Video Tips & Tricks: Cinematography

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    Camera Angles, Shots, and Movement

    The frame of view of a camera can be broken down into a few basic types: Long shots, medium shots, and closeups. Long shots are generally used as establishing shots to introduce a new setting or characters. Medium shots are regular shots that focus in a little more on an action or subject. Over the shoulder shots are used when characters interact. Close up shots are used to show reactions or draw attention to important actions or subjects. Extreme closeups can be used for sharp juxtaposition.

    Empire: Film Studies 101: The 30 Camera Shots Every Film Fan Needs To Know

    Kuleshov Effect

    The Kuleshov Effect is juxtaposition of two unrelated scenes that can stimulate different emotional responses from the audience. This technique works by forcing the audience to draw on their own interpretations to put the images into some sort of context. The director does not have to spell things out, since people can fill in the blanks of what is implied to be going on.

    Battleship Potemkin: Odessa Steps Sequence

    Vance Joy- ‘Riptide’


    A montage is a series of quick transitions between scenes. The technique is frequently employed to convey a lot of information or show a passing of time.

    Rocky Training Montage

    180 Degree Rule

    The 180 degree rule states that a camera should not cross over an imaginary axis between two subjects. This ensures that any cuts made during editing will be coherent to the audience. However, actors might shift positions or move across a room, meaning the line will need to be adjusted.

    Film Riot: Quick Tips Understanding the 180 Degree Rule

    Composition- Framing and Staging

    Framing is the heart and soul of cinematography. When used correctly, a camera shot can set the mood of a scene as effectively as the lighting or acting. Learn the various nuances of camera angles, camera movements, compositional elements, aspect ratios, lens types, score, color theory, and lighting. Watch movies to see how directors build scenes, and imitate their methods. Try to understand why the director or cinematographer chose to use a close up shot instead of a medium shot, or why the lighting is always so dark around one character but lighter around another.

    Filmmaker IQ: How a Director Stages and Blocks a Scene

    FilmSkills – How to Shoot a Scene Part I – Blocking


    Once you have mastered all of the technical aspects of camera equipment, you still have to make sure everything ends up coming together as it should. This is referred to in the industry as mise-en-scène, the overall way a shot feels, looks, and sounds. Some directors are able to make cinematic shots look easy, but this is only because they spend so much time planning and have devoloped an intuition for visualizing scenes through years of practice. Having a really good Director of Photography and production team will also help improve overall quality standards.

    Thorough analysis of the script and scene determines what kind of things should compose a shot to communicate an idea to the audience most effectively. Directors schedule for on-set blocking, multiple takes, and reshoots to get the exact look they want. Independent filmmakers don’t always get the time to do this on a small budget and short shooting schedule, but knowledge of the script material and having a clear vision for what you want to achieve will start you off in the right direction.

    Every director has different preferences and styles. Some are really good at writing and editing, others lighting or unorthodox camera movements. Be sure to bring something unique to your own approach.

    Channel Criswell: Composition in Storytelling

    Blender Guru: Understanding Composition

    Jacob T. Swinney: 100 Years/100 Shots

    Digging Deeper: Sicario: The Mirage of a Moral World

    Editing- When to cut to the next scene?

    ASL (Average Shot Length) indicates the average duration of a shot between cuts in a film. Action scenes tend to have lots of fast cuts, while long takes are preferred by actors since it allows their full performance to be seen without edits. Knowing when to cut is an intuitive process rather than an exact science, but if you break it down scene by scene it is kind of similar to knowing how many panels to include in a comic book. You want to move the story forward without unecessary exposition while still conveying drama and emotion to the audience.

    RocketJump Film School: Cuts & Transitions 101

    RocketJump Film School: Pro Tip: Editing to the Eyes

    Channel Criswell: Breaking The Rules – The French New Wave

    Nerdwriter: Casey Neistat- What you Don’t See

    CineFix: 12 Best Long Takes in Film History


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