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Establishing shots are shots that give the viewer a frame of reference of where you are. They might not seem important if you are not the viewer. If you are making the movie, Establishing shots don't feel as important as they really are to the viewer. Here is an example of an establishing shot. This is our scene from "House on Haunted Hill." This guy discovers a secret passageway, then he gets eaten by the house. Apparently, we don't know what happens to him. Then we are going to see another scene a little bit later in the same house again, because everyone is trapped in this haunted house.
That really was one of the first "trapped in the haunted house" movies. So we have another scene in the same house, but it doesn't just cut from this scene to that scene. There is another scene in between. Let's watch. (Music Playing) So before it cuts from one room of the house to the other room of the house, it cuts to the house itself.
This establishes where we are. Now mentally, we all know where we are. We know that we are in a house and we know that she's in the house. We know that he's in the house. We've seen them throughout the whole movie in this house. The entire movie almost takes place in this house. So, why show another shot of it? Because it reminds us where we are, and as an audience we need that. "The Simpsons" has been on the air for over 20 years, and it's one of the longest-running TV shows ever, and still when they cut from like Homer Simpson at work into the interior of the Simpson's house, well, they still cut first to the Simpsons exterior home, to the outside of their home just to establish where you are.
And so we need that. We can't just cut from inside the house to another spot inside the house. It's a good idea to cut to the exterior of the house to remind us where we are and then cut back inside the home. Now, you might use this in several different ways. If you have a couple of people talking in a room or a restaurant, you might cut back and forth between their faces. But occasionally, you want to back up and show them in the restaurant, just to remind the viewers of the environment that they are in. As you are shooting the movie, if you are behind the camera, you are very aware of the boundaries and dimensions of the environment that you are shooting in.
But the audience isn't. So these establishing shots of the environment, as they are called, the establishing shots help you to get a better bearing of where you are. Now, if you are an editor and the director shot no establishing shots, then you might have to get more creative and it might be completely impossible for you to do this. But if you can, then remember that establishing shots help viewers to get a sense of where they are better.
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