2.6 Setting up the shot

There are a number of considerations you must take into account to set up the camera to shoot your scene. The first thing to do is to let your actors rehearse the scene on the set. This gives you a chance to see if the scene is working creatively. It also gives your camera operator the chance to see how he/she will capture all the action and your sound engineer the opportunity to decide where best to stand in order to capture the best possible audio while remaining out of the shot and to check that the audio levels are correct.

Unless it is a very simple scene or you are shooting with several cameras, you will probably need to shoot the scene from a number of angles. For example, capturing two people in conversation will normally involve three set-ups of the camera:  a shot of each person and a ‘master shot’ (a shot which records the whole scene). The master shot not only establishes the context of the scene by showing where the conversation is taking place and how the two characters are positioned in relation to each other but it gives the editor something to fall back on if there is a problem with one of the two individual shots. It’s often a good idea to begin with the master shot as this gives both actors a chance to rehearse the scene on camera before the additional pressure of being the sole focus of the camera is put on them.

When shooting two people in conversation, like this, it is a good idea to show a small part – such as a shoulder or coat sleeve – of the person who is not the direct focus of the camera in the foreground of the shot to give perspective to the scene.

When you have rehearsed the scene you should compile a ‘shot list’ – literally a list of the shots you intend to record to capture the scene. You can work with your camera operator to draft this shot list, referring both to the storyboard you created in post production and the realities of the set you find yourself in. As you capture each shot you can tick it off the list.

The height of the camera in relation to the action can be a powerful tool. Take the example of an office worker being reprimanded by a boss. If the camera is above the eye level of the office worker for their individual shot it will make them appear vulnerable. Positioning the camera slightly below the eye level of the boss will give an extra sense of power to that character. Bear this in mind when setting up your shot.

Written and Practical Assignment

Create a shot list for each scene of your film that corresponds with your storyboard

Ensure the appropriate set-up for each scene and shoot each shot on your shot list