One of the first things you learn in filmmaking is the importance of coverage. It’s a concept that comes up time and time again in your career as a filmmaker.
You’ll quickly realize that coverage is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking — yet, it’s also one of the hardest to master!
A common question that arises in filmmaking is what does it mean to cover a scene? And how do you go about covering a scene for maximum efficiency and creativity?
In this article, we’ll look at what coverage is, what the nice-to-have elements are and how to approach coverage from a storytelling perspective.
We’ll also offer tips on how to make sure you get sufficient coverage. So grab your camera and let’s get started!
What Is film coverage
What Is film coverage?
For those new to film production, coverage is the process of filming multiple angles, shots, and performances of a scene.
It’s called coverage because it covers all the necessary elements required to edit the scene together in post-production.
In television, coverage is considered standard practice as scenes are often shot out of sequence on a tight shooting schedule.
Coverage ensures that there are enough options available in the edit for the editor to put together an interesting and engaging version of the scene.
For independent filmmakers, it’s not always possible to get extensive coverage due to scheduling constraints, budget, or even just not knowing how to do it.
But if you’re working on something with more time and resources available then getting good coverage will make your life much easier in post-production.
What Is Coverage In Filmmaking?
Coverage can be a confusing term to some filmmakers. It refers to the practice of filming multiple angles of a scene to create options in the edit.
In Hollywood, coverage is an essential part of the process of filmmaking and is often considered one of the most important elements.
It all begins with the script and breaking down the scenes into their separate parts. Once a scene is broken down, the director will choose which shots they want to create the scene.
The choices made in pre-production are usually based on how they want each shot to feel and how they want each shot to play off each other in editing. Coverage is also dependent on budget as well as time constraints.
Once every shot is chosen based on story or style, multiple versions of that same shot are filmed for later use in editing.
Those shots can be used for different styles of editing or just used as backup footage if something goes wrong during production.
You will hear the phrase coverage used quite a bit when you watch DVD extras or film features like behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with cast and crew, and featurettes about specific films or films in general.
The term has been around for decades and it’s a good idea when beginning your filmmaking journey to understand what it means.
Basic Camera Shots For Film Coverage
Coverage, in filmmaking, is the amount of film devoted to a particular scene. In general, the more important the scene or sequence being filmed, the more coverage it will get.
Coverage can be described as consisting of two main parts:
A master shot is a long shot that shows the entire cast of characters involved in a scene and their surroundings.
It generally does not focus on any one character in particular, but rather encompasss the entire scene in one view. Master shots are typically filmed from a tripod to ensure stability.
Close-ups are shots taken from closer angles that show only one character at a time. They are used to highlight specific characters and/or their emotions during a given moment in the film.
Close-ups are often used after master shots have been shot so that different angles can be obtained for each scene.
Once the key scenes have been shot with master shots and close-ups, coverage moves on to establishing shots and insert shots.
An establishing shot is an exterior shot that shows where the action is taking place, such as outside a house or inside an office building.
Establishing shots are usually filmed before any interior scenes take place so that the audience knows where they should expect the action to take place next.
Coverage In Cinematography
Coverage is a term used in cinematography. It refers to the angle from which the action is viewed by the camera.
Tilt shots are slightly elevated angles that provide a complete view of the subject.
A tilt shot can be used for almost any activity, but it is usually reserved for more formal situations such as speeches or award presentations. Tilt shots are often combined with reverse angle coverage of secondary characters listening to or reacting to the speaker.
A bird’s eye view shot gives the audience an aerial view of the action. This perspective is frequently used to convey a sense of power or majesty, especially when combined with slow motion.
A reverse angle coverage shot is filmed from a camera position opposite that of the primary camera position, providing a second angle on the action. Allowing viewers to see what secondary characters are doing while other action takes place in front of them.
A low angle shot provides an elevated perspective on an object or character, often conveying a sense of power or strength, as when a despot addresses his subjects.
A high angle shot provides an elevated perspective on an object or character, often conveying a sense of vulnerability or weakness, as when children look up at adults.
Film Coverage Shot Listing Efficiently
The purpose of a shot listing is to specify exactly what material needs to be recorded. Shot listings are generally prepared by the assistant director (AD), who works with the script supervisor (SS) and production manager (PM) daily.
The AD’s role is threefold: firstly, he or she must make sure that all coverage required for each scene in production is included in the final edit. Secondly, he or she must make sure that there is sufficient coverage of any action required; and lastly, he or she must ensure that all coverage necessary for each specific actor’s performance is recorded.
Shot listings consist of a list of every scene filmed needed to tell the story, including angle changes and location moves. In this way, it functions as a guide for both the script supervisor as well as the production crew regarding what action to capture on film during principal photography.
Shooting Your Coverage In One Take Filmmaking
Filmmaking is more than just pointing a camera at a subject and pushing record. Filmmaking is about telling a story, and the best way to tell a story is with continuity.
This means that if you are following someone in one shot, then the next shot should continue to follow them in the same direction. For this to work seamlessly you need to plan out your shots so that they all flow together.
Trying to shoot your coverage in one take is not only a great way to save time during production but also makes your video feel professional, organized, and planned. It also forces you to be thorough in your planning and preparation so that you have enough coverage for every scene in your video.
When shooting your coverage in one take, there are some rules that you will want to stick by:
- Every shot should follow the action of the last shot. For example, if you were on a person’s left side in the last shot, continue on their left side in the next shot unless you get an amazing cutaway that adds something important to the storyline (like showing their face).
- Every single time you go from over the shoulder or behind the back of a character and come back into another over the shoulder or behind the back.
Basic Camera Shots for Traditional Film Coverage
There are many types of shots that a cinematographer can use to capture the scene. Traditional film coverage is the technique of shooting a scene from many different camera angles and perspectives to be able to edit the footage into the final product.
As you start in this business, you will be asked to shoot these types of shots, as they are relatively easy to set up and understand. The first basic shot is called over the shoulder or OTS.
This shot is used for two people having a conversation with each other. It shows one person from behind looking at another person, who is usually looking into the camera.
The reason it is called over the shoulder is that one side of the first person’s body, usually their shoulder and arm, covers part of the second person’s body.
Another basic shot type is called two-shot.
This shot uses two subjects, usually, actors or actresses, which will be filmed together. The camera will capture both subjects at once with equal screen time.
Usually, one actor is on the left side of the screen and one actor or actress is on the right side of the screen.
Master or Wide Shot (WS) In Filmmaking
A master shot, or wide shot (WS), is an extremely important tool used in filmmaking. It’s the largest view of a scene and usually encompasses the entire picture.
The most common types of master shots are establishing shots, which are used to introduce the setting in a film, and reaction shots, which portray characters’ reactions at a certain moment. A master shot is generally used at the beginning of a scene to establish time and place.
A director may use several different camera angles – close-ups, medium shots, and long shots – to show various perspectives of his film’s story.
Master shots can be used throughout a movie to create a sense of flow between scenes and to develop character relationships throughout the story. The master shot is one of the most important shots in filmmaking because it sets up the scene.
It lets you see who is present in the scene, what they’re doing, how they’re interacting with each other, and how they relate to their environment. Master shots typically include all characters involved in a scene and show their interaction with each other and with their surroundings.
A master shot can be anywhere from two seconds long to as much as ten minutes long or more depending on what’s taking place in the shot and how many people are included.
Medium Shots (MS) In Filmmaking
There are times when it may be appropriate to use a medium shot. In general, MS shots are used in dialogue scenes and they provide a good combination of close-up detail and full-figure view.
Medium shots are among the most difficult angles to shoot. They’re not quite as demanding as a close-up because you have more room for error, but they’re also more difficult than a long shot because you have less room for error.
Here’s how to get a good medium shot:
Position yourself about 2/3 the way back from your subject at an angle of about 30 degrees. (If you want to be super technical, here’s how that works on a right-handed camera: If the actor is facing left, position yourself on the actor’s right.
If she’s facing right, position yourself on her left.)
This will allow you to see her face clearly without having too much space around her body.
Make sure you have some foreground to frame your subject with. If there is nothing in front of your subject, it will appear as if she is standing alone in an empty void.
Keep your focus about four feet in front of the actor at around chest height.
Close-Ups (CU) In Filmmaking
Learn the basics of close-up shots and how they are used in the film. A close-up (or CU) is a shot that frames an object to emphasize its importance within the scene.
A close-up may be used to reveal details of the subject that would otherwise go unnoticed, or to present an object that would be too small if seen from a distance.
The term close-up generally refers to macro-photography (close-ups of small objects such as flowers, insects, jewelry, coins, and stamps).
The term also applies to filming techniques (extreme close-ups of human faces) and the use of telephoto lenses to distort perspective.
In television, one popular use is in interviews where subjects are filmed with a fixed camera very close; sometimes filling the screen with just part of the face. A cutaway shot will then switch back to a wider angle showing the subject’s head and shoulders with more context for their answer.
Color photography often makes use of relatively wide-angle lenses; therefore it is possible to include both the subject.
Over-the-Shoulder Shots (OTS) In Filmmaking
In filmmaking, there is a second angle shot that is used all the time, and it is usually called an over-the-shoulder or OTS shot. This shot can be used as a close-up shot or even a two-shot depending on how you use it.
The main purpose of this particular type of shot is to show one character looking at another character while they are talking to create more dramatic tension between them. It can also be used to show them listening to each other while they speak.
The over-the-shoulder shot is a very common type of filmmaking technique used by many famous directors and cinematographers from all around the world.
This type of camera angle has been featured in many famous films such as Goodfellas, by Martin Scorsese, The Shawshank Redemption, by Frank Darabont, and Se7en, by David Fincher, and many more.