Back to Basics with Blade Ronner – Coverage (aka C.Y.A. of Filmmaking)

over-shoulder-cindy
An over the shoulder shot.

Lately I’ve had an itching to get back to my love of filmmaking, and since I also love to teach, I thought why not combine the two. So, I’m going to start a series of blog posts called “Back to Basics with Blade Ronner.” I know many of you who read this blog may consider yourself a “pro”. But, even the pros need to remember the basics (I know I do). Every championship sports coach will tell you the same. A strong grasp of the basics is the foundation for any successful team. Likewise, I have many readers who are relatively new to filmmaking/video production. Whether you’re a photographer looking to jump on the fusion/convergence band wagon and try your hand at video production, or you’re one of the readers of ReFocus who recently started your own video business, I think you will find this series very enlightening. We’ll cover foundational elements, as well as little tips and tricks I’ve picked up in m 7+ years in the business. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

COVERAGE

Today I want to quickly talk about “coverage.” Simply put, coverage is getting all the necessary shots you need to put together a cohesive scene that tells a story. And it’s not just for fictional or narrative storytelling. No matter what kind of video you shoot, you’ll want to have sufficient coverage. Good coverage is typically comprised of the following:

  • Master Shot: this is the shot that establishes where you are in the scene. Also called, well, an establishing shot. It’s going to be a wide shot (i.e. you’re zoomed out and/or shooting with a wide angle lens). It could be a static shot or a panning shot. Examples: a wide panning shot of a church in a wedding movie; the front of a restaurant where two characters are meeting; etc.
  • Medium Shots: as the name suggests, these are shots framed half-way between totally wide and zoomed all the way in. It’s often a head and torso framed shot of people talking. It’s meant to bring you in just a wee bit closer to the action. In the case of two people talking, when you’re seeing both of them in the medium shot, it’ll also be called a “2-shot.”
  • Close-ups: okay, now you’re getting up close and personal, showing details, head and shoulder shots of people talking, etc. Can be used effectively during more emotional elements of a scene.
  • Over-the-shoulder shots: used when two people are talking and you shoot over the should of one person to film the other person. It is visually more interesting than just cutting back and forth between close ups the two people because now you’re adding depth to your shot.
  • Cut-aways: these are shots of things people are looking at, or close-ups of elements in the scene that help illustrate who your character is. When shooting documentaries, I’ll often get cut away shots of photos, awards, figurines, etc., in the room of the person I’m interviewing. Sometimes you’ll see cut-aways to extreme close-ups of the interviewees eyes, or hands, or mouth. Be creative.
  • B-roll: technically, b-roll isn’t really coverage. That is, you’re not shooting other elements in the scene, but instead are shooting interesting visuals that help complement the scene. For example, if you’re interviewing a coach, you may have b-roll of him/her on the field blowing the whistle, yelling, etc.

AN EXAMPLE FROM A ROMANTIC COMEDY

Below is an excerpt from a romantic comedy style love story we shot about five years ago from the wedding division of my company. I use it because 1) I think it’s hilarious, and 2) it has a great mix of master shots, close ups, over the shoulder shots, and medium shots. See if you can spot them.

Director’s Note
In the film, there’s a re-enactment where the father of the bride tells the groom he wants to have grand kids in a year after the wedding. It’s a very funny moment. What’s even funnier is that just about one year after the real wedding, Jin and Cindy had a baby.

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