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Introduction to Screen Education. ASM30I Mr. A. McCarthy. Composition. Composition is the visual creation of the film frame for the audience. Cinema is made up of two types of composition: 1. Composition resulting from the position and placement of things in the frame.

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Introduction to

Screen Education


Mr. A. McCarthy



Composition is the visual creation of the film frame for the audience. Cinema is made up of two types of composition:

1. Composition resulting from the position and placement of things in the frame.

2. Composition resulting from movement(making it different from still photography)

These are the tools that filmmakers use to control your visual responses to their messages. This can be more specifically done through:

Parts of the film


Camera Perspectives

Types of Shots

Camera Movement

Camera Lenses

Other visual components and techniques


Parts of a Film

  • Frame – a single picture on a length of film. Early silent films had 16 Frames per Second, but this was changed to 24 fps to create realistic speed in the images. Computers have increased the fps to over 30 and the recent Hobbit films have used 48 fps.
  • Shot – a single continuous portion of a film that has not been edited.
  • Scene – a series of shots showing action in one location.
  • Sequence – a series of shots which are the equivalent of a chapter in a book.


  • Cut – instantaneous transfer from one shot to the next
  • Dissolve – gradual merging of the end of one shot into the beginning of the next.
  • Fade-in – gradual emergence of one shot out of darkness
  • Fade-out – a shot gradually disappears into darkness
  • Wipe – appears to pass across the screen ( vertically or horizontally ) pushing off the first shot and revealing the second
  • Matching Action – when two scenes shot at different times are cut together to give the impression of natural continuity
  • Jump Cut – exactly the opposite of Matching Action; a cut where there is little continuity, suggesting confusion or action.

Camera Perspectives

Camera Angle

a) High – Camera looks down on the subject

b) Low – Camera looks up on the subject

c) Flat – Camera is on the same plane as the subject


Camera Perspectives

2. Camera Distance

a) Long Shot (LS) – shows subject at a distance

b) Close Shot (CS) or Close-Up (CU) – shot taken close to the

subject to reveal detail

c) Medium Shot (MS) – a shot that falls in between LS and CS


Camera Perspectives

d) Extreme Close up (ECU) – A shot that highlights only one object.


Types of Shots

  • 1. Establishing Shot – an essential shot which sets the scene in time, place, etc.
  • 2. Fast-Motion Shot (Undercrank Shot) – the camera runs slower than normal to make the action seem faster than normal.
  • 3. Slow-Motion Shot (Overcrank Shot) – the camera runs faster than normal to make the action seem slower than normal.
  • 4. Rack-Focus– where the focus is changed to shift your attention to a different part of the scene.
  • 5. Underexposed Shot – where the scene was filmed without enough light.
  • 6. Overexposed Shot – where the scene was filmed with too much light.

Camera Movement

  • 1. Pan(panning) – the tripod remains in place, but the camera moves from side to side.
  • 2. Swish Pan – an effect in which the camera is swung very rapidly in a panning motion to create a blur.
  • 3. Active Pan – when the camera pans a non-moving scene.
  • 4. Passive Pan – when the camera pans a moving object.
  • 5. Tilt– when the camera pivots up or down.
  • 6. Dolly Shot (Trucking Shot) – a shot in which the camera is on a tripod that is moving on a truck or dolly toward or away from a subject.
  • 7. Tracking Shot (Travel Shot) – a shot in which the camera travels with the subject.
  • 8. Boom Shot – a shot in which the camera dips toward or rises away from the object on an angle.
  • 9. Zoom Shot – There is no actual camera movement, but the zoom lens seems to move away or toward the object.

Camera Lenses

  • Focus – The point at which a subject must be placed so that the image produced in a lens will be clearly defined.
  • Focal Length – The distance between the centre of a lens and the point at which the image of a distant object comes into critical focus on the film in the camera. Lenses are known by their focal lengths.
  • Wide Angle Lens – A lens with a short focal length. The picture has exaggerated perspective. There is speeded-up motion toward the camera and a wide-angle view.

Camera Lenses

  • Normal Lens – Much as the human eye sees it.
  • Telephoto Lens – a lens with a long focal length. The picture has flat perspective. There is a slowed-down motion toward the camera and a narrow angle of view.
  • Zoom Lens – a lens with a focal length that changes.
  • Deep Focus (pan focus) – a lens which produces a shot which is clearly defined in the foreground, middleground and background.

Other Visual Components

  • Cut-Away – a quick shot away from the main action of the scene.
  • Insert – a close explanatory shot, such as a hand writing a letter, the displaying of a calendar or the cover of a book.
  • Editing / Cutting – the process of assembling the shots into their final length.
  • Montage – Creative editing using a rapid succession of shots often connected with superimposition or dissolves to indicate a passage of time.
  • Take – the single recording of a shot.
  • Out-takes – takes which are rejected from the final version of the film

Other Visual Components

  • Superimposition – when one shot appears on top of another
  • Filter – a toned optical element used in conjunction with a camera lens to modify certain photographic values of a scene.
  • Composite Matte (split screen) – a special photographic effect which combines two or more scenes. A common split screen makes it possible for a character to act at the same time in more than one scene.
  • Process Photography (Rear Projection) – The technique whereby live action in the foreground is combined with a background projected with a special rear-screen projector onto a translucent screen (eg. Driving sequences)
  • Freeze Frame – the repeat printing of a single frame close to the end of a shot to lengthen it.

Final Tips…

  • Keep these notes as a tool kit to use when creating your films.
  • Just because a variety of tools exist, does not mean you have to use all of them (there must be a purpose)
  • Student filmmakers do not always have access to the appropriate equipment to make certain effects happen
  • There are always new ways of creating effects from the tools
  • There are still many more tools and techniques not discussed in these notes
  • Be creative, be prepared and be safe