June 25, 2024

Create Better Videos by Shooting in Sequences

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A good video needs more than an interesting subject and high-quality video and audio footage. It requires a coherent narrative that takes the viewers from one place and leads them through the story, creating a plot, establishing a context, and resolving a conflict. Of course, the script is essential here, but it is not the only key ingredient. How you shoot the video matters, too. So here is how to improve your videos and narratives by shooting in sequences.

Even non-fictional videos, such as YouTube tutorials and interviews, follow the same recipe for success. Better videos mean better narratives that capture the viewers’ attention and keep them glued to the screen till the end. 

What Is Sequence Shooting?

Sequence shooting “Plan séquence” means capturing action from multiple angles, distances, and perspectives. Often, there are three perspectives, a wide, medium, and close-up angle, and two types of filming, in motion and framed. However, you are free to mix any perspective and filming method you want. For a quick primer on Filmmaking Terms, check out this article. For example, you may have a camera operator capturing the action in motion at a wide angle, a fixed camera shooting a close-up of someone’s hands or face, and a GoPro on a character’s helmet that captures the scene as they see it.

Photo by dix sept on Unsplash

Capturing the action in various ways provides valuable material for montage and editing, especially for non-fiction videos where re-shooting is not an option. It also makes things interesting for the viewers, because shot variation keeps them engaged and focused. At the same time, shooting in sequences helps you reveal details at the right time, put things in context, and show more than one perspective. For example, it’s common practice to have a camera filming an interviewer asking a question while another camera is filming the interviewee to capture their reaction and body language.

Shot versus Scene versus Sequence

Shot, scene, and sequence are terms used interchangeably in videography language. 

A shot is what happens at a given moment from one camera angle in a given place. It’s a single action, a phrase in the narrative, and it is usually filmed in one go.

A scene is a group of shots in which someone is doing something and someone else responds or does something different in the same space and time; people enter and leave the space, and the camera follows the character(s) from one place to another part of the room, etc. A scene is a paragraph in the narrative, and it is usually filmed multiple times until the director is satisfied with the result.

A sequence is more like a mini-story, with one or several scenes that share the same goal, topic, or change in the story.

So, let’s imagine filming a sequence of two people speaking on the phone. Because it is shot in two different locations, it would take two scenes to complete the sequence. However, we can also have a sequence that requires only one scene if everything in that sequence is within the same space (location) and time.

A good sequence shows changes in the subject or what they interact with. It involves more than what one person can see at one time, allowing subtle details to be revealed, as well as what happens in the background.

Types of Shots for Shooting in Sequences

The most common types of shots found in sequences are wide-angle shots (aka environmental shots), medium shots (e.g., filming a person from the waist or knees up), and close-ups (e.g., filming a person’s face). You will also find motion shots, in which the camera follows the subject around, and static or framed shots, in which the camera has a fixed position and the subject moves in the frame.

Note that the image examples below are not from a continuous scene. They illustrate the point of having several different shot types.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

However, you can vary the camera-subject distance, the filming method, and the camera’s angle. For example, there are high-angle shots in which you shoot from above the subject. Cooking lessons have plenty of these high-angle shots to let the viewers see what happens in the pan. There are also low-angle shots in which you shoot from below the subject to make it look imposing and authoritarian. Try it next time you film contact sportsmen (e.g., boxers).

Photo by Piero Istrice on Unsplash

Less frequent but still important for artistic purposes are the over-the-shoulder shot (i.e., a person is filmed while talking to someone with their back to the camera), aerial shot (e.g., bird-eye view), tilt shot (aka The Dutch shot, the camera is tilted to distort the frame), and extreme close-up shot (e.g., only a person’s eyes are in the frame or details of the actions).

Extreme close-ups are often used when shooting in sequences
Extreme close-up shot – Photo by Alexandru-Bogdan Ghita on Unsplash

Tips for Shooting in Sequences

Like in photography composition, shooting in sequences requires balance. While having more than one angle and perspective is good, having too many angles and perspectives may become confusing and tiring. Therefore, you need to know from the beginning what shot types are relevant to your story and help enrich the narrative. For this, you need a storyboard and a shot list.

A storyboard is a schematic representation of your video’s narrative. It often uses graphic elements (e.g., drawings, sketches, images, etc.) to help you visualize the shot order in the final movie. It looks a lot like a comic book. Although time-consuming to create, a storyboard will save you time when filming and editing your video. It’s the blueprint of your video and guides you throughout the entire filming session, letting you know what shots to include in each sequence and providing consistency. You can then turn this into a shot list.

Photo by Nasim Keshmiri on Unsplash

Example Shot List

For example, if you film a cooking class, your shot list may look like this:

  • Wide-angle framed shot – the empty kitchen, the cook enters – Camera 1, filming throughout the video
  • Medium, motion frame – the cook facing the camera, explaining the recipe, Camera 2
  • Top-down shot, motion frame – showing the ingredients, Camera 2
  • Close-up framed shot – the cutting board – Camera 3, filming throughout the video
  • Over-the-shoulder shot, motion frame – the cook following the recipe
  • Wide-angle framed shot – the cook putting ingredients in the pan
  • Close-up framed shot – the frying pan
  • Medium motion frame – the cook facing the camera, explaining the process
Photo by Margo Brodowicz on Unsplash

However, if you find it challenging to start sequence shooting from scratch, you can use a predefined video sequence template that combines wide, medium, and close-ups in a well-constructed and tested manner. This template will give you the coverage you need for editing. Furthermore, these sequences are easy to shoot with one camera because only the camera-to-subject distance changes from one shot to another, which means you can zoom in and out. Later on, you will know which type of shots you generally need and which you never end up using.

Five-Shot Sequence

The five-shot plan is a popular video sequence that combines all three types of shots, wide, medium, and close-up, alternating them as the story requires. Often, it starts with a wide angle that establishes the context. Then, a medium shot makes the subject stand out. Another medium shot may follow to introduce another character or a close-up shot to show what the subject is doing and reveal details. At the end of the scene, a wide-angle shot puts things in perspective and shows the subject together with what they are doing or both the subject and the other character. While you vary the distance, you can also vary the angle, filming slightly from above or below.

In summary, the shoot template would look like this:

  • Wide establishing shot
  • Medium shot of the subject (doing something)
  • Medium shot of what they are doing or another character
  • Close-up of the subject reacting
  • Medium-Wide shot of both the main subject and the object/ other character

Two-Shot Plan

The two-shot plan is helpful for non-fictional videos with one or two characters and little spatial movement (e.g., a YouTube tutorial). The sequence includes two types of shots, usually the wide-angle and the medium ones or the medium and the close-up ones, used alternatively. For example, you may film yourself speaking on a topic using a medium shot and illustrate your speech with practical actions using a close-up of your hands.

Tip: When filming an interview, you can use the two-shot plan and alternate between medium shots showing the two protagonists and a wide-angle shot showing both simultaneously. Over-the-shoulder medium shots work, too.

A wide shot is often the first when we are shooting in sequences
Photo by Odiseo Castrejon on Unsplash

Three-Shot Plan

The three-shot plan includes three typical shot types and alternates between them. Typically, the sequence starts with a wide shot followed by medium and close-up ones. Think about how the weather presenters are shown on TV: a wide shot showing the presenter and the map and a medium one with the presenter telling the forecast alternating with close-ups of the map.

Conclusion

Shooting in sequences requires some preparation and gear, but the reward is tenfold. Your videos are technically improved, easier to edit, and more appealing to the audience. The narrative flows smoothly and keeps the viewers engaged. At the same time, using multiple shot types in sequence allows you to include more information, expand the layers of meaning, and create much more interesting videos.

The post Create Better Videos by Shooting in Sequences appeared first on Adorama.



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