Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Shot and The Scene.

The Shot

Shots are the smallest unit of dramatic action in the movie and serve as building blocks for scenes. Each shot must have a purpose in the scene, otherwise it should not be used. Once the shot's purpose is achieved, it is time to cut to the next shot.

A shot must be as short as possible while still achieving its purpose. If it is too long, the audience will be bored; if it is too short, they will be frustrated.

A shot must be as short as possible while still achieving its purpose.

Several factors contribute to determining proper shot length:

Audience Expectation - In most cases the editor cuts to a new shot simply because the audience expects it. The audience may need to get closer, further away or angled differently to see the action. Audience expectation works on a subliminal level. Still, if the expectation is not met they will feel it and react negatively.

For example, if a character is injured in wide shot, the audience will want to see a close-up in order to clarify what happened. If the first shot drags on too long, it will frustrate the audience and possibly impede their understanding the action. Running a shot too long is common error with novice filmmakers.

Comprehension - Shots require various viewing times for the audience to comprehend them. Simple compositions, static subjects, and shots similar to their predecessor need minimal screen time for comprehension. On the other hand, complicated compositions, moving subjects, and shots vastly different than their predecessor need more screen time. Despite this, the speed with an audience can absorb the meaning and purpose of a shot should not be underestimated.

Don't underestimate how quickly the audience can absorb the meaning of a shot.

Action Requirements - Some shots contain an action that must be completed before cutting to the next shot. If the action is too long to hold audience interest, you should compress it using the techniques discussed later in the course.

Editor Imposed - In the above situations, the editor determines shot length based on audience needs. Occasionally, the editor will impose a cut to create a response in the audience. This can be to: create emphasis, maintain rhythm, jar the audience, or make a symbolic point.

The Scene

Just as shots are the building blocks for scenes, so are scenes the building blocks for the overall movie. Each scene must move the story forward in a significant way. Ideally, it should unfold like a story in miniature, with a beginning, middle and an end. Obviously, this will not be the case all the time, particularly with transitional scenes.

Scenes should unfold like a miniature story, with a beginning, middle and end.

When constructing a scene, it is essential to consider how it fits into the overall story. Specifically, you should consider the:

objectives of the scene within the story

objectives of the characters within the scene

scene to scene rhythm

You are not limited to a single time period or location when constructing scenes, rather, you can choose from three designs: continuous action, parallel action and montage. Each design is characterized by a progressive loosening of the time/space continuum.

here's an example for a scene with shots listed..

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