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Shot Types –The Language of Cinema


Medium Wide Shot (MWS) – This type of shot is usually used with a standing subject. The lower frame generally cuts the subject off at the hips or just above their knees.


Medium Shot (MS) – A medium shot typically frames the subject from the waist up. With this type of shot, the subject and the location are given equal weight. There is typically enough room in the shot to see hand gestures and arm movement. If multiple subjects are in the frame, then it can be classified as a two-shot or three-shot.


Medium Close-Up (MCU) – In this composition, the bottom of the frame passes through the midpoint of the chest. You can still see the setting, but the shot is more intimate. This shot is also called a bust shot as it matches the composition of classic bust sculptures from the art world.


Close-Up (CU) – You'll use close-up shots to capture things like facial expressions. A close-up can also be used for things like a subjects hands or interaction with an object in the scene. The goal is to isolate the subject and minimize (or even remove) the background.


Extreme Close-Up (XCU) – An extreme close-up is generally reserved for dramatic action. It can be a tight shot of your subject's eyes or lips for example to add emphasis. You can of course use the same designation of CU or XCU for an inanimate object, such as a key going into a lock or a doorknob turning.


Point of View (POV) – In this shot type, you are trying to let the audience see a scene through the character's eyes. The goal is to position the camera at eye level and match framing as to what the character would see. These shots are powerful, but should be used sparingly as they can be cliché.


Over the Shoulder (OTS) – If two or more characters are in a scene a shot can be composed to show both. Typically one character is the focus while the other is used to frame the shot.


Master Shot – For many cinematographers, they'll capture an entire scene by first shooting a master shot. This shot is wide enough to see the location and all subjects and is shot for all dialog and action (typically from a locked position). The entire scene is shot in one take from this position. Additional angles (especially close-ups) are then shot and intercut with the Master shot during editing.

Tip: Don't Just Zoom
It's important to remember to move the actual camera from time to time. If you merely zoom from a wide shot to a tight shot, the resulting edit will feel abrupt (which is often called a jump cut). For the smoothest editing, be sure to physically move the camera when changing composition.

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