Cinematography Tips for Covering Your Master Shot
Master Shot Cover.jpg

Let's examine the all-important "master shot" and how you can use it to tie the rest of your cinematic tapestry together.

When you first start out in film and video, each shot is your master shot. It makes sense when you think about it. You have your set, actors or subjects, and you have your action. Don't you want to capture everything at once? However, as you will quickly find in your projects, you want a variety of other shots such as settings, close-ups, inserts, etc.

The real trick in filmmaking is finding the right balance between these different types of shooting. When would you like to use wide-angle versus close-up? When should you give your audience a sense of scope and scope instead of looking at a character's emotions and feelings? These are the questions that you need to ask yourself as both a director and an editor when putting your film together.

But first you need your master shot. Let's examine this important shot and how it's used to tie the rest of your cinematic tapestry together. Examine famous examples, framing tips, and other shots that you might want to consider.

What is a master shot?

In the simplest sense, a master recording is the only shot in a film scene that covers all of the topics, objects and parts of the set that are relevant to the overall scene. The best way to think about it is on stage. When you go to the theater or a theater, one person in the audience usually gets a “master shot” version of the production. In the cinema, however, we have the option of changing the perspective and providing additional settings and angles.

The master shot is the comprehensive shot that many filmmakers like to use as the base unit for their cinematography. This master recording covers all of the necessary information you would see as an audience during a play before getting into these more specific recordings.

Reporting against close-ups

Another way to think about the master shot is the cover or the camera cover. This is an industry term that defines how an editor can edit a scene to determine what shots are available, and from what angles, what actions, etc., are viewed. Therefore, a master shot covers the entire coverage of a scene as much as possible.

Another example of this are television productions in stage shows. From classic examples from I Love Lucy to Friends, these shows are recorded live by multiple cameras simultaneously in front of a studio audience. Although multiple cameras may move and focus on tighter angles, there is always a wide master shot left for full coverage.

Examples of master shots in film

An example of a master shot showing full coverage of a scene in The Umbrella Academy. Image via Netflix.

Looking back in cinematic history, it can be difficult to remember a famous master shot. This is because, when done correctly, it simply looks like one of the many necessary shots to help you understand what is happening in a given scene.

However, if you look for clues to determine if all characters are visible and all relevant actions and elements are clear, you can quickly see what shots a director took as a master, compared to the more nuanced close-ups and other cinematic angles.

It's also important to note that while a master shot is similar and sometimes the same, it is not always the same as a facility or exposure shot. Sometimes the creation of recordings can be intended to provide roughly the same amount of comprehensive information, but they are more intended to provide deeper insights into the sound and story development and can relate to extraneous elements such as landscape, time of day, or the focus mood of the film.

Tips for framing and shooting

Master Shot: framingFor a master shot, make sure you have all of the film information needed for your framing. Image by Enola Holmes via Netflix.

Hence, the key to a good master shot is simply to provide adequate coverage with a cinematographic eye. Just because you want to see all the actors and actions doesn't mean you have to fill your frame with a lot of other unnecessary information. You certainly have a license to try to make your master recording as composed as possible by following your standard filmmaking principles – like the rule of thirds – and looking for the best angles.

Another aspect that Directors and DPs should consider when recording a master shot is any items that may be required for VFX or graphics in the post. Master shots are vital for big budget productions like superhero movies and other VFX heavy blockbusters as full coverage is required to design, scale, shadow, etc. digital characters and effects, etc.

Other recordings to consider

As a general statement for those just starting out with their films and video projects, a master take is a perfect shot to approach first on each set. This gives you a base unit that you can refer to for subsequent shots, as well as a sample of all the actions, blocks and effects required for a particular scene. If you can start with the master and feel great about having at least a solid master shot or two, then you can move on to the more cinematic shots, like the many you can see above.

For more filmmaking tips and tricks, check out the cinematography articles below.

Cover picture by Fedorovekb.

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