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What is a shot?

What is a shot?

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Helen Haswell. Originally submitted for Film Studies at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Declan Keeney in the category of Modern Cultural Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Helen Haswell. Originally submitted for Film Studies at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Declan Keeney in the category of Modern Cultural Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
1
What is a shot?
Many other words come to mind when thinking about the word
 shot 
; snapshot, photograph, images, camera. It is difficult to define without using the word shot. So howdoes one explain it to someone who has never come across the word before? That is,after all, what a definition should aim to achieve. Even filmmakers use a ‘wealth of terminology in regard to the shot’.
1
A cinematographer’s
 shot 
is the equivalent of the
 frame,
and can therefore be measured by distance. An editor’s
 shot 
is slightly moredistinguished, as individual
 shots
are cut and put together to make up the entirety of afilm.
2
Cinemagoers may view a
 shot 
in regard to duration. Film studies writer JamesMonaco, has suggested that there are four areas in which the term
 shot 
can be defined:distance, movement, angle and focus.
3
This essay will examine the meaning of the
 shot 
within the context of these four factors, and in relation to the framed image.The term
 shot 
can be used to describe the ‘different framing options’,
4
that aredemonstrated when the distance between the camera and the filmed subject increases or decreases. The most commonly used shot sizes are extreme close-up (ECU), close-up(CU), medium close-up (MCU), medium shot (MS), medium long shot (MLS), long shot(LS), and extreme long shot (ELS). There are also terms called two-shot, three-shot,establishing shot and master shot. A CU shot can be used in different ways to create arange of interpretations, though consistently, ‘the subject framed by the camera fills thescreen’.
5
 This shot is used to create a sense of intimacy with the character, as shown below (fig.1.1); The Bride aka Beatrix Kiddo in
 Kill Bill Vol. 1
(Tarantino, 2003) has just heard the voice of one of her betrayers. The CU shot invites the viewer to empathisewith her feelings of hate and her need for revenge. This type of shot is also used to
1
Monaco, James.
 How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, Multimedia.
3
rd
ed. Oxford University Press,2000. 195.
2
Aumont, Jacques. Bergala, Alain. Marie, Michel. Vernet, Marc.
 Aesthetics of Film.
University of TexasPress, 1992. 27.
3
Monaco.
 How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, Multimedia
. 195.
4
Aumont. Bergala. Marie. Vernet.
 Aesthetics of Film
. 28.
5
Hayward, Susan.
Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts.
3
rd
ed. Routledge, 2006. 355.
 
2
create a sense of claustrophobia,
6
 as demonstrated by the scene in
 Kill Bill Vol. 2
(Tarantino, 2004), when Beatrix Kiddo is buried alive (fig.1.2). The CU shot used hereenhances the fear and later, determination, of the character. An ECU shot is used in thesame way, although it draws in closer still; drawing attention to parts of the body(fig.1.3) or to objects that will later become important to the progression of thenarrative.
7
 A MCU (fig. 1.4) is distinguished from an ECU and CU, by the framing of the character’s head and shoulders. It is generally used in conversation scenes, wherethere is an intimacy between two characters or where melodramatic tension is required.
8
A MS (fig. 1.5) frames a character from the waist up. More information about thesurroundings is provided, and therefore a wider critical knowledge can be gained fromthis shot than can be obtained from the ECU, CU and MCU shots.
9
 Two-shot (fig.1.6)and three-shot describe shots when two or three people are in the frame, usually with aMCU or MS.
A MLS shows more of the subject; in fig.1.7, Beatrix Kiddo is now infull view, the setting is far clearer and the actions of others characters can be seen. Thedistance between the camera and the subject is increased further in the LS, placing thesubject in a wider scene. Fig.1.8 shows the wedding party within the church, shownfrom a long distance. The church is also contained within the frame. The ELS is further still from the subject, which is now in the background of the shot. The setting now hasmore importance than the subject.
In this particular shot (fig. 1.9), Beatrix Kiddo ishardly visible. The setting establishes how far the protagonist has walked and how far she still has to go, which further enhances her feelings of determination. An establishingshot places the viewer in the scene; there is no need for a voice-over or sub-title toexplain. Once the action moves inside the church (fig.1.10), the viewer is not leftwondering where the scene is taking place. A master shot is a continuous length of footage from a particular scene. It is used in the editing process to ensure continuity
6
Monaco.
 How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, Multimedia
. 197.
7
Hayward.
Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts.
355.
8
Corrigan, Timothy. White, Patricia.
The Film Experience: An Introduction.
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.87.
9
Hayward.
Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts.
356.
10
Hayward.
Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts.
356.
11
Hayward.
Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts.
356.
 
3
when other types of shots (CU, MCU, MS, etc) are intercut to make the finished edit.
 
Fig.1.1 Fig.1.2 Fig.1.3
 
Fig.1.4 Fig.1.5 Fig.1.
 
Fig.1.7 Fig.1.8 Fig.1.9Fig.1.10
In
 Kill Bill Vol. 1
these types of shot are used to aid the progression of the
12
Corrigan. White.
The Film Experience: An Introduction.
113.

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