Shot sequences are useful ‘in’ points for beginner (and experienced) videographers.
Most often, a video is made up of several shot sequences, similar to how this blog post is made up of several paragraphs. Within each paragraph (or shot sequence), there are multiple sentences (or shots) that work together to create distinct sets.
Continuing with the streaming video production ‘is writing’ metaphor:
- Blog Post = Video.
- Paragraph = Shot Sequence.
- Sentence = Shot.
video production classes will teach you some tried and true sequences that anyone can use. These techniques diversify your shots and create more dynamic videos.
1. Medium. Close. Wide.
This is a great one to start with because it can be used in pretty much any type of video, and it requires minimal effort. It’s like the Meryl Streep of shot sequences: always a solid choice.
First: Capture a medium shot to establish a focus for your sequence.
Second: Take a close-up shot to highlight an interesting detail. This shot will serve as the dynamic pivot point in your sequence.
Third: Shoot a wide shot that includes more of the environment.
In general, close-ups are really useful when you’re trying to split up shots in an otherwise static video. If all my sentences were the same length and style, my paragraphs would become quite boring. Hooray for variety!
2. Close-up Collage
While we’re on the topic of close-ups, you can shoot a whole collection of them to create a portrait of a setting or a subject. Pair this with a caramel-smooth voice-over, and you’re on your way to creating video magic.
Imagine a scene with a woman reading a newspaper. As a videographer tasked with capturing this, you could use a nice, long medium shot of her reading away and call it a day. Or, you could take multiple brief close-up shots featuring her focused eyes, the headlines of the paper, the steaming mug of coffee, her purple nails, and any other interesting pieces that make up the whole. Talk about sriracha! Now we’re getting spicy!
3. The Reveal
This shot sequence is analogous to seeing an old friend for the first time in years in terms of the sheer joy it brings. First, think of something fun that you want to reveal in the last shot of your sequence. Maybe it turns out that your subject is standing among a colony of small penguins. Maybe someone behind him is actually talking, and he’s just mouthing the words. Maybe he’s a robot.
The possibilities are endless! In your first shot (or shots), be sure to hide the surprise, then “jump out,” or make the big reveal, in the last shot!
4. Match on Action
This is also referred to as “cutting on action.” To build this sequence, you take multiple shots from different angles while preserving the continuity of the subject’s action.
Each new shot should pick up the subject’s action from the previous shot:
When done well, this sequence can make your video look seamless and professional, like a tuxedo unitard. Actions that your subject can repeat work best for this sequence.
5. Action. Reaction.
For this shot sequence, you will need at least two subjects, an “actor” and a “reactor.” When casting, it’s helpful to find subjects who are comfortable with expressing themselves on camera.
Since I love anthropomorphized animals, I couldn’t help but provide you with another quick example. Let’s say one penguin, Randy, is surprising another penguin, Karen, with flowers.
First shot: Karen is typing away with her penguin flippers at her desk.
Second shot: Randy waddles over to Karen’s desk and pulls a bouquet of flowers out from behind his back. This is somewhat difficult because he has no hands.
Third shot: Karen’s face is surprised and excited. She can’t believe Josef remembered!
Fourth shot: Randy smiles and nods.
Once you begin shooting this sequence, the spatial relationship between the two subjects needs to remain consistent (read more about why). In other words, if Karen begins on one side of the frame opposite Randy, she needs to stay on that side. If she appears anywhere inconsistently, you risk creating cognitive dissonance.
Make your streaming video production !
When I went out to shoot my first video assignment, I brought a whole list of shot sequences in my back pocket and experimented with them constantly.