Join Christine Steele for an in-depth discussion in this video Framing the scene: Sequencing shots to build a rough cut, part of Premiere Pro: Narrative Scene Editing.
In this movie, I will demonstrate a technique editors use to focus the audience's attention. This is a basic yet essential technique for shot sequencing, using shot framing as a guide to structure the scene. In previous movies, I explained which takes I felt were strong choices for building the scene. I have now created a rough assembly using those takes. Take a look at the clips in my timeline sequence. Now, I wouldn't normally stack the clips on four tracks like this when I am just building a rough cut. I have done this because I wanted to visually demonstrate for you exactly what I am doing here while we watch the scene progress.
I will step through this and point out that this stair stepping on the tracks indicates when I am using a wide shot-- like at the beginning, I start on a wide shot-- then as we step up, you will see that I am moving into medium shots and then as I step up another track, I am actually using a medium close-up. The highest point in my sequence here is when I am using my close-up with my main character Joseph, during a moment of heightened emotion.
I have chosen to put this here at this point because I am building the scene or structuring it around the delivery of some pivotal information, or an emotional high point in the scene. Then as we progress down the sequence, I am moving back out to a medium close-up and then farther back out into a wide shot. Beginning a scene with a wide shot really helps establish, for the viewer, a sense of place. It gives the viewer an understanding of where we are and who exactly we are dealing with.
As we move towards to the what and the why of the situation, I am progressively tightening the shots. And a wide shot is again often used at the end of the scene because it will sort of release the viewer's attention, and it will indicate that you are actually moving on to a new scene. I just want to point out that this isn't the only way to start structuring a scene, but it is a really solid way to begin, because it creates a natural feeling of momentum because the shot sequencing is lead by the dialogue itself.
Let's watch the scene. I will press the Home key and play with the spacebar. (music playing) (Mr. Dalton: So, how's the coffee? Joseph: It's cold.) (Mr. Dalton: Did you finish it?) (You know, I'm taking a big risk putting you on this Columbia project.) (Firm could be on the line here. Six p.m. tonight, simple deadline, meet it.) (Joseph: That's it, 6 p.m., huh? And if I'm a risky choice, then don't use me.) (We all know what risky decisions lead to.) (Look, the company's in free-fall, and you want to take risk again? It's a creative approach.) (Mr. Dalton: My creativity has nothing to do with this. I did my time.) (My job now is to wear this suit, please clients, and make sure you do your job, nothing more,) (nothing less, understand? Six p.m., deliver.) (Oh, and this design better not resemble the last few of your strip-mall-inspired creations.) (Get out of the safety zone, Joseph.) As you can see in this rough cut, that by moving in slowly using a wide medium shot and then coming into a medium close-up as we hear Mr.
Dalton say that he is taking a risk using Joseph for this project, we are effectively building tension up until that moment, and then we are further focusing the viewer's attention on Joseph in close-up when he is saying "Then don't use me. The company is in free-fall." The audience now knows what is at risk in this situation and why Joseph is under pressure. In this particular scene, what is the one piece of information that the viewer cannot miss before I move on to the next scene? That's where I will try out using the close-up. Be subtle though.
This works best when it is nuanced. If there is, for example, a visual cue that really must be noticed in the scene, like a slip of a paper with a date scrolled on it or something, try to build slowly into that close-up by leading up to it with some medium shots and some medium close-ups first if you can. You should be able to feel when you are playing back your sequence, how moving from a wide shot into a tighter shot makes you listen to the dialog and makes you pay more attention. And then when you are moving out to a wide shot again at the end, like this, that should give you a sense of pulling back, sort of pulling your attention back away out of the scene again.
Taking advantage of shot framing, coupled with identifying an actor's best performance, will allow you to build towards pivotal moments and help keep your viewers focused on important story points. Master this technique and you will literally focus your viewers' attention on critical moments.
- Preparing your workflow
- Adding and editing clip markers
- Evaluating performances, shot framing, and supporting elements in takes
- Adding reaction shots
- Cutting on action
- Building montages
- Compressing time with jump cuts
- Working with audio
- Supporting theme with color effects
- Altering playback speed