In lots of ways, making videos is easy. You just take a camera and shoot, right?
This is true, but making videos and working with camera angles well is an art . One of the things we tend to see from beginner filmmakers are types of camera shot which are unwieldy long takes and roving wide shots, rather than videos that integrate different shots and different camera angles. A surefire way to instantly give your videos some extra polish, and the impression that you’ve got good movie making skills, is to edit between a variety of camera shots and angles and cut them together into a continuous sequence with the camera movement.
This gives the video a more advanced look with different camera angles, helps to tell a story, and keeps the visuals dynamic and interesting so holds a viewer’s attention for longer ( the quest of any You Tuber). Cowboy shot, pov shots , high angle shot, establishing shot, extreme long shot, medium long shot, extreme close up shot, etc are the type of shot that a new filmmaker should make depth study about.
Working with different camera angles shot often means filming the same action a few times, but the results are well worth the extra effort. If you’re a beginner filmmaker looking to give your skills a boost, take a look at this foolproof, quick cut plan to work with shots and angles like a camera pro – even if you’ve never edited before.
Shoot a Wide Shot that covers all the action
This is likely to be quite similar to the shot you had in mind to begin with, but rather than a ‘roving’ shot that travels, or zooms in and out, plan to shoot it as a static take. Even better, if you can stabilise the shot on a tripod, you’ll get an even better effect.
If your action moves around, break your one continuous shot into segments and film each one separately as a static Wide Shot.
Shoot either a Mid Shot or a Close up shot
These two are great shots to cut between and you can use them to give extra detail, or to strengthen the relationship between the audience and the subject.
A Mid Shot is usually half a person’s body, i.e. their waist up to their head, with a little room at the top of the frame. A Close Up features just the subject’s head and shoulders.
Shoot either (or both) of these, representing the same action, or a part of it, as your Wide Shot. For the best finish, make sure to move your camera angles and shoot at an angle of greater than 30 degrees difference to the first shot.
Shoot at least one Cutaway shot using perfect camera angles
A ‘Cutaway’ shot adds a detail, adds a message or disrupts the sequence. Its purpose is to breakaway from the main action in the editing in a way that helps tell the story. A classic example is to cutaway to a ticking clock.
You can use cutaways in lots of creative ways. You can cross cut between characters or events, or use cutaways to break the fourth wall. You can also just use them to simply distract from a continuity issue (a very handy trick in editing).
You might want to shoot two, three or even more cutaway shots with different camera angles, depending on the video you’re making and the style you’re aiming for.
Cut them together
Once you have the shots listed above, you can edit (cut) them into a sequence, using an editing app on your phone, tablet or computer. We like iMovie, Final Cut or Premiere Pro, but there are lots of editing apps available for different platforms.
Alternate between your Wide Shot and your MidShot/Closeup regularly, then use your Cutaways like visual punctuation marks. Using a selection of these three key shots will help to keep your video visually interesting and help to give it a more professional feel, without becoming too complicated. Knowledge of camera angles is also key in making a good film.
Got the bug? There are lots of other shots you can consider adding in as well, depending on the nature of your video and your experience level. Try experimenting with some over-the-shoulder shots, using shot-reverse-shot sequences or different closeup sizes to add some drama.
You might also want to take a look at our Moving Shots project, which breaks down some of the more ambitious moving shots you can work with.