Camera Shots

Establishing shot

A shot that establishes a scene, often giving their viewer information about where the scene is set. Can be a close up shot (of a sign etc) but is often a wide/long shot and usually appears at the beginning of a scene. 

An establishing shot introduces a new location – a church, a city street, a rooftop, a hospital room – from a vantage point that allows the audience to see all the relevant characters in the filmic space.

Master shot

A shot showing where characters/objects are positioned in a scene. A master shot would probably be recorded from the same position, with the same lens, also showing all the characters.

The difference with an establishing shot is the duration. A master shot records the entire action, a complete run-through from that same camera position.

Wide shot 

A shot showing a wide shot of the scene. The subject takes up the full frame, but there is a small amount of room above and below the subject which is thought of as safety room — you don’t want to be cutting the top of the head of a person off.

Long shot 

Long shots are used to emphasize a sweeping location around the subject and shows the subject from top to bottom.

Mid-shot

A shot framing of a subject from waist up. The mid shot shows some part of the subject in more detail, whilst still showing enough for the audience to feel as if they were looking at the whole subject. 

The MS is appropriate when the subject is speaking without too much emotion or intense concentration. It also works well when the intent is to deliver information, which is why it is frequently used by television news presenters. You will often see a story begin with a MS of the reporter (providing information), followed by closer shots of interview subjects (providing reactions and emotion).

As well as being a comfortable, emotionally neutral shot, the mid shot allows room for hand gestures and a bit of movement.

Over the shoulder shot 

This shot is framed from behind a person who is looking at the subject. The person facing the subject should usually occupy about 1/3 of the frame.

This shot helps to establish the position of each person, and get the feel of looking at one person from the other’s point of view.

It’s common to cut between these shots during a conversation, alternating the view between the different speakers.

Point of view shot (POV)

A shot that shows a view from the subject’s perspective. This shot is usually edited so that the viewer is aware of whose point of view it is.

Medium close-up shot

The medium closeup is half way between a mid shot and a close up. This shot is from a person’s shoulder and up to the head and this is used to show the face more clearly, without getting uncomfortably close.

Close-up shot (CU)

In close-up shots, the subject occupies most of the frame, allowing very little observation on the environment. Close-ups are much more dramatic than long or medium shots.  Close-ups are obviously useful for showing detail and can also be used as a cut-in.

A close-up of a person emphasizes their emotional state and exaggerates facial expressions which convey emotion. The viewer is drawn into the subject’s personal space and shares their feelings.

Extreme Close-up shot (ECU)

A shot where a part of a face or body of a character fills the whole frame. Also it can be a shot of an object where only a small part of it dominates the frame.

Choker shot

Extreme close-up shot is often used in a choker shot which is very similar to the extreme closeup (ECU), and the two terms are often used interchangeably. A typical choker shows the subject’s face from just above the eyebrows to just below the mouth.

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Aerial shot 

A camera shot taken from an overhead position and it is often used as an establishing shot.

Weather shot 

A shot where the subject is the weather. The sky takes up at least 2/3 of the frame. This type of shot is common in television programs where the weather is of particular interest, e.g. sports shows.

Although the usual purpose of this shot is to show the weather, it is also useful as an establishing shot, for setting the general mood or for overlaying graphics. A weather shot doesn’t have to show the sky.

Two shot

A shot of two characters, possible engaging in conversation and it is usually to establish some sort of relationship. It could also involve movement or action. It is a good way to follow the interaction between two people without getting distracted by their surroundings.

Overhead shot

A shot in which the camera is positioned above the character, action or object being filmed.

Reaction shot 

A shot that shows the reaction of a character either to another character or an event within the sequence. The logic of the reaction shot is that the emotional reaction of the actor depicted will move the story forward or reveal his traits.

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Cutaway shot

A shot that is usually of something other than the current action. It could be a different subject (eg. this cat when the main subject is its owner), a close up of a different part of the subject (eg. the subject’s hands), or just about anything else.

The cutaway is used as a “buffer” between shots (to help the editing process), or to add interest/information.

Cut-in shot

Like a cutaway, but specifically refers to showing some part of the subject in detail. It can be used purely as an edit point or to emphasize emotion. For example, hand movements can show enthusiasm, agitation, nervousness, etc.

Insert shots

These shots are tight shots in which the object fill most of the frame. Even if inserts don’t reveal anything new, they are still welcome during the editing phase, as they smooth transitions between shots, often serving as a neutral shot that allows a breach of the 180 degree rule.

It can be used to emphasize a relevant object, such as a letter, an envelope with money, or a gun that would otherwise be lost in the grand mise-en-scène.

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