Shots and Angles
Much of what I have learned about shots and angles I learned from Lloyd Freidus the Director of Photography on two of my pictures. This template on the left is common for illustrating where shots fall, however it doesn't take into consideration where the head room is in a shot and that is extremely important. This next illustration frames the shot allowing for head room and I think better serves us. Keep in mind that the practical application of these shots can vary greatly from these examples and it’s up to you and your cinematographer to frame the perfect shot for you.
Wide Shot (WS) or Long Shot (LS): The wide shot tells us where the scene is taking place and gives us a sense of geography. It used to be called the Long Shot exclusively, but for some reason it's called the wide shot now. It is often used as the Master Shot. It can be used for but doesn’t have to be an establishing shot. An establishing shot is a shot that orients us to a location. However when it revolves around a subject it can be distancing emotionally for the viewer, it can reflect or illustrate alienation in the subject as well. In this wide shot from my feature ALONG FOR THE RIDE. Maria portrayed by Jenny Gago stands on the porch of her cantina. We can see the landscape around her and get a feel for the environment. However this was not an establishing shot.
Full Shot (FS): From the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Not to be confused with a wide shot. Here Maria stands on the porch as she watches Jake's sons drive off.
Medium or Mid Shot (MS): The Medium Shot or Mid Shot is a more intimate shot than the wide shot or full shot. It includes the subject and only some surroundings, shows the subjects body language and what they might be doing physically, perhaps what have in their hands.
Close-up (CU): Shows greater detail of the subject than the Medium shot. It does not include very much if any background detail.
Two Shot: Includes two subjects. In this two shot from ALONG FOR THE RIDE, Terry portrayed by Randall Batinkoff and his brother Vance portrayed by Dylan Haggerty take an uneasy break from their long drive.
Over the shoulder (OS): A variation of the two shot, in the over the shoulder shot we see from one subjects point of view (POV). The subjects back and shoulder is to one side of the frame. It gives us a sense of geography and distance between subject and what they are looking at. This example is from my film THE SECOND ROOM as Stanley portrayed by Richard Neil tells his story to a priest portrayed by George C. Simms.
High Angle: The camera is above our subjects looking down at them. The higher the shot the smaller the subject. The subject is emotionally smaller and less significant. This shot when used in conjunction with a wide shot can be an interesting master or establishing shot. In this shot from ALONG FOR THE RIDE Vance waits for his brother at a bus stop in Mexico to pick him up. We look down from above on this lonely figure.
Low Angle: Here the camera is significantly lower than our subject which can make our subject look very ominous or intimidating.
The Oner: The ONER as I refer to it is not necessarily a Long Take. A Long Take is a single shot that is as its name says, is very long. A Long Take can be extremely complicated and time consuming to shoot like the opening shot of Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL or the opening shot of Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS or the club scene from Scorcese's GOODFELLAS. It's elegant, but on small pictures, time is of the essence and this type of Long Take is out of the question. However, Mike Leah's SECRETS & LIES utilizes the Long Take in an extremely simple yet compelling way when Cynthia meets Hortense for the first time in the cafe. This has no blocking to speak of. They start sitting and it ends sitting. Or even Polanski's ROSEMARY BABY, where he does a Long Take of Rosemary calling her doctor from the phone booth. Simple, claustrophobic and tense.
Blocking Diagrams, Shots and Clips
Click on the link above to see how I used this in ALONG FOR THE RIDE. Scene 25 is a Oner that was edited into two pieces and Scene 31 is a simple Long Take. My use of the Oner is to gain much needed time, but also to include blocking. I set the camera in one spot and then block the actors to move from a Wide Shot into a Medium Shot into a Close Up or Medium Close Up. I got in one or two takes. There is no camera movement with dollies or cranes, etc. Panning and tilting help, but is all I use. I suggest to low budget filmmakers to do at least one, maybe two Oners in their film.
I learned how to do the Oner from watching Film Noirs. This was a way to save time and propel the action simply and elegantly in these low budget and often B movies.
This wide shot is from ALONG FOR THE RIDE. Jake Cowens, the boys father, portrayed by J.E. Freeman dies in the back of Maria's cantina in Mexico.
Wide Shot or Establishing Shot:
This could be considered an establishing shot. It sets up a location, the geography of our environment and the characters in the scene. It is a wide shot or a long shot. This is way too far away, in my opinion, to be called a full shot.
Two shot in CU: In this shot of Terry and Vance driving along the desolate roads at night, it serves several purposes by being a two shot, a close up and an over the shoulder.
Live concert shot of Jay Johnson and his puppet Bob from my comedy doc I'M NO DUMMY. This is really a "dirty two shot" because I want to give Bob, the puppet, more power than Jay. So Jay is minimized in the shot. A "dirty" shot contains some physical intrusion into the composition of the shot. Can also help to give a sense of distance between two actors who are far apart.