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20 TECHNICAL TERMS EVERY ASPIRING FILMMAKER SHOULD KNOW Gairik Pal - July 24, 2019
Practically all the Directors and Cinematographers who have been working since long in the film industry have had a common shorthand terms used to identify specific camera shots or movement. For example, you will typically hear a director screaming on set “We’ll start from WIDE then move into an OTS and then a CU”. Film crews have most likely done these setups a few hundred times and know how to work efficiently within the given deadline time. Most of the work on set isn't creative, it’s more functional, like a well-oiled military operation. Workflow on film sets run rapidly before you step into the set, you need to have a stronghold and brief reasoning about each and every shot that you need for your film.

This article could stand out as a basic foundation to you with the technical terms and explanations about the major shots required and used by filmmakers on set.

1. Establishing Shot

An establishing shot in film and television production establishes the context for a scene by showing the relationship between its important characters and objects. It is generally a long or extreme-long shot at the beginning of a scene notifying where, and sometimes when, the remainder of the scene takes place.

2. Extreme Wide Shot (E.W.S)

An extreme wide shot is basically used to establish a setting for a scene. It is usually used just once at the beginning of the scene to let the audience know what is going on, as well as where the scene takes place.

3. Long Shot (L.S) / Wide Shot (W.S)

In filmmaking and video production, a long shot sometimes referred to as a full shot or wide shot typically shows the entire object or human figure and is usually intended to place it in some relation to its surroundings. These are now typically filmed by using wide-angle lenses such as approximately 25 mm lens in 35 mm photography and 10 mm lens in 16 mm photography. However, due to the sheer distance, establishing shots and extremely wide shots can use almost any camera type.

4. Medium Shot (M.S)

In films, a medium shot, mid shot, or waist shot is a camera angle shot from a medium distance. Medium shots are favoured in sequences where dialogues or a small group of people are acting. As they give the viewer a partial view of the background, such as when the shot is 'cutting the person in half' and also show the subjects' facial expressions in the context of their body language. Medium shots are also used when the subject in the shot is delivering information, such as news presenters and in interviews. It is the most common shot in movies, and usually follows the first establishing shots of a new scene or location. A normal lens that sees what the human eye can see is usually used for medium shots.

5. Extreme Close-Up (E.C.U)

Extreme close-ups are a great way to create stylized transitions or to give extreme hyperfocus to something. The shot is so tight that only a detail of the subject, such as someone's eyes, can be seen.

6. Close-Up (C.U)

A close-up or closeup in filmmaking, television production, still photography, and the comic strip medium is a type of shot that tightly frames a person or object. Close-ups are one of the standard shots used regularly with medium and long shots of cinematic techniques. Close-ups display the most detailed visuals, but they do not include the broader scene. Stepping toward or away from a close-up is a common type of zooming.

7. Pan and Tilt Shot

In video or film production, panning refers to the horizontal scrolling of an image wider than the display. This motion is similar to the motion of a person when they turn their head on their neck from left to right. In the resulting image, the view seems to "pass by" the spectator as new material appears on one side of the screen and exits from the other, although perspective lines reveal that the entire image is seen from a fixed point of view. The term panning is derived from panorama, suggesting an expansive view that exceeds the gaze, forcing the viewer to turn their head in order to take everything in.

Tilting is a cinematographic technique in which the camera stays in a fixed position but rotates up/down in a vertical plane. Tilting the camera results in a motion similar to someone raising or lowering their head to look up or down. It is distinguished from panning in which the camera is horizontally pivoted left or right. Pan and tilt can be used simultaneously. The camera's tilt will change the position of the horizon, changing the amount of sky or ground that is seen. Tilt downward is usually required for a high-angle shot and bird's-eye view, while a tilt upward is for a low-angle shot and worm's-eye view. The vertical offset between subjects can reflect differences in power, with superior being above.

8. Zooming Shot

Zooming in filmmaking and television production refers to the technique of changing the focal length of a zoom lens and hence the angle of view during a shot, this technique is also called a zoom. The technique allows changing from close-up to wide shot (or vice versa) during a shot, giving a cinematographic degree of freedom. The speed of the zoom allows for a further degree of cinematographic freedom. Combined with a dolly camera move it is possible to create the dolly zoom effect.

9. Static Shot

Static shots can have immense power. In many ways similar to the dolly shot, the static shot forces us to really pay attention to what is going on in a scene. We are no longer participants in the world. We are watching through a direct window into another world. Actors might come in and out of frame, but the camera sits still. This creates a hyper-realism which is similar in tone to the overused security cam footage you see in a lot of movies. With the knowledge that something worth watching was caught on tape, you work harder to figure out what is happening in the frame, rather than being told.

10. Crane Shot

In filmmaking and video production, a crane shot is a shot taken by a camera on a moving crane or jib. Most cranes accommodate both the camera and an operator, but some can be moved by remote control. Camera cranes go back to the dawn of movie-making and were frequently used in silent films to enhance the epic nature of large sets and massive crowds. Another use is to move up and away from the actors, a common way of ending a movie. Crane shots are often visible in what are supposed to be emotional or suspenseful scenes. Example of this technique are the shots taken by remote cranes in the car-chase sequence of the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A.

11. Dutch Angle

The Dutch angle, also known as a Dutch tilt, canted angle, or oblique angle, a type of camera shot that involves setting the camera at an angle on its roll axis so that the shot is composed with vertical lines at an angle to the side of the frame, or so that the horizon line of the shot is not parallel with the bottom of the camera frame. This produces a viewpoint akin to tilting one's head to the side. In cinematography, the Dutch angle is one of many cinematic techniques often used to portray the psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed.

12. Point Of View Shot (P.O.V)

Point-of-view, or simply p.o.v., camera angles record the scene from a particular player's viewpoint. The point-of-view is an objective angle, but since it falls between the objective and subjective angle, it should be placed in a separate category and given special consideration. A point-of-view shot is as close as an objective shot can approach a subjective shot and still remain objective. It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something, and a shot showing the character's reaction. The technique of POV is one of the foundations of film editing.

13. Tracking Shot and Long Takes

This type of shot can take place in many forms. The linking factor is that the camera catches events in real time without any cuts. A handheld or Steadicam mounted camera following a similar trajectory is called a tracking shot as well. While the core idea is that the camera moves parallel to its subject, a tracking shot may move in a semi-circular fashion, rotating around its subject while remaining equidistant. This is often in the form of a tracking shot but has taken on many different forms. One of the most famous films in recent Memory, Birdman, which is an entire film that takes place over what seems to be one long take.

14. Whip Pan

A whip pan is a type of pan shot in which the camera pans so quickly that the picture blurs into indistinct streaks. It is commonly used as a transition between shots and can indicate the passage of time or a frenetic pace of action. This technique is used liberally by directors Anatole Litvak, Sam Raimi, Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright. It is also frequently seen in the Saw films whenever someone is struggling in a trap and as well as in 1970s martial arts movies.

15. Low Angle Shot

In filmmaking, a low-angle shot is a shot from a camera angle positioned low on the vertical axis, anywhere below the eye line, looking up. Sometimes, it is even directly below the subject's feet. Psychologically, the effect of the low-angle shot is that it makes the subject look strong and powerful.

16. High Angle Shot

The opposite of the low angle shot. It should go without saying, but this makes your characters seem very small. A high-angle shot is a cinematic technique where the camera looks down on the subject from a high angle and the point of focus often gets "swallowed up”. High-angle shots can make the subject seem vulnerable or powerless when applied with the correct mood, setting, and effects. In the film, they can make the scene more dramatic. If there is a person at high elevation who is talking to someone below them, this shot is often used.

17. Over The Shoulder Shot (O.T.S)

In film or video, an over the shoulder shot is also known as over shoulder, OTS, or third-person shot. It is a shot of someone, or something, taken from the perspective or camera angle from the shoulder of another person. The back of the shoulder and head of this person is used to frame the image of whatever or whomever the camera is pointing toward. This type of shot is very common when two characters are having a conversation in between and will usually follow an establishing shot which helps the audience place the characters in their setting.

18. Cutaway Shot

Cutaway shots are used to show different parts of a full 360-degree scene. These scenes are used by the editor for a variety of reasons. A cutaway shot is the interruption of a continuously filmed action by inserting a view of something else. It is usually followed by a cut back to the first shot when the cutaway avoids a jump cut. The cutaway shot does not contribute any dramatic content of its own but is used to help the editor assemble a longer sequence. For this reason, editors choose cutaway shots related to the main action, such as another action or object in the same location.

19. Aerial Shot

A shot was taken from an airborne device, generally while moving. This technique has gained popularity in recent years due to the popularity and growing availability of drones. A few years ago, shooting an aerial shot would have cost thousands. But now, with the advantage of drone cinematography, you can have extremely professional results for very little. For just a few thousand bucks you can shoot amazing aerial shots of your scene that stands up to any of the latest blockbusters.

20. Floating Dolly Shot

In this shot, a character is on the same dolly with the camera and appears to float through the scene. It’s a very effective way to capture a moment in the film where the characters are daydreaming or floating through a moment. The use of dolly shots are implied to portray the characters "floating" through their surroundings, which has been used numerous times across in Lee's filmography.

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