Watch any TV show or movie and you will see repeated combinations of three basic shots: the long-distance shot (LS), the medium-distance shot (MS) and the close-up shot (CU). These three shots are the building blocks for a movie or video story. The long-distance shot shows a large picture area and sets the stage for the action that will follow; thus, it?s often called an establishing shot. Underwater, we usually shoot our long-distance shots with wide-angle lenses to minimize camera-to-subject distances. The picture area of an LS depends on the purpose of the shot and the subject?s size. For example, an LS showing the bow of a sunken ship would cover a larger area than an LS of an eel peeking out of its lair. For smaller subjects such as hermit crabs, an LS may show only the top of a single coral head.There are a number of reasons to use the long-distance shot, including: 1. To establish your location. Are we topside or underwater; under the arctic ice or enjoying tropical waters? The long-distance shot also helps the viewer associate together the closer views that will follow. 2. As a ''reminder'' shot. Imagine you're watching a football game on TV. After showing several medium-distance and close-up views of players, the image cuts to a wide-angle view of the stadium, possibly an aerial view from a blimp. This ''reminder'' re-establishes the location. Do the same with your underwater videos. After several close-ups of fish, back off and take a long-distance shot to re-establish the overall scene. 3. To change to different locations. Suppose you wish to leave a fish-feeding sequence and move on to another reef activity. Use a long-distance shot of divers swimming away to signal the next change of scene and action. 4. As an ending shot. The long-distance shot is great for ending action sequences or the entire story. A long-distance shot of divers swimming up to the boat is an example of an ending shot.The MS is your action shot. After the viewer has seen the location and conditions with long shots, move in for MS views. If a diver is looking at a small octopus, for example, move in for a head-and-shoulders view. The MS is often your most important shot because it introduces the viewer to your undersea cast of characters and shows their actions. CU shots pinpoint the action and give the viewer a closer look at your subjects. You can shoot a CU with a close-focusing lens or with a wide-angle lens up close. If a previous MS showed a diver looking at an octopus, use a CU to give the diver?s view of the octopus. Sequencing your shots is as important as which shots you choose. The basic pattern is LS, MS, CU and LS. Start with a wide-angle establishing shot to set the stage. Move in to an MS to identify your main subject. Go in for a CU to pinpoint the action. Close with an LS to end the sequence. This pattern is used over and over again in movies and TV shows. You can, however, vary the pattern. You may start with a CU view of an eel, then move back for an MS showing a diver looking at the eel, or an LS of an approaching diver. You can also repeat shots. For example, if you want to keep a close-up subject on screen for more than 10 seconds, consider several shorter shots together in place of one extended shot. Try shooting a series of three- or four-second CU shots from different angles. This will create more visual interest than one long CU that lasts for 10 seconds. Angles also affect your shot choices. For many LS and MS views, you'll get much better video if you are positioned slightly lower than your subject. Getting low helps isolate subjects and makes them stand out against the midwater background. If you shoot long and medium shots with downward angles, make sure you have contrast between the subject and the sea floor. Sandy bottoms make good backgrounds for LS and MS views of divers. For CU shots, use whatever angle enhances your small subjects. You'll have an interesting video story if you apply these rules of thumb and always follow the golden rule: When you start a new shot, change the image size or camera angle or both!
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