There’s a lot of stuff in the world trying to get our attention.
The most compelling is probably in your hand. Your video has to compete with that. Don’t just start your project with a boring establishing shot. That’s fine for last century, but not anymore. Good first shots are unique. Capture my attention. Compel me to watch. Don’t let me look away.
Ever notice that you can tell if a movie is going to be any good in just the first few seconds? Or is that just me. If you can put some thought into the very first shot then your video will take a big leap up in quality. That’s the secret, now here’s how to do it.
Think of your video as a mystery that you’ll unfold in a unique way. Your shots are the way you communicate bits and pieces to us. We will assume a lot from what’s inside your frame. So make every shot count, especially the first one.
Think about your story. Think about what’s most important. Then show us, just a piece to start. Try storyboarding your first shot. Better yet, make several ‘first shots.’ It’s the best way to brainstorm your ideas, and then take a look at them, then try another. You’ll find that you can use these thoughtful shots in other places in your project.
The easiest attention-getting shot is the CLOSEUP. Maybe your first shot starts on a closeup of something relevant to your story. A closeup is a tight shot that points to something very important that you want to audience to see. Usually this type of shot is a highly dramatic shot. Too many closeups and they’ll lose their impact. Too wide all the time and you’ll lose the audience to lack of focus. Start with a closeup and you’re telling the audience to pay attention, ‘this’ is important.
We can wonder “what is that?” at least for a moment. Then reveal more information, until we get it. Make us work for the meaning. It will keep us engaged, and keep us watching.
To be a real pro, your first shot will also tell the story of the entire movie, but let’s start with creating a shot that at least will hold our attention.
Think about your first scene. What is the setup? Maybe your first scene isn’t compelling enough. Consider changing the order of your scenes to tell a better story.
Start on a Wide Shot. Wait, what? Didn’t I just say not to start with a boring establishing shot? Wide shots typically set the scene by telling us the time and place. These shots are
usually not too tense by definition, because we are farther from the action. But what if the angle is super low and your main character drops with a thud into the frame. Or suddenly looks directly into the lens. That type of developing wide shot can take your first shot to the next level. We all will immediately start to guess ‘what’s going on?’ Perfect. You’ve got my attention.
Another idea is to think about your story as a single frame. What if you had to tell your story in a still image? Who would be in the foreground? Where would they be?
Plenty of projects start with a medium shot. This type of shot is pretty neutral, about waist up on a character. Not too tense, not to relaxed. But what if your character is hiding in a closet and we can hear strange noises outside. A medium shot then becomes more compelling.
Of course every shot is important, but really concentrate on a great first shot. That’s the one that will elevate you. That’s part of the language of moving pictures. Everyone knows the language when they see it. It’s your job to use language to the most powerful effect. Use all your best shots. Keep us interested.
Brought to you by the makers of the recent award-winning StoryBoard Quick & StoryBoard Artist, by PowerProduction Software www.powerproduction.com
Moonlight images courtesy A24