Another way to think about sequencing video

For those of us who have been working with video for a long time, the concept of wide, medium and close-up shots is a simple one.  But when you’re new to visual storytelling, it’s perfectly natural to ask things like, “How wide?” and “What do you mean by medium?”

Freelance journalist Mikki Harris worked for many years as a news photographer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Today she produces content across platforms using still photos and video, along with other tools.  As a self-taught video storyteller, Harris shared the 5-step approach she learned to shooting sequences.

1. The hand shot.  For example, if you’re shooting someone working at a computer or hitting a ball or fixing a car, get that close-up of the person’s hands on the keyboard, gripping the bat or turning the wrench.  It doesn’t literally have to be a hand shot, but it’s a very tight shot of the action. (Translation:  extreme close-up.)

2. The face shot.  Get a shot of the person’s face as they type or address the ball or tinker with the car.  You may not want to see the hair in their nostrils, but be close enough to get a sense of how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking. (Translation:  close-up.)

“Make sure the close-up or face shot fills two-thirds of the frame,” says Harris.

3. The medium body shot. This shot features the top half of the human body, so it’s the person sitting at the desk, batting the ball or leaning over the car from the waist up.  (Translation:  medium shot.)

4. The over-the-shoulder shot.  This visual gives you another angle on the action and may be useful as a tool to transition between shots. (Translation:  cutaway.)

5. The creative shot.  This is where a photojournalist just experiments and tries something to provide a unique angle on the story.  He or she may stand up on a chair and shoot down at a scene or get down on the ground to show a unique perspective.  This might be a good establishing shot or it may not work at all. (Translation:  possible establishing or wide shot.)

Harris also suggests that you take these shots in the order suggested.

“It will make the editing easier because you’ll be able to find the shot you want more quickly,” Harris says.