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Learning From Classic Films


Part 3: Framing


When you begin creating a shot list for a project, you first create a mental picture of each shot. Where are the characters positioned? Is the frame balanced or symmetrical? What about when there is more than one character in a shot? These decisions all add up to camera framing.

Camera framing is the placement and position of the subjects in your shots. Shots are all about composition. Rather than pointing the camera at the subject, you need to compose an image. For filmmakers and videographers, a major consideration for framing is the number of subjects you feature in your shots, and their physical relationship to each other and the camera.


In cinematography, you will have some considerations when camera framing a shot:

Size — the size of your subject has a direct relationship to the importance of that subject

Relationships — when we see more than one character in a shot, we are meant to acknowledge their relationship (romantic, contentious, etc.)

Balance — a "balanced" frame includes elements on the left and right side of the frame


And in cinematography language, we will have these kinds of framing: Single Shot, Two Shot, Three Shot, Over-the-Shoulder Shot (OTS), Over-the-Hip Shot, Point-of-View Shot (POV), Insert Shot. You can know more about this in this video from Studio Binder

I know! It is very complicated!

In wedding films, I am only have 4 things to considerate when framing a shot: Sizes, Levels, Angles and Focal Lenses ( DOF), cause I do not have much time in a wedding day. I have to frame every moments as fast as I can. These 4 considerations link together, so I will mention them in 02 groups: 1. Shot sizes/ Focal lenses ( DOF) and 2. Angles/ Levels

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1. Shot sizes/ Focal lenses ( DOF)


Shot size is how much of the setting or subject is displayed within a given frame of a video, photo, or animation, hence the scope or size of the shot. Different types of camera shots in film or video communicate different narrative value, and are combined during post-production to tell a story. 

Focal lenses ( DOF - depth of field) is the distance between the nearest and the farthest objects that are in acceptably sharp focus in an image. The depth of field can be calculated based on focal length, distance to subject, the acceptable circle of confusion size, and aperture. A particular depth of field may be chosen for technical or artistic purposes. Limitations of depth of field can sometimes be overcome with various techniques/equipment.

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Types of shot size

NOTE:  Below focal lenses are for full-frame censors

- Establishing Shot ( Focal lens: 14mm-20mm): An establishing shot is a shot at the head of a scene that clearly shows us the location of the action. Establishing shots have no rules other than helping to build tone and context, but they're not required to be wide or from a drone or to be accompanied by a screen-sized title card. Often capture by drones. 

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- Extreme Wide Shot (EWS - Focal lens 20mm-24mm):  An extreme wide shot (aka extreme long shot) is a camera shot that will make your subject appear small against their location. You can also use an extreme long shot to make your subject feel distant or unfamiliar. Of all the different types of camera shots in film, consider using the extreme wide shot when you need to emphasize the location and the relationship of the characters within it.

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- Wide Shot ( WS - Focal lens 24mm- 35mm) is a camera shot that balances both the subject and the surrounding imagery. A wide shot will often keep the entire subject in frame while giving context to the environment. A wide shot should keep a good deal of space both above and below your subject. Of the many camera shots, a long shot gives us a better idea of the scene setting, and gives us a better idea of how the character fits into the area. Wide shots also create narrative distance with the subject, often dwarfing characters against an expansive terrain.

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- Full Shot ( Focal lens 24mm-50mm) is a camera shot in film that lets your subject fill the frame, head to toe, while still allowing some features of the scenery.

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- Medium Wide Shot ( Focal 35mm-50mm) A medium long shot (aka medium long shot) frames the subject from roughly the knees up. It splits the difference between a full shot and a medium shot. You can always frame camera shots from any angle as well, so don't be afraid to think about medium wide shots when behind a character.

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- Cowboy Shot ( Focal lens 50mm- 70mm) A variation on this is the cowboy shot, which frames the subject from roughly mid-thighs up. It’s called a “cowboy shot” because it is used in Westerns to frame a gunslinger’s gun or holster on his hip.

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- Medium Shot ( Focal 50mm- 70mm) Let's move onto camera shots that reveal your subject in more detail. The medium shot is one of the most common camera shots. It's similar to the cowboy shot above, but frames from roughly the waist up and through the torso. So it emphasizes more of your subject while keeping their surroundings visible. Medium shots may seem like the most standard camera shot around, but every shot size you choose will have an effect on the viewer. A medium shot can often be used as a buffer shot for dialogue scenes that have an important moment later that will be shown in a close-up shot. If you don't use all of the different types of camera shots in film, how can you signal anything to your viewer without shot size contrast.

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Zeiss Sonnar 28-70/3.5-4.5, which I've used a  for most of my time, it also has macro feature!

- Medium Close Up ( Focal lens 50mm - 85mm) The medium close-up frames your subject from roughly the chest up. So it typically favors the face, but still keeps the subject somewhat distant. The medium close-up camera shot size also keeps the characters eerily distant even during their face-to-face conversation.

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- You know it’s time for a close-up shot ( Macro lenses) when you want to reveal a subject’s emotions and reactions. The close-up camera shot fills your frame with a part of your subject. If your subject is a person, it is often their face. Of all the different types of camera shot sizes in film, a close-up is perfect for moments that are important for the character. The close-up shot size is near enough to register tiny emotions, but not so close that we lose visibility. Close-ups are great camera shots for monologues too. They let the audience get close to your character to see their facial gestures in detail.

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- An extreme close-up shot ( Macro lenses) is a type of camera shot size in film that fills the frame with your subject, and is so close that we can pick up tiny details that would otherwise be difficult to see. This camera shot size often shows eyes, gun triggers, and lips. Extreme close-up shots are sometimes shot with a macro lens for greater detail.

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There is no "right" shot size or focal lens for any particular moment, but there are shots that work better than others to create a mood, feeling, and tone. Master shot sizes and focal lens can provide context for the viewer about character motivation, the theme of the film, or show off the setting.

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2. Angles and Levels


I usually use horizontal angle when I'm filming people, and with this angle we will have some levels for each shot sizes, that I've just mentioned.

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But when I want to tell somethings different in my story. I will use following cinematic rules in framing:

- Our first camera angle is the eye level shot, and this is when your subject is at eye-level. An eye level shot can result in a neutral perspective (not superior or inferior). This mimics how we see people in real life — our eye line connecting with theirs, and it can break down boundaries. Eye level shots are actually much less standard than one might initially think, because directors often prefer to place the camera at shoulder level to attain a much more cinematic look.

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- A low angle shot frames the subject from below a their eye-line. These camera shots most often emphasize power dynamics between characters — a low angle shot on one character is often paired with a high angle shot on the other character. Low angle camera shots are a perfect camera angle for signaling superiority or to elicit feelings of fear and dread. When you've got a character who is powerful (or at least feeling powerful), consider the low angle shot. It will bring that extra bit of meaning to your shot.

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- In a high angle shot, the camera points down at your subject. It usually creates a feeling of inferiority, or “looking down” on your subject. But, again, with every other camera angle, there are many applications. The high angle shot is a versatile shot that can be used in many situations. The most common usage is to make a character seem vulnerable and powerless but there are always exceptions to the rule. So I only film subjects, b-rolls and use drones for this angle.

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- The Cowboy Shot or Hip Level Shot A Cowboy shot is when your camera is roughly waist-high. Hip level shots are often useful when one subject is seated while the other stands. Hip level shots can also be extremely useful camera angles for when you have action that occurs near the hip, like weapons being drawn, or someone reaching into their pocket. That's why it's also known as a "cowboy shot" — we can't think of hip level shots without seeing a gun, holster, and the enemy ahead in the distance, to keep the subject framed with proper head room, a hip level shot will get the job done.

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- Knee Level Shot This is when your camera height is about as low as your subject’s knees. They can emphasize a character’s superiority if paired with a low angle. It's not as extreme as a ground level shot but it gets the same feeling across.

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- A ground level shot is when your camera’s height is on ground level with your subject. This camera angle is used a lot to feature a character walking without revealing their face, but it can help to make the viewer more active and use the actor's performance to build an idea.

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- Over-The-Shoulder Shot (OTS) Another element of camera shots to consider is the perspective of the shot. An over-the-shoulder shot shows your subject from behind the shoulder of another character. Because it emulates perspective, it’s common in conversation scenes. Over-the-shoulder shots can help to provide scene orientation, and connect the characters on an emotional level. Perfect for reading vows in ceremony.

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- Point of View Shot (POV) Now let's talk about choosing camera shots that show the point-of-view (or POV) of one of your characters. A POV shot is a camera shot that shows the view from a character or an inanimate object, like a bullet whizzing through the air or a bowling ball rolling down the lane. Most POV shots will be from a character's perspective, but there is no hard and fast rule that requires them to be from living creatures =)). A POV shot is generally sandwiched between two other shots: A camera shot of a character looking at something  // Cut to your (POV) point of view camera shot  //  A camera shot showing the character's reaction A point of view shot shows us exactly what the character sees, and we get to understand what's generating the character's reaction.

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- Over-head Shot or Bird's Eye View An overhead shot is from above, looking down on your subject. These are typically shot from 90 degrees above — anything less might be considered a high angle shot instead. An overhead shot doesn't need to be super high, but it can be. Overhead shots are great for providing perspective on a scene — but not just any perspective. It's often used as either a "neutral" or sometimes "divine" point of view.

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