Creative videomaking begins with the shot, that which is recorded in one single camera operation. The shot is the prime ingredient of both film and video, and is to the visual arts as the word is to the world of literature. The shot is important not only in itself, but also in how it relates to other shots. A series of shots of a single action create a scene, the visual equivalent of a sentence. A collection of related scenes form a sequence, a video paragraph.
Every time you point your camcorder you make choices: how much of the scene to include; using a still shot or movement involving pan, flit, tracking, or zoom; angle and position; length.
These are the same decisions that occupy the minds and time of filmmakers like Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Akira Kurosawa. Composition choices, more than anything else, determine what your movie will be like.
In the Beginning
Whenever a new setting is introduced you should provide the viewer with a wide shot that takes in as much as possible. This first glimpse is called an establishing shot.
Most films and TV shows quickly establish setting, character, and plot. Casablanca commences with a series of portentously narrated scenes that place the city geographically, politically, and spiritually. The sequence goes from general to specific, beginning with a shot of a spinning globe and ending with a closeup of expatriate cafe owner Rick.
Each episode of the video noir television series Hill Street Blues began with a morning precinct briefing that setup the hour to come. The introductory credits concluded with a classically simple establishing shot of the crumbling brick edifice of Hill Street Station.
Start Your FREE Trial Plus Membership To View This Article
Why Become a Plus Member?
As a Plus Member, you'll enjoy:
- Exclusive access to 1,000s of articles, tips, and videos
- Unlimited access to Videomaker Tips & Tricks video series
- Special contests and monthly drawings
- Members only eLetters
- Early online access to the current issue of Videomaker Magazine
- Members only discounts on Videomaker merchandise and more
- Priority status at Videomaker events
- The Expert Hotline: direct email access to our editors. Get answers to questions about any video subject