When we shoot a series of shots that relate to the same activity, we call it a Sequence. The sequence is really the foundation of visual storytelling. Sequences not only offer visual variety, but they can also compress real time into dramatic time, helping editors develop better pacing to the story. Additionally, the shots in the sequence advance new information to help move the story more efficiently. Viewers who see sequences of Wide, Medium and Close-up shots get more information with each progressive shot.
Many still photographers can find the story in a single picture. But when we do broadcast news, there simply isn't enough time for our audience to let their eyes linger over the image until they see the detail that is important; they can only take in so much information at a time. As videographers, our job is to think in terms of multiple images that can be used to add interest, provide more detail and understanding and effectively direct viewers to the detail in the image that we deem important. That's where Sequences come in.
Essentially, we're doing what our brains do naturally, using the camera, like the eye, to collect a number of images. The brain does the job of assembling the images to convey meaning. So as a photographer, think like an editor. How will you edit from one image to the next? To accomplish this, get a variety of shots. When professionals shoot a Sequence, they always think in terms of getting wide shots followed by several tight shots. We call it:
WIDE SHOT, TIGHT, TIGHT, TIGHT
Wide shots convey the entire area and are good for establishing the scene; medium shots show characters from the waist up and their proximity to one another; close-ups show a particular part of the character, usually their face.
Why so many close-up shots?
There's a reason why we shoot so many tight shots. Photographers need to think like editors. Cutting close-ups back-to-back reads more naturally. It's the way we might view a conversation between two people. Our brain perceives close-ups of each person as our eyes volley back and forth. But when we edit adjacent wide shots, the effect can be jarring. We see a jump cut because the framing and distance are so much the same that it looks like the subject often shifts, or jumps abruptly.
Another reason to consider getting mostly close-ups concerns the fact that many of us consume media using our smart phones. We watch videos from a small screen device, too small to really see the details in a wide shot.
So to avoid editing wide shots back-to-back and to make sure the audience doesn't miss the important details in the activity, photographers will use a certain shooting ratio:
That's 25 percent wide shots, 25 percent medium shots and 50 percent close-ups.
Below is a sequence of shots taken at CU's Varsity Pond. These shots are among some 15 that were taken during a 10-minute period. What you get out of a variety of shots is s a sequence that adds visual interest and helps tell a story. You can also use the variety of shots to write more creatively. Remember, always write to your visuals. And when you sit down to edit, the shots will simply fall in place.
The example below shows a conventional approach to editing where the first shot is often a wide shot that establishes the location. The next shots provide further detail within the wide shot, directing our eyes to the detail that we need to know about.
Another pattern of editing involves The Reveal. Start with a tight shot and then use progressively wider shots to supply context. Make sure that you get a variety of angles by moving the camera around the subject so that there's at least a 45 degree difference in angle between each shot. But if you can't move readily, you can still use the telephoto.