Book Review: Setting Up Your Shots

Shots01Every great filmmaker knows that, “you don’t TAKE a shot ... you MAKE a shot.”

 How many DIFFERENT camera moves and techniques do you consider to MAKE a shot?

Setting Up Your Shots by Jeremy Vineyard contains over 70 camera moves and 45 editing techniques. This paperback picture book is an essential quick reference for beginner to experienced filmmakers, as well as storyboard artists and animators.

The book’s layout is the biggest strength. Instead of long technical descriptions (which most filmmakers don’t like to read), each page contains a sketch and aShots01 short, easy-to-understand description for every great camera move or technique that could really spice up your film! It also has short practice exercises at the end of each section that don’t require fancy equipment.

Beginning with basic movement techniques such as pan, tilt, and zoom, the book continues on with jibs, cranes and dollies. Next you will find more advanced techniques for perspective and other camera controls like flips, fades and focus shifts. In addition, post-production techniques such as cuts, sequencing and framing are included. If you can’t visualize the shot with the pictures in the book, then specific scenes from various popular movies are referenced to demonstrate the camera move or technique. However, some of the movies are rated R.

The sections I found most interesting were on composition and editing because they showed the level of thought that must go into each great shot. I would use this book in all phases of filmmaking but especially during the pre-production phase when looking at a screenplay and choosing the best way to tell the story visually. In my next movie, I plan to make my shots more interesting with techniques such as tilted horizon and high/low camera angles. I will also put more thought into setting up a shot to portray a particular mood or emotion. In general, as a result of studying this book, my shots will be more intentional. I recommend beginning filmmakers try a few new techniques in each of their projects.

The author, Jeremy Vineyard, created the book by watching movies and observing the various camera moves that are used over and over again. Although the book was published in 2000, the fundamentals have not changed. The illustrator, Jose Cruz, is a professional storyboard artist and, for any one who wants to learn how to storyboard, this book would be well worth it for the pictures alone.

Setting Up Your Shots is a 132-page, paperback book that is now available in a second edition, which has a lot more detail and information. The author added over 200 new reference films and several new filmmaking techniques. However, either edition would be a valuable reference.

ISBN (1ST edition): 0941188736
ISBN (2nd edition): 1932907424

GoPro09Makayla Wheeler, the newest SVN Intern, is a 14-year old homeschooled student filmmaker from Florida.  She started filming by taking fun videos of horseback riding while out on the trails.  Recently she has directed and completed two short adventure films - "Outlaw Territory" and "Outlaw Territory 2," and started a promotional video production company as volunteer service to her community.  Makayla hopes to be an freelance director, cinematographer or editor for feature films. Watch for more of her work here, and on SVN Student Filmmaking.