What are the Five Basic Shot Types?

What are the Five Basic Shot Types?

What are the Five Basic Shot Types? A blog post by Darius Stevens Wilhere

So you want to be a film maker or cinematographer?

One of the first things you must learn is what the five basic shot types are. I've pulled a lesson from my course on Camera Angles here: http://darecinema.teachable.com/courses/cinematography-101-camera-angles

Whether or not you buy the course, you must buy the book "The 5 C's of Cinematography" by Joseph Mascelli. You can get it on the publisher's website or probably on Amazon.

The First "C" of Cinematography is Camera Angles. In the book and in my course the chapter on Camera Angles covers:

  • The three different shot types
  • The three factors that determine camera angle
  • The five basic shot types
  • What "descriptive" type shots are
  • How to choose Subject Angle
  • How to choose Subject Height
  • How to learn which shots you should use for which scenario
  • And much more

In this video lesson I'm going to cover the 5 Basic Shot Types in Cinematography as they relate to Subject Size. 

These are: Extreme Long Shots (ELS), Long Shots (LS), Medium Shots (MS), Close Ups, (CU) and the Extreme Close Up (ECU).

While I go into it in much more detail in the video I'll cover each of these briefly here. 

The Extreme Long Shot

The Extreme Long Shot shows cityscapes, vast expanses of space such as deserts, oceans, hillsides etc... This is used to communicate setting and are very frequently used as "establishing shots" where you establish for the viewer where this is taking place. You see this a lot in thrillers in action movies where they have a shot showing the whole city of Paris with the Eiffel tower so that they audience knows "You're in Paris" and then they cut to an apartment they are filming in a studio in Hollywood. 

The Long Shot

Long shot are used to show all the players in a scene and usually incorporates all elements that are relevant to a scene. Actors are usually at least head to toe and sometimes even wider. The long shot allows actors the most room to interact in the scenario without fear of stepping out of the frame. 

Another example of a long shot that is a little tighter: 

The Medium Shot

The medium shot is the most used shot in all film making. It usually portrays the actors from about waist up to just above the head. This is called a Medium Two Shot because it has two actors in it.

A Medium Three Shot could look like this: 

They are both Medium shots

The Close-Up

The Close-up is arguably the most important shot in large screen cinematic storytelling for communicating the intricacies of actor emotions and intimate details of a scene.

It doesn't just have to be a close-up of an actor either. Any piece of a scene which you want to reveal to an audience to showcase important information can be done in a close-up. 

There are so many ins and outs on when close-ups should be used and how they should be used that I won't try to cover it here. An entire chapter in the 5 Cs of Cinematography is dedicated solely to the techniques of Close-Ups. Nuff said. 

The Extreme Close Up

The extreme close-up is for getting into the minute details of an item. The needle of a record player. The eye of an actor. The needle being threaded. The opening titles of 7even made excellent use of these. 

And there you go. 

That's the 5 Basic Shot Types and some uses for them. I hope this has been helpful and hope you'll check out the full course on camera angles at my website here: http://darecinema.teachable.com/courses/cinematography-101-camera-angles

What are the Five Basic Shot Types? A blog post by Darius Stevens Wilhere

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