The Extreme Wide Shot: Dissecting Wall-E

All images © 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures.

This is the first 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.

Now, you may not find the term ‘extreme wide shot’ in any film making books (or maybe you will…who knows?). It’s kind of my own term. Because I think ‘wide shot’ has too many variables. Therefore I’m breaking up wide shots into ‘extreme wide shot, ‘long shot’ and ‘full shot’ (you may not find that term in any book either).

They’re all wide. They can all be used as establishing (or re-establishing) shots. You don’t have to use all of them all the time. How wide you need to go will be determined by the story you’re trying to tell.

It’s all relative. And I’ll try to explain that.

But what all of these ‘wide shots’ have in common is one thing. They are answering the same question:

“Where are we?”

This is the first question you generally want to answer for your audience. Now, I’m not saying a wide shot has to be the first shot. But it should be pretty darn close to first. Again, it depends on the story and if there is something you’re trying to hide from the audience on purpose.

But I’m going to keep it pretty basic for these lessons. So I’m saying give your audience a wide shot very close to the beginning.

Or as your first shot.

Or in the case of Wall-E, the first five minutes of your film. That’s right. Except for one sequence where we see Wall-E scooping up the garbage, almost all of the shots in the first five minutes are ‘extreme wide shots’.

Why?

Because of the story they’re trying to tell us. The shot tells the story and here’s what these shots are telling us.

Above: “Space. Gotcha. We’re in space. Space is big.”

Earth. Cool. This story is told on Earth.”

Read moreThe Extreme Wide Shot: Dissecting Wall-E

The Shot Tells the Story: Dissecting Wall-E

© 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures.

I’ve been wanting to do a series called ‘The Shot Tells the Story’.

Because that’s how I view visual storytelling and storyboarding.

In the post series ‘What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards‘, when it was all said and done, I said all that was left was shot choice.

Sometimes your shot choice can be flat out wrong.

More commonly though, is the one you chose still works, but there may be a better one to tell that part of the story.

So I’m going to go through all the commonly used shots and show you when they are a good choice and what that shot ‘says’.

In my series of Feature Favorites, a few people in the comments asked if I was going to do a review of Wall-E. Since it’s now out on DVD (and I bought it…yay) the question was posed again (thanks, t.sterling).

But I didn’t just want to do another story deconstruct (as much fun at that is). If you want to know how I feel about Wall-E, here it is:

Love it, love it, love it. See it. Buy it. Love it too.

There.

So I’m going to use Wall-E as my little lesson plan. And I’m mostly going to use the first half of the film when it’s all him (and Eve) and barely any dialogue or sound. There is no better example of shots telling the story than the first half of Wall-E.

Read moreThe Shot Tells the Story: Dissecting Wall-E

But I Can’t Draw!

Well, not with that attitude.

Wish you could produce your own storyboard for a short film? Not an artist? Can’t draw a straight line without a ruler?

I don’t buy it.

If you’re capable of writing your name, you can draw.

Something.

As I mentioned in a previous post, storyboards are about communication, not pretty pictures. Sure, pretty pictures help. I won’t deny that. But if these boards are just for you, or for a small group of people to work from, you can do them yourself. With some guidance and a few tips. Which you will be able to find right here…how convenient!

OK, and some practice : ).

Read moreBut I Can’t Draw!