Friday Fundas: Types of Shots in movies

Friday Fundas: Types of Shots in movies

Based on the distance of the camera from the object the types of shots can be broadly classified into the following categories

  • Close up / Extreme Close up Shot (CU/ECU)
  • Medium Close up Shot (MCU)
  • Medium Shot (MS)
  • Medium Long Shot (MLS)
  • Long Shot (LS)
  • Extreme Long Shot (ELS)

The type of shots are mentioned in the shooting script of a scene. This is determined by the director and cinematographer. Let us look at some examples of the shots from popular English movies

Close up / Extreme Close up: Camera is so close to the object that it fills the entire screen. These shots are used to stress the importance of a character or a moment in the film. The close up shot of the eyes of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill emphasizes her sharp focus and alertness in the fight sequence

Extreme Close up shot
Extreme Close up shot – from Kill Bill

Medium Close up Shot: Close up of one or more characters including their shoulders and head is an example for this shot. This is used mainly when focusing on conversation and dialogues between the characters. Some of the most powerful dialogues in The Dark Knight from Joker has been taken as a Medium Close up Shot.

Medium Close up Shot
Medium Close up Shot from The Dark Knight

Medium Shot: The shot is generally from Waist up or knees down for a character. Usually the character occupies two thirds of the screen. This is mainly used in indoor sequences placing emphasis on a character or relationship between two characters. The medium shot from Amazing spider man when Peter Parker is in his high school is an example of this shot. This shot reveals the physical state of Peter Parker and his feelings for Gwen Stacy.

Medium Shot
Medium Shot from Amazing Spiderman

Medium Long Shot: This shot is between the Medium and Long shot. This reveals almost full length of a character and is used to reveal the relation of the surroundings to the character. The character is usually in the middle of the frame. The focus is also on the entire attire of a character. The shot of Clint Eastwood’s appearance in the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is an example of this shot.

Medium Long Shot
Medium Long Shot from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Long Shot: The characters or object is in full view of the camera and they are seen along with the surroundings. Most of the Action sequences are taken as long shot. The scene from Expendables 2 is an example of this shot. This used a lot of long shots to give importance to the ensemble rather than the single character.

Long Shot
Long Shot from The Expendables 2

Extreme Long Shot: The subject and the characters become the background to the shot and the environment takes precedence over the objects. This is used to reveal the entire atmosphere. Movies like Avatar, Hobbit, Gravity, Jurassic Park used a lot of Extreme long shots to make the audience acclimatized to the environment.

Extreme Close up shot
Extreme long shot from Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Lot of thoughts go in before capturing the visual into a frame. Each shot would place different emphasis on the characters, emotions and surroundings. All these contribute to the viewing experience of the audience. Next time when you are watching a movie, check out for the kind of shots used in various situations.

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