This is the second post of the series ‘The Shot Tells the Story’ using the movie Wall-E as my lesson plan. You can find the whole list of shots in the introduction post.
In the post about extreme wide shots, I said those shots answer the question “where are we?” for the audience. This time I’m talking about the long shot.
What’s the difference between the extreme wide shot and a long shot?
“Gee Karen, never woulda figured that one out.”
OK, so I’m not really blowing your socks off here. But I’m not trying to. I’m just pointing out the differences and help you pick your shots. Remember, it’s all about shot choice.
So if the extreme wide shot answers the question, “where are we?”, what does the long shot do?
While the long shot can answer that question too, I feel it’s making more of a statement. That statement being:
“Oh, there they are.”
If you look at the last post, Wall-E is in some of those shots. And when you watch the movie you can see him (my pictures are pretty tiny).
But those shots aren’t really establishing Wall-E himself. They are showing us the big picture.
With the long shot, you’re not establishing the ‘world’ so much as establishing the character(s) in that world. So the audience finds themselves saying, “Oh, there they are.”
This is a good thing. The audience always wants to know where everything and everybody is.
“Hey, there’s Wall-E in his house. Look at all the stuff he has.”
“Oh look, there he is at the base of the spaceship.”
“There’s Eve stretching out her arms and flying around.”
“Whoa! Eve just shot at Wall-E!!”
“There’s Eve searching and searching.”
“Oh, there’s Wall-E watching Eve through the tire.”
Now I did mention in the last post about it all being ‘relative’. What may be a long shot for one element may be an extreme wide shot for another.
Like this one.
Is this an extreme wide shot of Eve? Or a long shot of the ship exploding?
I choose ship exploding. This shot is no longer about Eve, it’s about the ship. So this is a long shot of the ship.
This one too. Is this a close-up of the shelf? Or a long shot of the cockroach inside the Twinkie? In Wall-E’s world, it’s a close-up, but in the cockroach’s, it’s a long shot.
I choose long shot for this one because at this moment, it’s all about the little cockroach.
“There he is, inside the Twinkie!”
And so on.
“Look, Wall-E has brought the ‘sleeping Eve’ outside.”
“Aww, Wall-E is protecting ‘sleeping Eve’ from the rain.”
“And he’s taken her on a sludgy boat ride. Isn’t that sweet?”
“Oh look, he’s brought her to that bench to watch the sunset.”
Yes, all my little quotes are super-obvious.
After the fact.
But when you’re faced with the blank page, this is what you need to say to yourself. Then show that to the audience with the appropriate shot.
If we need to see the big picture, the world where it’s taking place, we’ll go extreme wide shot. When we need to see the characters and what they are doing, the long shot works great.
Too wide and we can’t see the ‘who‘. Too close and we can’t see the ‘where‘.
The long shot gives us both.
“Oh, there they are.”
Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email for the next post in this series; ‘full shots’.