Correct video shooting techniques for Continuity, Close-ups and Cut-aways!
Getting the right video images for your production is very important. Whether you are taping an unscripted documentary or a completely written story, it is the camera operator’s responsibility to create and capture the images that can be edited to tell your story.
The classic formula for television production is to have a master or wide shot to establish the scene, then move into medium and close up shots to bring attention to the action and characters.
Close-ups and cut-away shots are used to concentrate attention and provide more information for the viewer. Wide shots are used at times afterwards to keep the action in context. This method is pretty well the Hollywood style and provides a solid starting point for creative shooting and editing. The wide shot tells the audience where the action is taking place, like a bird’s eye view of the Arch or a panoramic view of the St Louis skyline. It could also be just a still photograph of a house.
Notice that in the nightly news the reporter always stands in front of the scene or disaster site so that viewer gets both the spoken commentary and a picture of the event.
Provide 5 to 10 seconds of tape rolling time before and after the action in order to give the editor plenty of choices for pulling the desired scenes. If there is action coming into or exiting frame, roll enough tape for clean entrances and exits. Unless there is a compelling reason, normally do not zoom in or out during a shot. When a zoom is directed by the script always start with a well-composed frame and end with a well- composed frame.
Help your editor by shooting a wide variety of cut-away shots. Shoot objects at different angles and distances. Get cut-away and close up shots of all elements mentioned in the main scene. Shoot the close-ups and cut-aways after the main action is over to conserve valuable time with talent and subjects. Shoot a variety of people reaction shots at different angles and distances. When changing angles or distances make the change large enough to be noticeable. Change the angle beyond 50 degrees to be visually different enough.
On-screen action is the result of either an action by the main subject in the frame while the camera is fixed, or panning over or with the subjects to create simulated action. You could also provide a combination of both. All of these techniques can help contribute to the story.
Continuity is very important. People should be dressed the same and the light about the same for the shots supposedly taking place at one time. Continuity requires that the direction and speed of action is the same from shot to shot.
If a person is walking left to right in the first scene, it should always do that unless there is some on-screen reason to change the viewpoint. Remember that the video is a series of shots assembled in an order to tell the story. Always think of shooting a sequence, not just independent shots. The wide or master shot should be around 10-15 seconds long to allow all the content to be seen by the viewer. Action shots should be as long as necessary for the action, plus 5 or 10 seconds at the beginning and ending. Static cut-aways and close-ups should be at least 5 to 10 seconds long and allow the editor to pick the right few seconds to use.