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Composition Questions

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  • Composition Questions

    Hi all, I'm an aspiring cinematographer, and had a few questions pertaining to composition. I'm aware of all the shot types, ranging from Extreme Close-UP (ECU) to Extreme Long Shot (ELS) but I'm having trouble 'classifying' certain shots.

    For instance, a "Medium Shot" is defined by capturing a subject from Waist to Head, but what if there is a shot where the subject is in the forefront of the frame, let's say the right side, and is captured from Waist to Head, but the shot itself is actually a "Long Shot" or "Wide Shot" in terms of how much background it reveals, like a boat or church or school in their entirety. Would this shot be classified as a type of Long Shot or would it still be considered a Medium Shot simply because it frames the subject from Waist to Head, regardless of how big or wide the shot is in totality?

    Additionally, a Medium Close-Up (MCU) is defined by framing a subject from Shoulders to Head yet in some frames with unusual angles, the frame is more closely zoomed in, and while it shows the subject from the shoulders to the head, the shot only goes to the forehead. Would this still be considered an MCU because it shows the subject from shoulders to head, or would it be more accurately described as a Close-Up (CU)?

    Thanks very much in advance for any help you all may offer.

  • #2
    There are no real hard and fast rules, just what is the best way to explain the composition that you want. The example of the foreground subject would be a wide shot and the position of the actor would be considered blocking. So the composition as a whole would be wide, which would tell the cinematographer that the lens likely required would be a wide lens, the subject blocking would be mid-shot on the actor. with explaining the shot size you are basically explaining what kind of shot you need, so then the camera can be placed appropriately and the correct lens can be chosen. It could naturally be argued though that the shot is determind by the subject, but you would have to give additional information to say, I want a midshot on the talent/object, but on a wide lens.

    Plus if there are storyboards available half the battle is done because it is already pictorially suggested what the frame is, its just up to the director or 1st AD to say, right set up for the close up or the mid shot.


    • #3
      Thank you very much for your in depth reply!