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Common video and shot types

An overview of the general video types and shots used most commonly in film production.

When it is time to go out and film your video content, it is useful to have an understanding of how to frame your shots and to know the general terminology used by professionals.

There are two big benefits to this:

  1. The first is to clearly articulate what you’re looking for during the storyboarding process and when you’re collaborating with other people so everyone’s speaking the same language.
  2. The second is to save you time during filming, as going into the filming process with a set list of shots will take the guesswork out of your shoot. The alternative would be wasting time taking numerous different shot types to find the perfect framing.

The following are the most common video and shot types used in film production, with their corresponding shorthand in brackets.

Video Types

Piece to Camera (PTC)

An example of a presenter speaking directly to camera, also known as a Piece to Camera shot. The presenter talks directly to the camera, as if they are talking directly to the viewer. This style usually features only one person talking and is often used to convey information.

Interview

An example of someone being interviewed for an interview style video shoot. In an interview, one speaker talks to one or more other people, however it can typically be one-on-one. A common format would be one person (the interviewer) asking the other person questions (the interviewee).

Vox Pop

An example of someone being interviewed on the street for a VOX pop video. Vox pop is short for the Latin phrase ‘vox populi’ which translates to ‘voice of the people’. In these ‘on the street’ style interviews a presenter or cameraperson asks people for their opinion on a subject. Generally, you wouldn’t invite who you were going to talk to but would randomly stop people on the street to get their opinions. Bearing in mind, you would usually need to get permission from the people being interviewed to include their likeness in your video.

Main Shot Types

Wide Shot (WS)

An example of a wide shot. This shows the whole of a scene and can be a good way to introduce a new location or start a new part of your narrative.

Group Shot (GS)

An example of a group shot. This will show a full group of people. This can help the viewer understand each person’s relative position to each other.

2 Shot (2-S)

An example of a three person group shot. This type of Group Shot shows a specific amount of people and where they are in the space in relation to each other. This could also be a ‘3 Shot’ or a ‘4 Shot’, depending on the number of people.

Long Shot (LS)

An example of a long shot. A Long Shot can be of one or more people and shows them from ‘head to toe’. Framing out someone’s head or feet can look strange, so try getting their full body in shot.

Mid Shot (MS)

An example of a mid body shot. This is a shot of a person from the waist up. This will show some of the person’s surroundings to give context to where they are and is a good way to introduce someone to the viewer.

Medium Close-Up (MCU)

An example of a medium close-up shot. Similar to a Mid Shot, a Medium Close-Up has just a person’s head and shoulders. This is used very often on the news or in a documentary when someone is talking as it seems ‘life-size’ when shown on TV and can help the viewer to relate to someone.

As a general rule, place the bridge of the person’s nose about two-thirds of the way up the frame to give your subject what is known as ‘headroom’. If the person is looking out of the frame (i.e. not looking directly at the camera), leave space in front of them and try to position the bridge of the nose around the middle of the frame horizontally.

Close-Up (CU)

An example of a close-up shot. This frames someone’s full face, so it can show the viewer the subject’s full emotional reaction to a topic.

Big Close-Up (BCU)

An example of a big close-up shot. Not that commonly used, this shot focuses tightly on someone’s face or reaction.

Other Shot Types

Cut Away (C/A)

An example of a cut away shot. This would be where you Cut Away from your subject (for example, a person) to a different angle or piece of footage. This can often continue with the same audio track of the person speaking from your last shot. For example, you could Cut Away to a Close Up of an object the person is holding, or to footage of what the person is talking about. If you are interviewing someone about deforestation for example, you might Cut Away to stock footage of trees being cut down in the rainforest.

Over the Shoulder (O/S)

An example of an over the shoulder shot. This is where you are showing the action ‘over someone’s shoulder’, so if you have two people talking to each other across a table, you might show one person’s perspective of the other person by framing them in a similar position to the person asking the questions, sometimes including their shoulder and the back of their head.

All images licenced under © University of Edinburgh, 2022, CC BY-SA 4.0.

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