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Coverage

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The initial recording of a scene is usually done with a master shot, a shot wide enough to capture the action in its entirety. But screening the whole scene from a single wide shot would be boring, not to mention all the detail that would be missed.

Ergo crafting a film involves recording a scene from different camera angles using different shot sizes to emphasize important elements of the film, such as a gun in someone’s hand or a tear in someone’s eye. This use of subsequent camera setups is known as coverage. Coverage is important not only to keep things dynamic and exciting within the scene, but also to ease the editing process of the movie.

Observe the example of coverage below from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). All the shots combined together make the scene very interesting, especially as it contains very elaborate compositions and as it focuses on character’s facial expressions.

Among the several types of shots, we find in the example above long shots, medium shots, close-ups, ECUs, high-angles, inserts, and reactions. In the movie, the scene is practically silent. Yet the amazing coverage is able to convey emotions and tensions.

It is one of the director’s tasks to create a shot list, and thus define how the coverage will be. Before principal photography starts, the director should know where the camera will be and what or who it will shoot. A movie with poor coverage always feels awkward, for it usually impedes the editor from accomplishing the much praised invisible editing.

Related readings:

Lessons on Screenwriting:

Lessons on Cinamatography:

 

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