Primary Visual Components of Your Video

Here is just a quick reminder of some of the key components that will make up your video, which are addressed in more detail in What Audiovisual Components Best Support Your Video.


Establishing shots

  • These shots serve the important purpose of introducing your audience to a location, so make it as clear as possible – extra long shots (that view your subject from a distance) are great establishing shots.
  • Get a lot of shots from different angles and with different movements (but remember to get static shots too)
  • Use a tripod (or a flat service) when possible for a smoother shot.
  • If possible, try to get your subject in an establishing shot because it’s a nice transition into an interview.  For example, film your subject walking down the street in her neighborhood or working at her desk.  These types of shots will introduce you to the subject as well as the location.

Observational sequences

  • Film your subjects doing their everyday activities and interactions with other people. Tell your subject not to look at the camera – eventually the subject will not notice you as much.
  • Be patient with this type of filming. The more time you spend with your subject, the more comfortable he or she will become with you and the better your footage will be.
  • Remember that it’s much better to see an event unfold in front of your eyes than have someone talk about it later. In other words, your observational sequences are usually more powerful than interviews because ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

B-Roll shots

  • B-Roll shots are similar to observational sequences, but are more commonly used to add images over the content of your audio interviews. Think about what you’ve heard in your interviews and see if you can film images that illustrate the content of the interviews. REMEMBER THAT IMAGES ARE USUALLY MORE POWERFUL THAN WORDS.
  • As with establishing shots, try to get B-roll from different angles and with different movements.

Cutaway and Reaction shots

  • Cutaway shots are similar to B-roll but filmed at the same time and location that the interview is taking place. After your subject has finished his/her interview, ask one or two more questions that aren’t important and focus camera on subject’s hands, feet, or other objects within the room.
    Reaction shots are used when your subject is talking to another person or group. After you have filmed your subject speaking, be sure to get shots of people listening to your subject. These reaction shots can be taken at any time while the subject is speaking and help convey interest and emotion to what the subject is talking about.

What Next? Holding Your Camera

Content adapted from the original guide, which was produced for a WITNESS-HURIFO Training in July 2005 by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt.

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