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[digital] Directing - Types of Shots

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Directing in the digital environment involves significant camera work. The types of shots you set up and the shots you direct are what your viewer not only will see, but will feel as well. Knowing how to direct your animation means knowing what types of shots to use. Shots in your scene can be used to change a point of view, reveal story information, or establish a mood.

Directing in the computer involves significant camera work. Remember, the types of shots you set up and the shots you direct are what your viewer not only will see, but will feel as well.

Knowing how to direct your animation means knowing what type of shots to use. Shots in your scene can be used to change a point of view, reveal story information, or establish a mood. Figure 1 diagrams framing heights from bottom to top for a camera. Figure 2 shows additional framing heights. In other words, it shows the common and most-used shot descriptions and their appropriate size based on an average person.

Figure 1Figure 1 These common framing heights are based on an average person.


Figure 2Figure 2 Possible additional framing options based on an average person.


Shots you choose to use as a digital director can be changed quite easily, unlike a traditional filmmaker. A traditional filmmaker needs to worry about many elements in a scene if a shot needs to be changed. The actors need to redo their parts, lighting and props need to be adjusted, and background elements such as cars and people need to be reset. For the digital filmmaker, it's a only a matter of changing the camera! Although traditional filmmaking principles, such as close-up and full shots still apply, how you use them within a scene is much easier. The following is a formal list of shots you can refer to when planning, storyboarding, or directing animation:

  • Extreme close-up
  • Close-up
  • Medium close-up
  • Medium shot
  • Full (figure)
  • Medium wide
  • Wide
  • Extreme wide (or distant)

As directors discuss and plan shots for an animation, they often describe the shots as "cut to a close-up" or "pan to a full shot." And while these are terms used more during the editing process, they are important to the director as well. While a director must concentrate on so many individual aspects of a production, he or she must also think about how the editing process will bring those individual elements together. The diagrams in Figures 1 and 2 identify approximately how tight the camera should be on each different shot. Not all shots need to be used, and they can vary depending on the situation. A few of the key shots you'll use often are close-up shots, medium shots, and full shots.

Close-Up Shots

Close-up shots are dramatic and intimate. You can use a close-up shot for dialogue, also referred to as a "talking head." In the digital environment, using a close-up shot on a dialogue sequence serves more than one purpose. First, it brings the viewer into the action. Second, it saves you, or your staff, time and effort because the shot is full with a single subject. For example, Figure 3 shows a close-up shot of a character. The shot only needs a small amount of backdrop visible. This means that less geometry, less lighting, and less motion need to be performed. This also means that there will be less rendering.

Figure 3 Figure 3 A close-up shot brings the viewer close to the action.


Of course, your entire animation can't be composed of close-up shots, but when organized and planned appropriately, close-ups not only help tell the story, but save time. The close-up shot also allows the viewer to see the emotion of the character, which is important to telling the story. The close-up shot can vary, depending on the composition.

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