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Grammar of the Shot

Third Edition Definitions By Ko Maruyama
Grammar of the Shot
Third Edition Definitions 

Chris Bowen and Roy Thompson have written a useful theory and practice book called "Grammar of the Shot". This isn't just a handbook for beginning directors, but for cameramen of all types. When we are talking about visual construction, it's important that we have the proper language to describe exactly what we want. Whether we are directors, directors of photography, visual effects coordinators, animators, or other creatives who discuss what the composition of a frame might look like, this could be your Rosetta Stone. 

When you're setting up a storyboard or shooting boards, sometimes you may create a visual reference for how you want your subject framed, but there are times when you're actually talking to members on your team, considering how the camera setup may be better suited to tell your story. Scribbling over the storyboard artist's work isn't the option, but writing "XCU" in the margins for an alternative shot could do the trick. But what does the abbreviation mean, or why should the shot be framed this way? What does it tell your production team? What will it tell your audience? 

Basic definitions are easy enough to find online, but Grammar of the Shot goes well beyond simple definitions. The significance of different shots are also discussed in chapters relating to the the fundamentals (and beyond basics) of good composition. 

Having worked both in post-production and production (in that order), one thing I really appreciate about this book is that the authors consider the entire process of a shot, from start to finish. What does the camera's lens allow you to change in the shot? What story does color tell? Most importantly, when you're done shooting, what happens to your film before it's finished? Considering the post-production process (and pre- production too). 

Whether your setting up a practical shot with real actors, preparing a stopmotion piece, or CG animation - check out Grammar Of The Shot and make sure your whole team is speaking the same language.

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:focalpress, filmmaking, photography, production, animationartist, cameras


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