Wide, Medium and Close Up Shots

Here is a list of some of the common types of shots used in film/video.  When it comes to wide, medium and close-up shots, we are referring to how much of the subject we are able to see.  In the samples below the subject that we are filming is…

subject – this is the person, group of people, object, etc. that we are focussing on in a shot.


Extreme Wide Shot or Extreme Long Shot

  • This type of shot features the subject far from the camera and as a result we see the area and environment around the subject.  In fact, in the extreme wide shot, the subject can be barely seen.
  • WHY USE IT?  This shot is often used to show where the subject is located.  It is often referred to as an ESTABLISHING SHOT because it establishes where the scene takes place.
  • TIPS:  Don’t overuse extreme wide/long shots.  It is tempting to pull back from the subject in order to capture all of the action around the subject.  However, by filming everything in wide you lose the ability to show details that may be interesting or important to your story.

Wide Shot

  • This shot is similar to the extreme wide shot as it shows a lot of the area and environment around the subject but in this case the wide shot moves closer to the subject so it can been seen more easily compared to the extreme wide shot.
  • WHY USE IT?  Wide shots allow the audience to clearly see the subject and the immediate environment and area around them.
  • TIPS:  Similar to the extreme wide/long shots, do not overuse this shot as it robs the audience from the interesting details and features that hold their interest in your film!
Medium Shot

  • This shot now moves even closer to the subject where we see more of the subject and less of the setting and environment around them.  Keep in mind that the look of a medium or wide or close up shot is really dependent on the subject that you are filming or focussing on.  For instance when we are filming a medium shot of a person, you will no longer be able to see the entire body but rather we start to focus on a particular portion of the actor.
  • WHY USE IT?  Medium shots are often used to show a general overview of the subject.  Again, even with medium shots you are still too far to really show any great detail.  However if you intend to use close-ups or extreme close-ups (which I highly recommend) on your subject, medium shots help to prepare your audience for these close up shots.
  • TIPS: As mentioned above, I like to use medium shots to prepare the audience for close-ups and extreme close-ups.  For example, if an actor is going to pull out a ringing cell-phone from her laptop bag.  I may want to show her in a medium shot reacting to the cell phone ringing in her bag and reaching in to get it before cutting to a close-up of her face answering the phone.
Close-Up Shot

  • Close-up shots now bring the camera in close to the subject as we now focus squarely on the subject of interest.  For example, if an actor is talking the close-up shot would show the actors head and face.  We are no longer showing pieces of the environment or even the rest of the actor’s body.  The subject of interest is the talking actor and so we focus on the actors head and face.
  • WHY USE IT?  This is where you can generate interest, action, suspense, etc. in your film.  Facial expressions, an ancient artifact lying on a desk, hands typing on a keyboard – these are ordinary objects and actions that can be interesting to watch if the audience is allowed to see them up close.  Watch any modern day television drama or any recent movie and you will notice how much they use close-up shots.
  • TIPS:  Play with close-up shots and remember that close-ups are not just for the faces of your actors but for anything that you want your audience to see up close.  Newspaper headlines, license plates, computer screens, etc… if you want your audience to see it give them a close-up.  The use of these shots is a huge step forward in making your movies look great.
Extreme Close-Up Shot

  • These shots now take the camera even closer to the subject and we are now focussing on a particular feature or detail of interest such as an actor’s eyes, a hand, a door knob turning, the pressing of a specific key on a computer keyboard, etc.
  • WHY USE IT?  These are great shots to use for added suspense or to basically draw your audience closer to a specific feature or detail in a shot or scene.
  • TIPS:  You can have a lot of fun with extreme close-up shots and again play with these shots!

Final Thoughts

  • To be clear, there are more shots that can be added to this list: medium wide shot, medium close-up shot, etc.  Rather than get bogged down in the definitions of these shots, what is important to take away from this page is to be aware of how close the camera is to your subject.  Be aware of what you want your audience to see and focus on and do not be afraid to use close-up or extreme close-up shots in your work.
  • Zoom in and zoom out – resist the urge to get close-ups by using the zoom in toggle on your camcorder.  If you want a close-up shot (or extreme close-up) bring the camera closer to the subject.  Why?  Standing further away from your subject and zooming in will make it harder to shoot a steady image.  When you zoom in, you also magnify any small movements on the camcorder so your breathing or even heartbeats can cause the image to move.  Great for simulating earthquakes, but not much else.
  • Finally the idea of wide shots, medium shots, close up shots are all relative to the subject and the subject can be anything (person, pet, car, toy, etc).


Source: http://www.tvdsb.ca/webpages/takahashid/video.cfm?subpage=128730


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