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Use—but Don’t Abuse—Close-ups

Close-up shots draw the audience into the story, creating a sense of intimacy with the characters. To convey complex emotional reactions, and in some cases the sheer beauty of the human face, the camera must shorten the distance between the audience and the actors by enlarging their images until they fill the screen. Medium and close-up shots also tend to produce the best color and image sharpness, which will significantly improve the quality of your movie after compression.

close-up of face

Getting Closer

Big faces in the frame exclude undesirable elements and gain intimacy. Close-ups draw the audience into the emotional state through a greater range of subtlety and nuance, which helps create a rapport.

However, you should avoid zooming in for close-up shots, as this alters every aspect, every pixel of the picture frame—and it forces the computer to adjust for every shift in color, pattern, and movement, ultimately reducing the effectiveness of the compression software.

Close-ups are great, but successful movies vary their visuals with a hearty mix of close, medium, and long shots. Many actions work equally well when shot in any of the three. For example, you can videotape a handshake in close-up by isolating just the two hands as they meet; a medium shot would include the actors from the waist up; and a long shot would expose their entire forms as they approach each other.

Long-shot compositions struggle to communicate the subtleties of the face, so you would typically use them to stage broader actions, like fight scenes and other stunts. When composing shots that include such broad actions, particularly those that are vital to the understanding of the plot, it’s important to silhouette actions so they are clearly defined.


Staging Actions Clearly

The silhouetted shot is vital to actions in this scene. By staging the actor in profile, the movement of his arms, the lifting of the canteen, and the act of drinking are absolutely clear to viewers—even in a 3-inch browser window.

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