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Old 08-17-2017, 08:48 PM   #1
cinemachick
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Using Establishing Shots

How often do you use establishing shots? I'm working on editing my first feature film and have added establishing shots to just about every scene. I've since read that establishing shots are rarely used today. Most of the footage was downloaded from free stock footage sites or purchased very inexpensively online. Is it common to use that many establishing shots in a film or is it necessary to let the audience know where the scene is taking place? Thank you!
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Old 08-17-2017, 09:11 PM   #2
mlesemann
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I'm not a fan of establishing shots and we used almost none of them in my new feature DETOURS (available on Amazon Prime, gotta always mention that!). I think that in most cases, viewers don't need them in order to understand what's going on.

I will say, however, that when we were editing it, there WAS some disagreement on the subject. I'm happy with how it turned out and have never had a viewer complain about the lack of establishing shots.
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Old 08-17-2017, 09:38 PM   #3
indietalk
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If you have some dialog over them it works. Like the outside of an office building, and someone in a meeting talking, and cut to the actual meeting. But to just show an establishing shot with birds chirping, you see that more on SNL lol.
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Old 08-17-2017, 09:42 PM   #4
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By establishing shot I'm assuming you mean like a wide shot of a park, or a building or something? I like what mlesemann & indietalk said.
You should have a good reason for using it, it can help set the mood, or it can say something important about the story, or if you think you need a bit of breathing space before you go into the next scene. It would be good if it does more than one thing.
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Old 08-17-2017, 11:23 PM   #5
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Just think about the term for a moment… Establishing shot. What is the shot establishing? How does it further the plot/story. Is it needed to set mood/atmosphere, or to clarify geography? Etc., etc., etc.

It's all about purveying information important to the scene and the film.

As an audio post guy I think of it this way.

The establishing shot is, say, a neighborhood with an elevated subway. The scene following takes place in a kitchen. This allows me to use the subway and other neighborhood sounds as a part of the ambient background of the scene. The more information the establishing shot gives me the more sounds I have to enhance the scene sonically.

That's my two ducats.
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Old 08-18-2017, 01:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
How often do you use establishing shots?
Every single scene. I think you may be mistaking the term establishing shot with a wide shot, exterior or a master.

If you're talking masters, wide shots, or exteriors, it really depends on the needs of each scene.

Film school tends to teach its students, start with the master, go to mids, to cu and back out to close with the master. With simple scenes it's just an easier way to avoid issues if you use this method. Personally, I think it limits your storytelling options if you're a one trick pony.

Quote:
I'm working on editing my first feature film and have added establishing shots to just about every scene. I've since read that establishing shots are rarely used today.
You have to establish each and every scene. It's not whether you use particular shots, it's how you establish and develop the scene for the audience which is important.

Quote:
is it necessary to let the audience know where the scene is taking place?
Yes, no and somewhere between. It's an important question to ask, though the answer is specific to your film. It's not a one size fits all.

You and your director need to sit down and work out which answer is best for the film. Until you get some seasoning you may need to try both and see what works best.

You need to decide what story are you telling and how are you telling it.
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Old 08-18-2017, 07:02 AM   #7
cinemachick
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This is good stuff and just what I was looking for. Buscando, yes, an opening scene shot of an aerial view of a city, home exterior before showing the family at the dinner table, etc is to what I was referring. Most of my usage was because I did feel as if I popped into the next scene to quickly, like there should be something there, so I added the establishing shots.

Indietalk, thanks for that explanation of using dialogue over the shot! I laughed when I read it because my opening scene was of an office building exterior and I had added ambient sound with birds and light traffic! Lol! I have a scene that took place at a radio station. It opened with the host interviewing a guest and saying his spill "Welcome to WKNT radio and we are live, in the studio with Dr..., etc.". I've added an exterior shot of the radio station and added that dialogue over that shot so that you see the station and hear him delivering that dialogue and it works great so thanks for that direction!

Mlesemann, I see your viewpoint and in your case, it does work! I started watching DETOUR last night and LOVING IT, by the way but it truly works without the use of establishing shots as I imagined them. I will finish it up today.

Thanks everyone for taking the time to answer my questions!
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Old 08-18-2017, 07:55 AM   #8
mlesemann
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Quote:
Originally posted by cinemachick: Mlesemann, I see your viewpoint and in your case, it does work! I started watching DETOUR last night and LOVING IT, by the way but it truly works without the use of establishing shots as I imagined them. I will finish it up today.
Thanks! I definitely appreciate you watching and am glad you like it so far.

If you have any questions about it, please feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer them. And if you like it when you finish it, I'm always very appreciative if people leave a good rating and short review - for low budget indies, that really IS our advertising.
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Old 08-18-2017, 08:17 AM   #9
indietalk
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No prob.

Check this too:
https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/fil...blishing-shot/
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Old 08-19-2017, 11:05 AM   #10
directorik
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cinemachick View Post
Most of my usage was because I did feel as if I popped into the next scene to quickly, like there should be something there, so I added the establishing shots.
To me, THIS is the only important thing.

Okay, you read that "establishing shots are rarely used today". Did the author
say why? Is this a trend; "We don't use them anymore because we believe
in change." Or was this one person's opinion? Or is there something about
movie making today that is different than movie making pre 1999?

I've made a lot of movies. Sometime I drop in an establishing shot because
it's just what we do - kind of like chapters in a book. But some books don't
have chapters and sometimes I have pulled out the shots because my movie
works better without them. Sometimes I (like you) felt there was something
missing so I added an establishing shot that I hadn't originally intended.

It's one of the downsides of the sheer volume of information we have on the
internet. We read that "establishing shots are rarely used today" and second
guess our own, creative impulse. Someone has a strong opinion on a message
board and we think that they be more knowledgeable than me. There are so
many articles and blogs and opinions about why movies fail that we can lean
towards those warnings and lose ourselves.
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Old 08-19-2017, 12:18 PM   #11
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An interesting establishing shot may be an insert on a very small object. This is the opposite of the safe, conventional way of starting with a master or exterior of a building. e.g. In a scene of a game of chess, the first shot may be an insert on a chess piece being moved, while you hear the first lines of dialogue.
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Old 08-19-2017, 12:24 PM   #12
indietalk
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That's technically not an establishing shot but a transition. An establishing shot is used to establish time and place where otherwise may cause confusion. If you cut to being in NYC from Memphis, you can't just cut interiors, for example (well you can creatively). It must be established. Default example being NYC skyline. Your example, if they are playing chess in the scene after the closeup, the closeup does not establish anything. But as transition, sure.
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Old 08-19-2017, 01:37 PM   #13
directorik
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Scarecrow, your example goes along with my broader point.

What is an establishing shot. We know the standard definition:
An establishing shot is usually the first shot of a new scene,
designed to show the audience where the action is taking place.
From Media College.com

Does it HAVE to be a location shot? Can it be an insert? The chess
piece seems like a fine way to establish where the action is taking
place. Right off the top of my head I can think of three or four ways
to make that insert funny, or shocking, or poignant. It doesn't show a
city or a building or establish a time of day, but it does establish
where the action is taking place.

What cinemachick read, that establishing shots are rarely used these
days, seems even more foolish. To be clear; not YOU cinemachick,
what you read. Couldn't it be said that every first shot is an establishing
shot? I started a movie in a bar; it didn't matter what time of day it
was, didn't matter what city it was and the name or location of the bar
wasn't important so no exterior. That first shot of a bar, with a guy
behind it cleaning glasses and one, lone man nursing a beer was an
establishing shot, wasn't it?
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Old 08-19-2017, 02:01 PM   #14
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I think if time and place are evident in the scene itself then no, the first shot is not establishing. But that's just me and perhaps semantics. To me it is a deliberate shot to orientate where it would not otherwise be evident. So you establish it.
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Old 08-19-2017, 02:03 PM   #15
indietalk
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PS. I love your hard carriage returns in posts, so old school typewriter.

On my new 24" monitor, your posts are about 10% of the width of the forum.
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