So, you have written a short story, you have some notes in a journal, some lists made, a binder for your storyboards and your camera is ready. Now what? Well, you need to put on your director/cinematographer hat. You need to figure out how to tell your story with the camera. Let say your script says “goblin finds a sword in a cave” Eventually the goblin will continue on with the sword until the great climax of him fighting the evil troll. But let’s focus on that one sentence. “Goblin finds a sword in a cave”. That is all the writer wrote. He hands it to you and says ok, figure out how to film this.
Well, there are a thousand ways to film this and this is where you get the chance to make some magic. Let’s start with the four most basic shots. First one is a long shot or establishing shot. This shot is a super wide shot. This is the shot that shows the whole village, or the castle, or the mountain side cave entrance. This lets the viewer know where the action is taking place. In our story it could be a cave entrance.
These establish the location and tell us where we are, but it shows very little detail and can be boring.
Once you show where, then we get closer to the action so we feel like we are involved. The next shot is a medium shot. This usually shows the hero from about the waist up.
So, this shot now shows that goblin has found a sword. We are close enough to the action to feel the tension or excitement. There is plenty of detail to look through. This is a great building block in your story telling.
Next shot is a close up. After our goblin finds his sword, let’s show that he has an evil plan brewing in his mind.
The close up really gets the camera in close so we can see personality in the face. This is a great reaction shot. We saw the cave, then inside we saw the goblin find the sword. Then we cut to a closeup of his face so we can see his reaction to the sword find. This shot eliminates a lot of the background to really focus the audience on what is important.
The last basic shot is the extreme close up. Get the camera super close and really focus on a single detail or object.
With this shot, the audience sees the symbol and realizes that goblin has discovered the great lost sword of King Bob. The plot really thickens now. This shot is called extreme close up. It is used when you absolutely want your audience to pay attention to something.
These are the four most basic shots in setting up your shots. There are tons of other shots and they all mean something when they are used.
With these four shots we could shoot our scene. I would do it something like this:
*long shot of cave, show goblin entering
*med shots of goblin digging in cave
*close up of blade in mud
*med shot of goblin picking it up and looking at it
*close up of his face when he gets an idea
*extreme close up of the blade design
*med shot of goblin leaving the cave
*long shot of goblin outside the cave running towards the village.
Pick and choose your shots that you believe will tell the story. Choose when you want to show lots of detail or less detail. Guide your audience down the path that you want them to take. Don’t let them wander aimlessly through your story. Grab them and take them through the story. If you want me to see your goblin deep in thought, don’ t show me the whole cave because I might be focused on the waterfall in the back.
Once you understand the basic shots you can begin to draw them in your storyboard folder. Try to sketch them like the camera would see them. Then look online for more camera shots and learn what they mean to the viewer.
Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.