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A shot in the arm

Photo: S. Siva Saravanan   | Photo Credit: S_Siva Saravanan

I am sure most of you would have shot your first film using either a mobile phone or a camera. It could have been anything from your sibling’s performance at the school annual day to your little brother or sister crawling from one room to another.

With access to technology, film-making has not only become easy, but also an integral part of our daily lives. A film is cherished, for it is a powerful medium of storytelling and captures a moment for eternity. The visual magic is convincing and influential. No wonder, almost all of us love the experience of watching a movie. And some of us want to try our hands at film-making too, chiefly to express our creativity.

Break it up

A film, in short, is a story conveyed through a series of shots, scenes and sequences. A shot is the first step to making a film. It is basically a collection of frames put together from one cut to another cut. In camera terms, it starts when you start recording and ends the moment you stop recording. In terms of editing, it is described as frames in between one transition and another.

Types of shots

There are different types of shots for different occasions and requirements, depending on the meaning that has to be conveyed. Let’s imagine you are going to cover your school’s cultural event and it is going to be viewed by someone on the other side of the globe. Would you not want to show where the event is taking place? Was it in an open ground or the school auditorium? How big was the event? Were there stalls and a shamiana ? To show this, you could probably go to the terrace of the school building and capture the entire area with permission and under adult supervision. Or you could stand far away from the venue and zoom out to capture the entire space. This is called an ‘extreme long shot’, also called ‘establishment shot’. Here, you are trying to establish the topography. This shot will not lay emphasis on micro-level details, but sets the mood, tone and nature of the event. Next, you could go closer to the stage and capture what is taking place there. The guests are seated on the dais and someone is addressing the gathering. This is called a ‘long shot’. It shows the full length of an object or a person in relation to its surroundings. Wait, who is speaking there? The school pupil leader or someone else? Let’s take a closer look. A ‘mid shot’ covers the person from waist up. When you try to zoom in to cover the chest line of a person, it is called a ‘mid close-up’. You could go ‘close up’ to show expression of the speaker (relaxed or tensed) as she or he delivers the address, and ‘extreme close-up’ to show, for instance, a stone-studded band, that the speaker is wearing to go with the theme of the celebration.

These are the types of shots in terms of area coverage. Next week, we will discuss about shots that are taken in terms of camera placements. Stay tuned.


1. You can even shoot a whole film in one shot. Russian Ark, a historical drama, was filmed in a 96-minute single shot – a steadicam sequence shot.

2. Birdman, which won the Oscars in 2014, was made to look like it was filmed in a single shot, though it was not.

3. A shot common in western films is a cowboy shot, which covers a person from the head to mid-thigh, keeping the holster, gun as well as the face in view.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 7:11:51 PM |

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