CUT TO WIDE

February 23, 2018

 

Frame sizes - what do they show, do they show anything, let's find out! Anyone who's picked up a camera or watched a movie knows there are different ways to frame a scene. Close, mid, long, extreme long... The fact that we can choose our frame begs the question: what does the size of the frame do to the story beat? And more interestingly, how do different frame sizes interact with each other in an edited scene containing multiple shots?

 

An example to clarify this. Let's say in our scene, our hero is eating breakfast. We have a wide shot of the kitchen, a mid shot of the hero, and close on their face -- A, B, and C respectively. Disregarding any narrative, the number of combinations of shots here is 6 (before we get into repeating shots): ABC, ACB, CBA, CAB, BAC, BCA (hopefully my math is good for once...). Without getting to anal, we can see that the combinations of these different shots could convey very different meanings. So, ABC might imply we are getting closer to the Hero's subjectivity; CBA conversely could suggest the character's peace or isolation.

 

What we are really saying with this concept, is that framing is about controlling the context and perspective of a scene. We can hide information in a close shot; we can contrast a character with architecture or other people in a wide; and by creating an editing pattern, we can suggest different perspectives on the same event. Going back to our Hero at the breakfast table -- let's say we start in close, and they're enjoying their eggs; cut to wide, revealing a man tied up at the table, a hostage. This perspective shift changes our scene from a person enjoying breakfast, to a person taking revenge over breakfast. It's a simple example, and the possibilities are infinite.

 

One of the laziest cutting patterns I see in a lot of TV is cutting from a mid shot to a wide, to finish a scene. It creates an easy effect of 'showing the character's isolation', which is not inherently bad of course. Similarly, in a lot of modern blockbusters (JJ Abrams especiallyyyyy), we will be in medium-close shot for the whole scene. It's an easy way to film a subject, because less lighting is needed vs. a wide, and general emotion comes across. But it's a mindless way of approaching a scene, when the joy and beauty of film is telling a story through visuals, and different scales of perspective. So, the next time you're cutting to a different sized frame, ask yourself -- what's the perspective I'm suggesting? What new scale of the story does this suggest?

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