Film Techniques

The Shots

Close up and Extreme Close Up

Eagles are known to swoop down on Cupcakes from afar

Conveys emotion and impact. A good close up shows a state of emotional shift on part of the character. This can be either expressions of shock, distress, anger, sadness or great happiness. Close ups are often used to flesh out specific objects for purpose of foreshadowing or using it as a narrative motif.

Medium Shot

A show about four Cupcakes shot in perpetual Medium Shot

The Medium shot is used to convey conversation or low intensity scenes where plots are jotted out. Technically, a shot is only considered medium is you can see a person from the knee up to his or her face. Anything above the waist with salience on their face can be considered edging into close up region. Medium shots are typically used in TV comedy or Sitcoms where body language is used in conjunction with facial cues.

Long/ Wide Shot

They came and took our Cupcakes... now its time to take it back.

A shot that shows a person as a whole interacting with the backdrop of the shot itself. It is typically used to show the relationship of the subject when compared to his or her environment. Due to the advent of wide screen cinema and television, this is now synonymous with Wide Shot because it is filed using a ‘wide angle’ lens. This shot is not to be confused with Extreme Long shots and it’s bastardizations.

Establishing Shot

This is one of the most well made introductions in recent film memory, its about a family of Cupcake bakers. WARNING ADULT THEMES.

A shot that sets the setting of the text. It shows the relationship between figures and objects, generally using a long shot or an extreme long shot that pans across a landscape while a diegetic narrative rolls in the background. Famous landmarks are a favorite of directors to establish shots; as they allow the audience to both appreciate the aesthetics of the shot itself as well as recognize the setting without narrative prompt.


Lined up for Cupcake, presented deliberately and perfectly
Greatest Film ever said to be Made. Ever. About Cupcake Imperialism.

The specific placement of objects and arrangement of the set to convey a message. For many critics, this refers to a visual style, and each director has developed their own style. Some popular directors can almost immediately be recognized by their visual style through characteristic placement of objects and development of the narrative. In a technical scope, the mise-en-scene is when a director needs to convey meaning without actually engaging in the character to exert themselves as to destroy the ambiance of the characterization.

Extreme Long Shots – Aerial Shots – Bird’s Eye Shot – Long Shot – Pan Shot

Migrating because Cupcakes do not cook well on ice.

This is used to establish a sense of scope, distance, and grand standing to the audience. It can be used as an establishing shot, or it can be used to convey a thematic message. For example, Avatar uses its flying dinosaur shots to convey the power and majesty of the Pandora landscape.

Following Shot

Not from the Road, but from the Cupcake Diaries

A show that chases the subject of the shot. This can either be a still shot conveying a sense of loss and absence, or it may be a high intensity shot such as a police chase cam. The following shot is popularized by car chase sequences which are a stable of any action film. More recent examples of artistically done Following Shots are the movie “The Road” where a sequence of following shots showing father and son trudging helplessly along a dangerous road makes for an exceptionally powerful film.

Dolly Shot

Dolly Zoom

A shot that tracks a character through a sequence. This shot focuses on how the character interacts with his or her environment. Dolly zoom builds emphasis and creates a sense of impending action. Both shots rely on a shifting backdrop while a central character remains at the center of camera vectors. Dolly zooming was made famous by Hitchcock; seeing perspective change without characters shifting or moving is highly unsettling and many viewers find it emotionally unbalancing.

High Angle and Low Angle Shot and Tilt

High Angle showing fear

Harry looking down on a falling Cupcake, very powerful

A very simple way to relate positions of power within a text. High angle shots convey weakness and vulnerability in the subject, while low angle shows convey power and domination.

Sequenced – Shots and Montage

A series of wordless images or sequence of shots that lack narration but nevertheless delivers a coherent narrative that tells the story. Artistic montages often use symbolism and motifs, while ‘preparation’ sequences where groups of men arm up by snapping their guns into place one after another simply utilize edited cuts of action. The sequence of UP (see video) is a perfect example of a montage sequence.

Frame and Cropping

Using only half a frame or a part of a frame to either focus on a subject of a shot, or to convey a specific purpose. For example, in Witness, cropping of the shot that reveals Samuel’s eyes behind two sides of the bathroom door conveys a sense that he is hidden; and that he is (eye symbolism) witnessing evil first hand.

Aesthetics Techniques

Background Lighting

Used to illuminate the back of a set, particularly in a dark, gloomy setting where details in the backdrops can be lost due to the high speed of the film. This light is typically of a low intensity, providing a ‘separation’ between setting and character.

Fill Lighting

Used to reduce contrast within a scene, and provide illumination for specific parts of the image that might be in shadow. For example, for a sitcom, the entire room where the scene is shot is often illuminated even through normally this would be impossible under natural conditions. This neutral lighting helps to focus the action on the characters, and away from the juxtaposing light and dark of backdrops and set props.

Flood Lighting

notice the lack of hard shadows in this flood lit scene

Refers to theater productions where the entire stage is illuminated or bathed in soft light. Flood lighting is meant to be soft, dim, encompassing, and avoid dropping harsh shadows. This form of lighting is best used for stage shows and is rarely noticeable in film.

Key Lighting

Cupcakes can look this good too

Highlights the subject of the scene or shot with focused lighting to create emphasis. This is often achieved through wither aperture focus on the lit subject, or a contrasting light and dark shot with the backdrop of the scene itself.

Mood/Rembrandt/Source Lighting

Perfect example, notice the direction of the light, the soft cut of shadow, and the contrast that creates a sombre, thoughtful mood

Lighting that creates a specific mood, such as dark for frightening and gloomy, soft for intimate and persona, or harsh for professional and impersonal. Rembrandt lighting is when a refraction is used to create a soft shadow on the subject typically characterized by a triangle of shadows under the eyes. It brings out the contours of the subject, and is a favorite of studio photography.


Editing is probably one of the most important elements of film, without which there will only be a monotonous roll of endless drolling cinematography. The best directions are not those who have the best equipment or the best actors, but rather those who can tell a story through editing. Editing is the true narrative tool of the director, and understanding why directors edit the film is key to understanding why your film is successful and timeless.

According to Walter Murch, when it comes to film editing, there are six main criteria for evaluating a cut or deciding where to cut. They are (in order of importance, most important first):

  • Emotion — Does the cut reflect what the editor believes the audience should be feeling at that moment?
  • Story — Does the cut advance the story?
  • Rhythm — Does the cut occur “at a moment that is rhythmically interesting and ‘right'” (Murch, 18)?
  • Eye-trace — Does the cut pay respect to “the location and movement of the audience’s focus of interest within the frame” (Murch, 18)?
  • Two-dimensional plane of the screen — Does the cut respect the 180 degree rule?
  • Three-dimensional space of action — Is the cut true to the physical/spatial relationships within the diegesis?

Cross Cutting – Refers to when editing is used to create intensity or action. Cutting between two different locations, two characters, or cutting from one action to another via a choreographed sequence.

Cutaway – Refers to the form of editing where a consistent sequence of action suddenly cuts to a view of something else. It is mainly used in dramatic cinematography to adjust the pace of the action. For example the film Inglorious Basterds utilizes several sequences of narrative cutaways to tell the story unfolding through different time periods and across different locations and character developments.

Dissolve – the fading of one edited shot into another, typically used to show memory or remembrance in old films.

Split Screen – Multiple edited shots shown together, made famous by the TV series 24.


Diegetic Sound

It is sound that the characters can hear as well as the audience, and usually implies a reaction from the character. Also called “literal sound” or “actual sound”:

  • Voices of characters;
  • Sounds made by objects in the story; and/or like heart beats of a person
  • Source music, represented as coming from instruments in the story space.
  • Basic sound effects, e.g. dog barking, car passing; as it is in the scene
  • Music coming from reproduction devices such as record players, radios, tape players etc.

Non-Diegetic Sound

Non-diegetic sound: It is sound which is represented as coming from a source outside the story space, ie. its source is neither visible on the screen, nor has been implied to be present in the action. Also called “non-literal sound” or “commentary sound”:

  • Narrator’s commentary;
  • Voice of God;
  • Sound effect which is added for dramatic effect;
  • Mood music; and
  • Film music score – such as thumping rock music during the Iron Man fight sequence.

Watch this Video for a List

Video by Darwin High School Film Student


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