Shot Types to Use in Storyboards

February 8, 2017 - Film Production, Tips, Useful Resources, Video Production
Shot Types to Use in Storyboards

Language of Film and Video

Conventions in film and video production assign names to commonly used shot types. The shot names are shortcuts for the framing and composition and indicate the position of the camera in relationship to the subject.

These conventions save time when communicating with the crew and are part of “film grammar. But they also can communicate extra meaning to deepen the audience’s emotional engagement with the story.

As a director/filmmaker you direct your audience’s attention to “where to look in the frame” (showing, or revealing, what information is most important to reveal at the moment). At the same time it’s imperative to engage and hold your audience’s attention visually.

So getting your audience’s attention begins with a compelling story and is supported and emphasized by the composition of the shots. Storyboards are a great place to start building the connection with your audience.

shot types for storyboarding*Shots are commonly described in relation to the “subject” of the frame.

Progression of Shots

Another element is the progression of a sequence – in shot types – is important in creating drama and tension. The shot sequences and lengths also create a visual rhythm when creating storyboards for a project you direct or for a storyboard presentation. [However, when creating storyboards for a director, you will probably be given a list of shots to compose for him/her.]

Generalizations for you to use as guides:

CUs draw your audience into the action or emotion…increases tension and attention.
Long Shots keep your audience at a safe distance (and can be used to relieve tension). Also used as an Establishing Shot to orient viewer in time and space.
POV shots are used when you want to have your audience understand what the character is thinking or observing.
Reaction shot (can be a MS or CU depending on the size of shot preceding it) can tell the audience what they should be feeling about what is happening. (ie Something funny happens,show a CU Reaction Shot of someone smiling or laughing to let the audience know that it’s a funny moment. It gives them “permission” to laugh and join in on the joke.)

Shot types

    1. Close Up Shot (CU): A close range of distance between camera and subject.
      1. Used when you want the audience to pay close attention to a character or element in the frame.
      2. Used to heighten tension.
      3. ECU (extreme close up) show extreme detail.
    2. Medium Shot (MS): Waist up of a character or medium distance from subject.
      1. Primarily used after a subject has already been introduced so that there has already been context.
    3. Wide Shot (WS): The subject (person) takes up the full height of the frame. A small amount of room is left above the subject’s head and below the subjects feet, making the wide shot of the person appear comfortably place in the frame.
    4. Extreme Wide Shot (EWS) A variation of the WS which is often used as the Establishing Shot (ES)
      1. Use to establish an area. It holds a lot of information but not necessarily a lot of detail. It’s difficult for viewers to take in every aspect of a long shot since it may evolve/move/be cut away from after providing the feel for where “we” are.
      2. Master shots are usually done in a extreme wide shot.
        1. Master shot is a technique of filming the entire scene in long shot and then re-shooting same action in medium or close ups to be edited together later.
        2. A/k/a the extreme long shot (used for epic views and panoramas).

Camera Placement Shots

    1. Point of View Shot (POV): A shot which shows a view from a character’s perspective.
      1. Can be a long, medium or close up.
      2. The same effect can be accomplished by taking a tight over-the-shoulder shot (OSS) from a character indicating the POV is that of the character as well as and the viewer. (style choice)
    2. Over the Shoulder Shot (OSS or OTS) is a shot looking from behind a person at the subject. Also known as the ‘third-person’ shot.
    3. Reaction Shot:
      1. A shot of someone looking off screen. (MS or CU)
      2. A reaction shot can also be of a person simply listening (or reacting) to the other person’s action or dialogue. (MS or CU)
    4. Cutaway (CA) A shot of something other than the current subject/action. It’s an interruption used to adjust pacing, heighten tension.
    5. A moving shot evolves (changes from the beginning to the end, in which case you can use a beginning frame and end frame with an arrow indicting such.)

TIP: Try to use dialogue sparingly wherever possible. For great film and video storytelling, knowing the language of film and when and how to use it is valuable. So if you are directing, remember to show the story, show the emotion and show the events with images wherever you can, rather than using “talking heads” of people telling the story.

Show vs tell. Storyboards are a great first step after the script is finished.


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