4th Edition

Grammar of the Shot

ISBN 9781138632226
Published July 11, 2017 by Routledge
326 Pages 200 B/W Illustrations

USD $42.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

The newly-revised and updated fourth edition of Grammar of the Shot teaches readers the principles behind successful visual communication in motion media through shot composition, screen direction, depth cues, lighting, camera movement, and shooting for editing. Many general practices are suggested that should help to create rich, multi-layered visuals. Designed as an easy-to-use reference, Grammar of the Shot presents each topic succinctly with clear photographs and diagrams illustrating key concepts, practical exercises, and quiz questions, and is a staple of any filmmaker’s library.

New to the fourth edition:

  • an expanded companion website at www.routledge.com/cw/Bowen, offering downloadable scenes and editable raw footage so that students can practice the techniques described in the book, and instructional videos showcasing examples of different compositional choices;
  • new and expanded quiz questions and practical exercises at the end of each chapter to help test readers on their knowledge using real-world scenarios;
  • updated topic discussions, explanations, illustrations, and visual examples.

Together with its companion volume, Grammar of the Edit, the core concepts discussed in these books offer concise and practical resources for both experienced and aspiring filmmakers.

Table of Contents




Chapter One – The Shots: What, How and Why?

What to Show Your Audience?

Choosing Your Frame

Aspect Ratio

A Brief History of Aspect Ratios

Further Exploration – Why We Might Like Widescreen so Much

An Introduction to Shot Types - The Basic Building Blocks of Motion Pictures

Long Shot / Wide Shot

Medium Shot


The Extended Family of Basic Shots – The Powers of Proximity

Extreme Long Shot / Extreme Wide Shot

Very Long Shot / Very Wide Shot

Long Shot / Wide Shot / Full Shot

Medium Long Shot / Knee Shot

Medium Shot / Waist Shot / Mid

Medium Close-Up / Bust Shot


Big Close-Up (UK) / Choker (USA)

Extreme Close-Up

Why Do We Even Have Different Shot Types?

Pulling Images from the Written Page

Script Breakdown for Cinematographers

Shot Lists


Phases of Film Production

Let’s Practice

Chapter One Summation – The Pictures Speak

Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices

Chapter One – Review

Chapter One – Exercises & Projects

Chapter One – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Two – The Basics of Composition

Simple Guidelines For Framing Human Subjects


Subjective Versus Objective Shooting Styles

Look Room / Nose Room

The Rule of Thirds

Camera Angle

Horizontal Camera Angles

360 Degrees Method

Clock Face Method

Camera Position Method

The Frontal View

The ¾ View

The Profile View

The ¾ Back View

The Full Back View

Vertical Camera Angles

Neutral Angle Shot

High Angle Shot

High Angle of an Individual

High Angle as a POV

High Angle of an Environment

Low Angle Shot

Low Angle of an Individual

Low Angle as a POV

Low Angle of an Environment

The Two-Shot: Frame Composition with Two People

The Profile Two-Shot

The Direct-to-Camera Two-Shot

The Over-the-Shoulder Two-Shot

The Dirty Single

The Power Dynamic Two-Shot

The Three-Shot

Chapter Two Summation - Wrapping up the Basics of Composition

Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices

Chapter Two – Review

Chapter Two – Exercises & Projects

Chapter Two – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Three – Composition – Beyond the Basics

The Illusion of the Third Dimension

The Use of Lines

The Horizon Line

Vertical Lines

Dutch Angle

Diagonal Lines

Curved Lines

The Depth of Film Space – Foreground / Middle Ground / Background


Middle Ground


Depth Cues


Object Size


The Camera Lens – The Observer of Your Film World

What is a Camera Lens?

Primes vs Zooms

The Prime Lens

The Zoom Lens

Lens Perspective

Lens Focus – Directing the Viewer’s Attention

Pulling Focus or Following Focus

Chapter Three Summation – Directing the Viewer’s Eyes Around Your Frame

Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices

Chapter Three – Review

Chapter Three – Exercises & Projects

Chapter Three – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Four – Lighting Your Shots – Not Just What You See, but How You See It

Light as an Element of Composition

Light as Energy

Color Temperature

Color Balance of Your Camera

Natural and Artificial Light

Correcting or Mixing Colors on Set

Quantity of Light: Sensitivity

Quantity of Light: Exposure

Quality of Light: Hard Versus Soft

Hard Light

Soft Light


Low-key Lighting

High-key Lighting


Basic Character Lighting: Three-Point Method

Contrast Ratio or Lighting Ratio

Motivated Lighting – Angle of Incidence

Front Lighting

Side Lighting

Lights from Behind

Lights from Other Places

Set and Location Lighting

Controlling Light – Basic Tools and Techniques

Chapter Four Summation – Learning to Light … and Lighting to Learn

Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices

Chapter Four – Review

Chapter Four – Exercises & Projects

Chapter Four – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Five – Will it Cut? Shooting for Editing

The Chronology of Production

Matching Your Shots in a Scene

Continuity of Performance

Continuity of Screen Direction

The Line – Basis for Screen Direction

The Imaginary Line – The 180 Degree Rule

"Jumping the Line"

The 30 Degree Rule

Reciprocating Imagery

Eye-Line Match

Chapter Five Summation – Be Kind to Your Editor

Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices

Chapter Five – Review

Chapter Five – Exercises & Projects

Chapter Five – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Six – Dynamic Shots – Subjects and Camera in Motion

The Illusion of Movement on a Screen

Presentation Speed – Slow Motion and Fast Motion

Slow Motion – or Overcranking

Fast Motion – Undercranking

Subjects in Motion – Blocking Talent

Camera in Motion


Pan and Tilt

Shooting the Pan and the Tilt

Equipment Used to Move the Camera




Steadicam™ and other such Camera Stabilization Devices

Cranes and Such

Chapter Six Summation – Movies Should Move

Related Material Found in Chapter Seven: Working Practices

Chapter Six – Review

Chapter Six – Exercises & Projects

Chapter Six – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Seven – Working Practices and General Guidelines

Storyboards and Shot Lists

Slate the Head of Your Shots

Help Boom Operator Place the Mircrophone

Use of Two of More Cameras

Be Aware of Reflections

Communicating with Talent

Safe Action / Safe Title Areas

How to Manually Focus a Zoom Lens

Always Have Something in Focus

Control Your Depth of Field

Be Aware of Headroom

Shooting Tight Close-Ups

Beware of Wide Lenses when Shooting Close-Up Shots

Try to Show Both Eyes of Your Subject

Be Aware of Eye-Line Directions in Closer Shots

Place Important Objects in the Top Half of Your Frame

Keep Distracting Objects out of the Shot

Use the Depth of Your Film Space to Stage Shots with Several People

Ensure an Eye Light

Be Aware of the Color and Contrast Choices Made Throughout Your Project

Allow the Camera More Time to Record Each Shot

Follow Action with Loose Pan and Tilt Tripod Head

Shooting Overlapping Action for the Edit

Continuity of Action

Matching Speed of Action

Overlapping Too Much Action

Frame for Correct "Look Room" on Shots that Will Edit Together

Shoot Matching Camera Angles when Covering a Dialogue Scene

In a Three-Person Dialogue Scene, Matching Two-Shots can be Problematic
for the Editor

Beware of Continuity Traps While Shooting a Scene

Ways to Cross the 180 Degree Line Safely

The Long Take

Zooming During a Shot

Motivate Your Dolly-In and Dolly-Out Camera Moves

Use Short Focal Length Lenses to Reduce Handheld Camera Shake

Allow Actions to Complete Before Cutting Camera

Shooting a Chromakey

Shooting B-Roll, 2nd Unit, and Stock Footage

Shooting a Talking Head Interview

During Documentary Filming, Be as Discreet as Possible

Use Visual Metaphors

Aim for a Low Shooting Ratio

Chapter Seven – Review

Chapter Seven – Exercises & Projects

Chapter Seven – Quiz Yourself


Chapter Eight – Concluding Thoughts

Know the Rules Before You Break the Rules

The Reason for Shooting is Editing

Your Shots Should Enhance the Entire Story

Involve the Viewer as Much as Possible

Take Pride in the Quality of your Work

Practice Proper Set Etiquette

Know Your Equipment

Be Familiar with Your Subject Matter

Understand Lighting – Both Natural and Artificial

Study What Has Already Been Done

In Conclusion


Appendix A – Helpful Resources for the New Filmmaker

Appendix B – Common Crew Members Needed for Motion Picture Production



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Christopher J. Bowen has worked within the motion media industries for over 18 years as a cinematographer, editor, director, and educator. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Film Production and Visual Media Writing at Framingham State University. He is also an Avid Certified Instructor, Creative Director of his own media production company, Fellsway Creatives, and author of the companion text, Grammar of the Edit.