Learn how to create a Roger Deakins-style medium shot by learning the difference between a medium shot, a medium long shot and a medium close-up.
Roger Deakins is one of the best known cinematographers in the film industry. He has made award-winning films for directors such as Joel and Ethan Coen, Sam Mendes, Frank Darabont and Ron Howard.
The middle shot is one of the standard camera angles used to frame a character. It's the shot between a close-up and a long shot. In this breakdown, we examine Deakins & # 39; various uses of the medium included in his films.
The middle shot
A medium setting frames a character from the waist down. It should be considered a personal shot, since it frames a character so that it appears that the audience is talking to him. If you chose a lens for this type of shot, you would most likely use something between 35mm and 50mm. This should provide an "eye-like" view of your subjects with manageable lens compression, giving you the nice medium shot you want.
Think of it as a real conversation. When you speak to another person, stand or sit with them. Most of the time you stare at her from the waist up. Even more often you only notice their properties from the chest up. They rarely pay attention to their feet or legs. This conversation framework is taken into account when deciding on the middle setting.
For this reason, the middle setting is often used in interviews. It is an assignable angle that everyone is used to. A medium setting in front of the camera draws the viewer's attention to a figure.
Deakins often frames his middle shots over the waist, closer to the navel. This offers a better composition as it avoids framing an actor's joints. Cutting off at the waist or elbows creates a shocking image. In each of these selected middle shots, you can see how Deakins frames only at the edge of the elbow and not in the middle of the elbow.
The biggest lesson from these middle attitudes is that they give the audience so much more information than just seeing a character. In order to properly design a medium-sized image, you have to pay attention to the entire environment and especially the lighting. The middle shot should show the scenery as well as the character.
The above shots were chosen for a reason. Notice how much information you get from the characters' bodies. In contrast to a close-up of just her face, you can see how each of her shoulders desperately sinks. Your body language offers so much more to the scene.
Also pay attention to the small background details. In the picture of True Grit we see that Rooster Cogburn is completely alone during his interrogation. Note the light balance in No Country for Old Men, where Ed Tom Bell is perfectly framed by the shades of blue that contrast the other tungsten lights in the hotel.
The last medium from The Shawshank Redemption shows the escape route from the prison in the foreground, the shock of the director and the background reactions of the officer and Red. Further back, we see the other posters on the cell wall that helped to attract the attention of to distract from Rita Hayworth's poster, which secretly hid an escape route.
The medium long shot
The middle setting frames the motif from the knees up and often focuses more on the location than on the character. Just like with the medium exposure composition, avoid framing the joints – in this case the knees. Notice how Deakins usually frames just below the knee.
The shot is also referred to as a three-quarter shot – which obviously frames three-quarters of the character. The middle long shot is usually used as a recording because it shows a character in relation to its surroundings.
Roger Deakins often uses the middle shot as a recording, with the focus more on the background than on the character. Note that the medium-length shots of The Assassination of Jesse James by coward Robert Ford and the following picture of Skyfall only use a silhouette of the character to draw your attention to the landscape. Since this is a longer shot, you should expect a longer focal length, about 85 mm or higher.
The middle close-up
The medium close-up frames a character from the middle of his chest to his chest. While the close-up focuses only on the face, the middle close-up contains the shoulders of a character. Therefore, it is sometimes referred to as a head and shoulder shot.
The focus is on the character's facial expressions, but his body language should complement the overall composition. The same applies to backgrounds. The background is not the focus of the shot, it is literally out of focus every time.
The medium close-up is perfect for taking a reaction. There is a wide range of emotions, just like Everett's reaction in O brother, where are you? Shot above. Note that the background is not the focus. We see the train in the distance, but it complements his reaction to the situation.
The middle close-up can be very intimate, like the picture above from A Beautiful Mind. We can see the total despair and confusion in John Nash's eyes and slumped body. Notice how the frame contains part of its breast pocket. As with avoiding joints, check the frame of the costume as well.
The middle close-up can also contain a number of characters, such as the following shot of O Brother, Where are you? Each character is framed directly under the chest and records several reactions at the same time.
How Deakins illuminates his middle shots
In addition to the special design of his motifs, there is also agreement with how Deakins illuminates these compositions. There are two options we will discuss today – the bay light and the ring light. With the light of the bay, Deakins wraps unbleached 180-degree muslin, creating a huge diffuse source that is angled toward the actors. Rubidium Wu of the Crimson Engine made a video that describes exactly how he does it and how you can do it:
Then there is the coveted ring light. As one of the most famous lights in Hollywood, Deakins loves to wipe out various of these lights of all sizes and strengths for his films. The light construction is simple – it's just a wooden circle with tungsten lamps mounted all around. Todd Blankenship from Shutterstock Tutorials made one of the best DIY builds of this rig. It's easy, cheap, and brings you one of the legendary Deakins recordings:
In every aspect of filmmaking, the design of your actors and themes depends on the story and how you want to tell it. Just because Deakins frames his actors in a certain way does not mean that this is the only right way. Try different recordings and don't be afraid of experiments! Understanding how Roger Deakins frames a middle shot is just the first step in learning how composition can influence and improve the story you tell.
Roger Deakins is not only a wonderful inspiration, he is also a very active member of the filmmaking community. You can learn more from him on his website RogerDeakins.com. In addition, Deakins recently released a new podcast about his work and collaboration. This thing is an absolute gold mine.
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Blade Runner 2049 Cover Image via Warner Bros.