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A Basic Introduction to Video Composition. Overview. Shot Types Camera Angles Composition. Shot Types. The Basic Shot Types. Wide Shot or “Establishing Shot” (WS) Medium Shot (MS) Close-Up (CU) Extreme Close-Up (ECU) Two Shot Over the Shoulder Shot (OTS) Reaction Shot B-Roll.

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A Basic Introduction to Video Composition

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A basic introduction to video composition

A Basic Introduction to Video Composition



  • Shot Types

  • Camera Angles

  • Composition

Shot types

Shot Types

The basic shot types

The Basic Shot Types

  • Wide Shot or “Establishing Shot” (WS)

  • Medium Shot (MS)

  • Close-Up (CU)

  • Extreme Close-Up (ECU)

  • Two Shot

  • Over the Shoulder Shot (OTS)

  • Reaction Shot

  • B-Roll

Establishing shot

Establishing Shot

Wide Shot (WS)

  • This is used, usually as the first shot in the sequence so the audience understands where the location is.

Wide shots ws

Wide Shots (WS)

  • This type of shot shows the subject's relationship to the environment.

  • For people, the WS is generally a head to toe shot

Medium shots ms

Medium Shots (MS)

  • The MS is closer than the WS so the viewer feels part of the action.

  • A MS of a person is generally head to mid-thigh

Medium-Close-Up (MCU)

Close ups cu

Close-Ups (CU)

  • Use this shot sparingly.  Because it’s so close, it doesn’t take much time to “see” everything in this shot as compared to the amount of visual information in a Wide Shot.

  • A CU shot of a person is generally head to mid-chest.

Extreme close ups ecu

Extreme Close-Ups (ECU)

  • The ECU gets right in and shows extreme detail. You need a specific reason to get this close!

  • An ECU of a person generally cuts off the top of the head but leaves the chin in the shot… keep the “eyes on the third”.

  • Often used as a cut-away shot reveal details of the subject

Cut away and cut in

Cut-Away and Cut-In

  • Cutaway- something other than the current action.

    • It’s used as a "buffer" between shots (to help the editing process), or to add interest/information.

  • Cut In- specifically refers to showing some part of the subject in detail.

    • Can be used purely to “cover” an edit point, or to emphasize emotion.

Two shot

Two Shot

  • There are a few variations on this one, but the basic idea is to have a comfortable shot of two people.

    • Often used in interviews, soap operas or when two presenters are hosting a show.

Over the shoulder ots

Over The Shoulder (OTS)

  • To get a MS of Amy speaking during this interview, we are shooting over Kyle’s Shoulder.

  • This is also known as an “Over-the-Shoulder 2-Shot”

Reaction shot

Reaction Shot

  • Common in interviews, this is a shot of the person listening and/or reacting while the other person is still talking.

  • Used to add interest or to cover an edit point.

Camera angles

Camera Angles

Camera angles1

Camera Angles

  • Eye-Level Angle - the camera is eye-level with the subject, (standing or sitting.)

    • It gives a feeling of equality or neutrality with the subject.

  • High-Level Angle- The high angle puts the viewer in a superior position of the subject.

    • A high level angle can make the subject look small, diminished, or weak.

  • Low-Level Angle - Here, the camera (i.e. the viewer) is looking up at the subject.

    • The subject may appear stronger or fuller than if an eye-level angle was used.



Rules of composition

Rules of Composition

  • Rule of Thirds

    • Pleasing placement of horizon, objects and people within the frame

  • Directs Attention

    • Leads the eye to the primary subject

  • Increases Sense of Depth

  • Provides Interesting Visual Organization

Rules of composition1

Rules of Composition

  • Rule of Thirds

    • Tic-Tac-Toe

    • Horizon line

    • Power points

    • People

    • Head Room

    • Lead Room

Rules of third

Rules Of Third

  • Tic Tac Toe Concept

    • Divide the picture into thirds horizontally and vertically with lines. Placing key elements in the shot along those lines adds interest and balance to the shot.

  • Horizon Line

    • Place the “Horizon Line” along the Upper Third or Lower Third Horizontal Line, depending on if you want to focus on the foreground or background.

Rule of thirds

Rule of Thirds

  • Power Points

    • Placing the main subject at the intersection of these lines helps to focus attention on the subject.

Rule of thirds1

Rule of Thirds

  • People

    • No Matter how wide or close a shot, you should put eyes on the upper third line.

    • Also, putting a person on the vertical lines instead of dead center, makes a more interesting shot.

Rule of thirds2

Rule of Thirds

  • Head Room

    • The space between the top of the person’s head and the top of the frame.

    • When using the Upper Third Line for Eyes, this usually created good head-room.

Rule of thirds3

Rule of Thirds

  • Lead Room

    • AKA Talk Space or Walk Space

    • You want to put space between the person and the edge of the frame in the direction they are looking (or moving).  The more they are looking toward the edge of the frame the more space you want to use. 

Rules of composition2

Directs Attention toward the subject






Rules of Composition

  • Leading Lines

  • Frame-in-a-Frame

  • Triangular Shapes

Directing attention

Directing Attention

  • Color- Using color can direct a person’s attention directly to something

    • The flowers are the first thing you notice in this picture

Directing attention1

Directing Attention

  • Contrast- Put your subject on a contrasting background to make it “pop.”

    • The cat contrasts well against the snow

Directing attention2

Directing Attention

  • Size- Usually, your eye is draw to the larger element on the screen

  • What’s the first thing you look at?

    • The front tree, because it’s larger and stands out more.

Directing attention3

Directing Attention

  • Position- The higher an object appears in the frame, the farther away we take it to be.

    • Notice the mountains are higher on the two-dimensional surface of the picture.

Directing attention4

Directing Attention

  • Leading Lines- Creating lines in your shot that “Lead” the audiences attention a certain way.

    • The fence “line” draws the eye through the shot to the end of the dock

Directing attention5

Directing Attention

  • Power Points

    • Placing the main subject at the intersection of these lines helps to focus attention on the subject.

Directing attention6

Directing Attention

  • Frame-in-a-Frame: The trees in the foreground are framing the house in the background

  • Remember that you are “looking THROUGH the frame” created by something in the foreground to focus attention on a subject in the background

Directing attention7

Directing Attention

  • Triangular “groupings” of objects or people provide a natural path for the eye to follow from one object or person to another.

Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party

Can you see the all the triangular groupings in this famous painting? Some are marked.

Simulating depth

Simulating Depth

  • Size

  • Position

  • Overlap

  • Atmosphere

  • Convergence

Simulating depth1

Simulating Depth

  • Size

    • The rocks in the picture are bigger than the trees. Because our brains "know" that the rocks are actually smaller, we "see" the rocks as closer to us than the trees.

Simulating depth2

Simulating Depth

  • Position

    • The higher an object appears in the frame, the farther away we take it to be.

    • Notice that the bridge is higher on the two-dimensional surface of the picture, therefore our “mind’s eye” tells us that it is further away.

Simulating depth3

Simulating Depth

  • Overlap

    • Because the bush overlaps part of the door, we interpret the bush is "in front of" the door and therefore nearer to us.

Simulating depth4

Simulating Depth

  • Atmosphere (Literally)

    • The cliffs in this shot get paler, “bluer” and less distinct the farther away they are from the camera

    • That's because the volume of air between real-world objects and the viewer affect the contrast, color saturation, and resolution of those objects.

Simulating depth5

Simulating Depth

  • Convergence

    • Actual and Virtual lines coming together (converging) at some point in the distance.

    • The actual lines created by the road markings narrow as they recede toward the horizon in the distance.

    • The virtual lines connecting the receding trees also converge.

Good visualization

Good Visualization

Visual organization

Visual Organization

  • Simplicity

    • reduces the number of visual elements to just the important ones.

    • Do this simply by limiting or eliminating distracting elements from your shots.

    • You can also often “simplify” a shot by changing to an extreme low or high angle.

Visual organization1

Visual Organization

  • Rule of Thirds

    • Use the rule of thirds to achieve balance of positive and negative space.

Important points

Important Points

Recording mode sp vs lp

Recording Mode: SP vs. LP

  • Short Play vs Long Play

  • Always use SP

  • Why?

    • Better quality!!!

    • Some Mini DV Decks can’t read tapes in LP

Life less shots

Life-less Shots

  • No movement or life in shot.

    • These might make nice photos, but not good for video.

  • Don’t have people “pose” in lifeless positions. Think of something they should do, then “direct” them to do it while you’re shooting.

  • Think: Would they do that in real life?

Dealing with close up focusing

Dealing with Close Up Focusing

  • If you are having trouble focusing on an object, it’s probably because you are too far away and zooming in on the subject.

  • Try this:

    • Move the camera closer to your subject and zoom out wide.

    • This gives the camera more depth of field which makes focusing easier.

    • It often creates a more interesting shot because of the depth of field.

Zooming panning

Zooming & Panning

  • Beginners should avoid zooming and panning altogether until they can achieve extremely smooth zooms/pans.

  • When used, be sure to “time” your zooms or pans to match the timing of a script.

  • As you get better, try zooming and panning at the same time.

What rules do you see

What “Rules” do you see?

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