Shot Types to Use in Storyboards

February 8, 2017 - Storyboarding
Shot Types to Use in Storyboards

What is the Language of Film and Video?

The first steps in the production of a film or video is to learn the visual language of moving images. Great film and video storytelling requires knowing the language of film and when and how to use it. Professional film and video productions assign names to commonly used shot types. Knowing these shot types save time when communicating with the crew and are part of “film grammar. These camera shots, combined with perspective tricks, will enable you to plan out your scenes in an easy-to-read visual shorthand.

One of a director/filmmaker’s goal is to visually direct the audience’s attention to “where to look in the frame” while engaging and holding the audience’s attention. (showing or revealing the most important information at the moment).

Shots and camera placement can communicate extra meaning which will deepen the audience’s emotional engagement with the story.shot types for storyboarding

*Shots are commonly described in relation to the “subject” within the frame.

What are the basic camera shot types?

    1. Close Up Shot (CU): A close range of distance between camera and subject.
      • Used when you want the audience to pay close attention to a character or element in the frame.
      • Used to heighten tension.
    2. Extreme Close Up Shot (ECU): show extreme detail.
    3. Medium Shot (MS): Waist up of a character or medium distance from subject.
      • Primarily used after a subject has already been introduced so that there has already been context.
    4. Wide Shot (WS) or Long Shot: The camera’s 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 placed in the frame.
    5. Extreme Wide Shot (EWS) A variation of the WS which is often used as the Establishing Shot.
      • Establishing Shot (ES): Used to establish an area/location. 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.
    6. Master shots are usually done in a extreme wide shot. This type of camera shot is a filmmaking technique of shooting the entire action of the scene in long shot and then re-shooting same action in medium or close ups which can be edited in post production.  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 taken from behind a person who is looking 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.

What is a Progression of Shots?

A progression of shots is called a sequence. A sequence of shots causes an emotional reaction in the audience. This deepening can be accomplished within the progression of shot types in a sequence and knowing when to use them –  The length of the shot sequences also create a visual rhythm. This can be developed and planned by using storyboards and animatics and finally accomplished after principal photography during post production editing.

Ultimately, getting your audience’s attention begins with a compelling story. The story can then be visually supported and emotionally punctuated by the composition of the shots.

Finally: Show vs tell.  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. Therefore, when 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.

Bottom Line:  Storyboards are a great first step after a great script is finished.


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