Grammar of the Shot, 4th Edition

Grammar of the Shot, 4th Edition

Regular price
Sale price


The newly-revised and updated fourth edition of Grammar of the Shot teaches readers the principles behind successful visual communication in motion media through shot composition, screen direction, depth cues, lighting, camera movement, and shooting for editing. Many general practices are suggested that should help to create rich, multi-layered visuals. Designed as an easy-to-use reference, Grammar of the Shot presents each topic succinctly with clear photographs and diagrams illustrating key concepts, practical exercises, and quiz questions, and is a staple of any filmmaker’s library. New to the fourth edition:
  • an expanded companion website at, offering downloadable scenes and editable raw footage so that students can practice the techniques described in the book, and instructional videos showcasing examples of different compositional choices;
  • new and expanded quiz questions and practical exercises at the end of each chapter to help test readers on their knowledge using real-world scenarios;
  • updated topic discussions, explanations, illustrations, and visual examples.
Together with its companion volume, Grammar of the Edit, the core concepts discussed in these books offer concise and practical resources for both experienced and aspiring filmmakers.

By Christopher J. Bowen Routledge 308 pages | 200 B/W Illus. Paperback: 9781138632226 pub: 2017-07-11

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter One – The Shots: What, How and Why? What to Show Your Audience? Choosing Your Frame Aspect Ratio A Brief History of Aspect Ratios Further Exploration – Why We Might Like Widescreen so Much An Introduction to Shot Types - The Basic Building Blocks of Motion Pictures Long Shot / Wide Shot Medium Shot Close-Up The Extended Family of Basic Shots – The Powers of Proximity Extreme Long Shot / Extreme Wide Shot Very Long Shot / Very Wide Shot Long Shot / Wide Shot / Full Shot Medium Long Shot / Knee Shot Medium Shot / Waist Shot / Mid Medium Close-Up / Bust Shot Close-Up Big Close-Up (UK) / Choker (USA) Extreme Close-Up Why Do We Even Have Different Shot Types? Pulling Images from the Written Page Script Breakdown for Cinematographers Shot Lists Storyboards Phases of Film Production Let’s Practice Chapter One Summation – The Pictures Speak Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices Chapter One – Review Chapter One – Exercises & Projects Chapter One – Quiz Yourself Chapter Two – The Basics of Composition Simple Guidelines For Framing Human Subjects Headroom Subjective Versus Objective Shooting Styles Look Room / Nose Room The Rule of Thirds Camera Angle Horizontal Camera Angles 360 Degrees Method Clock Face Method Camera Position Method The Frontal View The ¾ View The Profile View The ¾ Back View The Full Back View Vertical Camera Angles Neutral Angle Shot High Angle Shot High Angle of an Individual High Angle as a POV High Angle of an Environment Low Angle Shot Low Angle of an Individual Low Angle as a POV Low Angle of an Environment The Two-Shot: Frame Composition with Two People The Profile Two-Shot The Direct-to-Camera Two-Shot The Over-the-Shoulder Two-Shot The Dirty Single The Power Dynamic Two-Shot The Three-Shot Chapter Two Summation - Wrapping up the Basics of Composition Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices Chapter Two – Review Chapter Two – Exercises & Projects Chapter Two – Quiz Yourself Chapter Three – Composition – Beyond the Basics The Illusion of the Third Dimension The Use of Lines The Horizon Line Vertical Lines Dutch Angle Diagonal Lines Curved Lines The Depth of Film Space – Foreground / Middle Ground / Background Foreground Middle Ground Background Depth Cues Overlapping Object Size Atmosphere The Camera Lens – The Observer of Your Film World What is a Camera Lens? Primes vs Zooms The Prime Lens The Zoom Lens Lens Perspective Lens Focus – Directing the Viewer’s Attention Pulling Focus or Following Focus Chapter Three Summation – Directing the Viewer’s Eyes Around Your Frame Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices Chapter Three – Review Chapter Three – Exercises & Projects Chapter Three – Quiz Yourself Chapter Four – Lighting Your Shots – Not Just What You See, but How You See It Light as an Element of Composition Light as Energy Color Temperature Color Balance of Your Camera Natural and Artificial Light Correcting or Mixing Colors on Set Quantity of Light: Sensitivity Quantity of Light: Exposure Quality of Light: Hard Versus Soft Hard Light Soft Light Contrast Low-key Lighting High-key Lighting Color Basic Character Lighting: Three-Point Method Contrast Ratio or Lighting Ratio Motivated Lighting – Angle of Incidence Front Lighting Side Lighting Lights from Behind Lights from Other Places Set and Location Lighting Controlling Light – Basic Tools and Techniques Chapter Four Summation – Learning to Light … and Lighting to Learn Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices Chapter Four – Review Chapter Four – Exercises & Projects Chapter Four – Quiz Yourself Chapter Five – Will it Cut? Shooting for Editing The Chronology of Production Matching Your Shots in a Scene Continuity of Performance Continuity of Screen Direction The Line – Basis for Screen Direction The Imaginary Line – The 180 Degree Rule "Jumping the Line" The 30 Degree Rule Reciprocating Imagery Eye-Line Match Chapter Five Summation – Be Kind to Your Editor Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices Chapter Five – Review Chapter Five – Exercises & Projects Chapter Five – Quiz Yourself Chapter Six – Dynamic Shots – Subjects and Camera in Motion The Illusion of Movement on a Screen Presentation Speed – Slow Motion and Fast Motion Slow Motion – or Overcranking Fast Motion – Undercranking Subjects in Motion – Blocking Talent Camera in Motion Handheld Pan and Tilt Shooting the Pan and the Tilt Equipment Used to Move the Camera Tripod Dolly Zoom Steadicam™ and other such Camera Stabilization Devices Cranes and Such Chapter Six Summation – Movies Should Move Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices Chapter Six – Review Chapter Six – Exercises & Projects Chapter Six – Quiz Yourself Chapter Seven – Working Practices and General Guidelines Storyboards and Shot Lists Slate the Head of Your Shots Help Boom Operator Place the Mircrophone Use of Two of More Cameras Be Aware of Reflections Communicating with Talent Safe Action / Safe Title Areas How to Manually Focus a Zoom Lens Always Have Something in Focus Control Your Depth of Field Be Aware of Headroom Shooting Tight Close-Ups Beware of Wide Lenses when Shooting Close-Up Shots Try to Show Both Eyes of Your Subject Be Aware of Eye-Line Directions in Closer Shots Place Important Objects in the Top Half of Your Frame Keep Distracting Objects out of the Shot Use the Depth of Your Film Space to Stage Shots with Several People Ensure an Eye Light Be Aware of the Color and Contrast Choices Made Throughout Your Project Allow the Camera More Time to Record Each Shot Follow Action with Loose Pan and Tilt Tripod Head Shooting Overlapping Action for the Edit Continuity of Action Matching Speed of Action Overlapping Too Much Action Frame for Correct "Look Room" on Shots that Will Edit Together Shoot Matching Camera Angles when Covering a Dialogue Scene In a Three-Person Dialogue Scene, Matching Two-Shots can be Problematic for the Editor Beware of Continuity Traps While Shooting a Scene Ways to Cross the 180 Degree Line Safely The Long Take Zooming During a Shot Motivate Your Dolly-In and Dolly-Out Camera Moves Use Short Focal Length Lenses to Reduce Handheld Camera Shake Allow Actions to Complete Before Cutting Camera Shooting a Chromakey Shooting B-Roll, 2nd Unit, and Stock Footage Shooting a Talking Head Interview During Documentary Filming, Be as Discreet as Possible Use Visual Metaphors Aim for a Low Shooting Ratio Chapter Seven – Review Chapter Seven – Exercises & Projects Chapter Seven – Quiz Yourself Chapter Eight – Concluding Thoughts Know the Rules Before You Break the Rules The Reason for Shooting is Editing Your Shots Should Enhance the Entire Story Involve the Viewer as Much as Possible Take Pride in the Quality of your Work Practice Proper Set Etiquette Know Your Equipment Be Familiar with Your Subject Matter Understand Lighting – Both Natural and Artificial Study What Has Already Been Done In Conclusion Appendix A – Helpful Resources for the New Filmmaker Appendix B – Common Crew Members Needed for Motion Picture Production Glossary Index

About the Author

Christopher J. Bowen has worked within the motion media industries for over 18 years as a cinematographer, editor, director, and educator. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Film Production and Visual Media Writing at Framingham State University. He is also an Avid Certified Instructor, Creative Director of his own media production company, Fellsway Creatives, and author of the companion text, Grammar of the Edit.