Shot/reverse shot is as basic as it gets. It’s probably one of the best recognised shots of all, and it’s included in every textbook and virtual film teaching app right towards the top of the list. It’s a filmmaking technique where one of the characters is shown looking at another character. More often than not, we can see the back of their head, and shoulders. The shot is then ‘reversed’, so that we can see from the second character’s point of view instead.
This is not the most thrilling or innovative shot out there. But it’s very easy to pull off, and have it look professional… So it’s perfect for beginners. It’s used to almost-literally get inside the character’s head, and see what they’re seeing. Shot/reverse shot can be achieved in either one take or two, if you have two cameras to hand; either way, the shots are edited together afterwards, remembering not to break the ‘180 rule’.
The Dreaded Zoom Shot
Zoom shots are cool. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise- a friend, a mentor, or a loved one- they are wrong, and should feel bad. Zoom shots are a brilliant way of lacing a shot with emotion, positive or negative. Zooming in slowly creates tension. Zooming in very close (like an Italian shot) can make the viewer feel close to the character, or uncomfortably close, if it’s an antagonist. Zooming in and tilting up (the Ridley Scott zoom shot) makes a character appear dominating.
Or, if you want to move in the opposite direction, zooming out to a wide shot gives a sense of a wide open, empty space. This will make a character seem lost or alone. Considering the fact that wide shots create such a vast range of responses, it’s a shame that they’ve fallen out of style.
The best thing about zoom shots is that they can be done in post-production using editing software or online filmmaking apps. Bear in mind, though, that professionals have professional equipment, so their zoom shots will look better than anything filmed on an iPhone or DSLR.
A two shot is what you probably imagine it is: a shot of two people. But that’s all that’s predefined. They can be close together, far apart, facing each other or not. This allows a great variety of creative ideas to all be captured using one kind of shot.
For instance, a two shot is fantastic for establishing the emotional reaction of two different subjects, at the same time. This can show the range of the characters’ emotions, where one might be happy and one might be sad. It’s also a great way of showing conflict with an ‘American’ style two shot, where the two characters face each other in profile. A three shot is the same kind of filmmaking tool, except with three characters instead of two.