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Home / Design & Architecture / Cinematic Storytelling / Basic Aspects of Storyboarding – 6 : 5 C’s of Cinematography (Part 4 : Close-ups)

Basic Aspects of Storyboarding – 6 : 5 C’s of Cinematography (Part 4 : Close-ups)

The distance between the point of view of the viewer and the object, varying from extreme close-up to establishing or panoramic shots, is a vital way to bring out what the script writer wanted to emphasize on that scene or shot. Simply, if the terror and panic of the character is to be emphasized, the director – or again the storyboard artist in this case –  should use extreme close-up or close-up to the character’s eyes or the face so that no background is visible and all the audience’s attention is at the face of the subject. If the character’s gestures are to be shown, medium or long shots are generally a good choice. Panoramic shots or establishing shots are mainly used to give a general sense of the environment, usually at the beginning or the end of the scene.

“The close-up may transport the viewer into the scene, eliminate all non-essentials for the moment, and isolate whatever significant incident should receive narrative emphasis.” says Joseph Mascelli, In a theatrical play, an opera, a ballet, must all be viewed by a distance, but in cinema – or let’s call it videography – we have the unique advantage of using large-scale portrayals of a portion of an action or an object. When used properly, executed and edited effectively, it can add dramatic impact and visual clarity to the subject. If otherwise it may confuse audience and detract attention, he explains.

Examine the basic framing heights charts below :

framing heights



Establishing Shot (Extreme Long Shot):

These are wide shots, in which the scale of the object shown is very small. What fills the frame is its surroundings. They are used generally to show the audience where the following scene is taking place. These are usually the first or last shots of a sequence, as stated before.


(Skyfall, 2012, Sam Mendes)

Full Shot :

These shots portray the character from head to toe, without much of its surroundings because the whole focus and the attention should be led to the object in full shots.

Full shots are effective in showing the gestures of the characters and their body movements. They carry less emotional weight than the close-ups, so it is not effective to use full shots when the director / the storyboard artist wants to convey someone’s anger, fear, joy etc.

Medium Shot :

These are the most commonly used framing types that are used in filmmaking. They show most of the character’s body – usually from weist to head, or you can go even lower and cut above the knees (make sure you don’t cut from the knees since cutting from the joints is not really welcome concerning composition matters) – they are half way between full shot and close-up.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 12.52.50 AM

(The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946, Tay Garnett)

Close-up :

Close-ups frame the characters head and shoulders, and they focus the audience’s attention on the facial expression, thus emphasizing the emotional impact. However using too much close-up without balancing it with a variety of other shots will eventually make the sequence fell claustrophobic.


(Hugo, 2011, Martin Scorsese)

Extreme Close-up :

Besides consolidating the emotional impact of the close-ups and medium close-ups, extreme close-ups are also used to show a small detail on the subject, hence they are often labeled as detail shots.


X-Men : First Class, 2011, Matthew Vaughn


So we’re done taking an overall glimpse at the headlines of the textbook 5 C’s of Cinematography by cinematographer Joseph Mascelli. Stay tuned for the ‘Screen Direction Rules’ and the holy ‘180 Degree Rule’!

Image source:

Yiğit Işık

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