you for it!

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Have fun...!  Dan

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