Video Essentials

Varying Your Shot Composition: Video 101


The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

A fundamental part of visual storytelling is variety. If your entire video consists of one single shot, it’s going to be hard to keep the audience engaged for the duration of the story. That’s why in most videos and movies there are a variety of shots or compositions that are used to enhance the storytelling. Keeping in mind the tips from our lesson Framing and Composition, check out the most common types of these shots below.

To help illustrate these various shots, we have taken still images from two recent Vimeo HQ videos, Vimeo Man and Texas Intern. Let’s dive into these examples!



EWS – Extremely Wide Shot (or Establishing)
Establishing shots are shown towards the beginning or end of a scene, to set the stage and show the full environment. Here we show the exterior of Vimeo HQ, so the audience knows where the story is about to take place.



WS – Wide Shot
Wide shots show the whole subject and their surrounding environment. In this shot, we show Matt at his desk, but also leave it enough room in the shot so that we can see that others are present.



MS – Mid Shot
The Mid Shot gets closer to the main subject, showing more detailed gestures and body language. Here is Matt coming upon Vimeo Man in disbelief.



MCU – Medium Close Up
Medium Close Ups are just a touch closer than Mid Shots, but give greater detail, in this case it’s emphasizing Matt and his obsession with all things Vimeo.



CU – Close Up
Close Ups fill the frame almost entirely with the subject’s face. This emphasizes a character’s facial expressions and helps the audience understand their reactions. Here is a close up shot of the Texan, blowing smoke from his pistol while squinting his eyes.



ECU – Extreme Close Up
Extreme Close Ups are super close to the subject, usually detailing just one part of their face, like the eyes or mouth. In this case, it’s Vimeo Man’s flashy glasses.



Cut-In
Cut-Ins, also known as insert shots, typically show objects or props that a character is manipulating. For example in the shot above we see the Texan’s pistol as he is firing it.



Two-Shot
Two-Shots show two subjects in the frame and their spatial relation to one another. Usually both are positioned to fill up roughly the same amount of space within the frame. Two shots are often used during dialogue scenes like in the shot above where Andrea is explaining Vimeo to Matt.



OTS – Over The Shoulder Shot
Over The Shoulder shots are also used in dialogue scenes to show conversations between two people but with an emphasis on a particular character’s perspective. Here we see Dan and the Texan discussing modes of transportation.

All of these common shot types emphasize different elements of your video. Whether it’s the setting, a facial expression, or an object in an insert shot, they all help to tell the story by focusing the viewers attention. It’s up to you as a video maker to tell your story in a series of shots, so think of what you want to convey and emphasize that with your shot selection. You’ll find that a good dose of shot variety helps keep your audience engaged and watching, and that’s a good thing!

Check back next week to learn tripod tricks or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.




Discussion

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  1. Great tips, but they only really apply if you are making drama. We have to reinvent our methods for short form web video.

    Posted by Jonathan Glazier | August 19, 2011, 8:42 am