top of page
  • paolofossa

Restructuring the classroom

Blog N° 18

Cinematic Language

Having defined the movements of the body in space with a universally recognised language, the scientific language of medicine, we will now provide some basic definitions of film language, in order to better understand how communication through a video camera works.

Film is a language that has developed little by little since the late 19th century, from the first simple fixed shots lasting a few seconds to much more complex discourses, where images and sounds accompany each other, follow each other and fit together to create narratives that are often very articulate.

There are very precise elements, and there are rules thanks to which these elements, visual and sound, give life to a work that "speaks to us", just as the other arts do that cinema (as the director Akira Kurosawa noted) can understand and harmoniously amalgamate.

As we have seen, the concept of video telephony was born in the last years of the 19th century (Blog 3 and 4) and even if its popularity is not comparable to that of cinema, this tool has also changed our way of thinking and living, especially in the last year.

What do these two languages have in common and why is it useful to know the language of cinema in order to better understand the language of video conferencing?

First of all, both languages require a camera, a microphone, a monitor and a speaker. They are recorded, transmitted and experienced in deferred time, i.e. a transmission time passes between the action performed on one side of the camera and its vision on a monitor.

In cinema the time between the event being constructed and recorded and its fruition can be several months up to a few years in rare cases, and includes several linguistic reconstructive operations, called editing.

In a video conference between what is recorded, transmitted and seen, there is no reworking or correction time.

This is why a video conference can be considered to all intents and purposes a live broadcast. It is the teacher who decides what and how to show the audience.

Our research is focused on a live broadcast without a direction, with only one camera and very limited movement possibilities. And remember, with an incomplete influence on the monitor view.

In fact, the participants in a video conference can choose what and how to follow on the monitor. For example with a gallery view, the participants on their monitor will see as many video frames as there are participants in the course. and the teacher's instructions will only be a part of the big picture.

It is therefore necessary to learn some basics of this language.

Our starting point for the study of the language of cinema are the individual images, the planes, and the shots, namely portions of space that are shown to us in a certain interval of time within well-defined limits. Montage allows us to link the various shots according to a precise principle, giving rise to other more complex elements, such as scenes and sequences, which constitute the whole film.

Audiovisual writing, like word writing, has its own grammar with rules, structures and conventions that give meaning and significance.


The speech of the film is composed of many units.

The single images (which we can call 'planes') show us everything in front of the camera.

The shots are made up of several images: a precise space and time are thus created, represented in continuity; the space of a shot is enclosed by a frame, which marks a limit to the possibility of seeing granted to the spectator: we see everything that lies within these limits (the "field") and at that moment we are precluded from seeing what lies beyond these limits (the "off-screen").

Clearly it is the director who decides what to show us and how: "framing" means choosing, selecting, highlighting what the audience must immediately identify...


Another unit of filmic discourse is the scene. The term derives from the theatre - where it indicates a unity of space, time and action - and denotes a series of shots characterised by a perfect continuity of the represented space without temporal gaps (without "ellipsis") and which gives life to a complete narrative episode.


The sequence consists of a series of shots that make up a complete narrative action. It differs from the scene because in this case there is not necessarily unity of space and time. In fact, there are ellipses that 'cut' the continuity of the action, leaving unchanged, indeed highlighting, the sense of the story.

In this sense, it can be said that the film is composed of a series of sequences.

Framing Structure

There are various ways to consider and classify a shot.

First of all, a frame works by the very fact of existing, i.e. of being shown to the viewer: a relationship is established between what is being framed (the shot) and what lies beyond its limits (the off-screen). Shot and reverse shot can interact with each other in different ways, or "ignore" each other.

After all, if I hear music, a sound or the voice of a character who is part of the story, but I do not see them framed, it means that they are off-screen, in this case an off-screen that is more present than ever!

The point of view and the angle of a shot are closely related to the representational needs and the meaning one wants to give to what one is framing; there are several possible angles (horizontal, from above, from below, oblique...), as well as I can choose my point of view, and in this case I can have subjective or objective shots.

The idea of off-screen corresponds to the reverse shot, i.e. the shot of a subject from the opposite point of view to the previous shot.

If once, in the analogue school of the middle of the last century, this perspective was intentional, and served to intimidate the students, today, perhaps it is not the method we want to follow, so it becomes important to control the position we assume even involuntarily in front of the camera.

Camera Shot Sizes

The most immediate way to categorise a shot is according to the distance between the camera and what is being filmed. Frames are classified into shots when referring to the environment, and into planes when the human figure is the main framed subject.

Wide Shot (WS) or Long Shot (LS)

The camera is at a great distance from the subject being filmed and presents the entire setting. A wide shot should keep a good deal of space both above and below your subject. Of the many camera shots, a long shot gives us a better idea of the scene setting, and gives us a better idea of how the character fits into the area.

Full Shot (FS)

A full shot is a camera shot in film that lets your subject fill the frame, head to toe, while still allowing some features of the scenery. Full shots can communicate the appearance, movement, mannerisms, traits, or actions of characters before focusing on their reaction or feelings.

Medium Wide Shot (MWS) - Medium Long Shot (MLS)

A medium wide shot or medium long shot frames the subject from roughly the knees up. It splits the difference between a full shot and a medium shot. Also called a ¾ shot.

American Shot (AS) - Cowboy Shot (CS)

Is a translation of a phrase from Frenchfilm criticism, plan américain, and refers to a medium-long ("knee") film shot of a group of characters, who are arranged so that all are visible to the camera. A variation on this is the cowboy shot, which frames the subject from roughly mid-thighs up. It’s called a “cowboy shot” because it is used in Westerns to frame a gunslinger’s gun or holster on his hip.

Medium Shot (MS)

The camera is not quite as near to its object as in a close-up; with human

subjects the person is shown down to the waist or hips.

The medium shot is one of the most common camera shots. It's similar to the cowboy shot above, but frames from roughly the waist up and through the torso. So it emphasizes more of your subject while keeping their surroundings visible.

Medium Close Up (MCU)

The medium close-up frames your subject from roughly the chest up. So it typically favors the face, but still keeps the subject somewhat distant. The medium close-up camera shot size also keeps the characters eerily distant even during their face-to-face conversation.

Close Up (CU)

The camera is very close to the object; with human subjects, the face and

its expressions are shown. The slightest nuance of expression in an actor's

face is shown and can become significant.

Extreme Close Up (ECU)/ Detail Shot

An extreme close-up shot is a type of camera shot size in film that fills the frame with your subject, and is so close that we can pick up tiny details that would otherwise be difficult to see.

Point Of View

The position from which the camera is filming, e.g.

establishing shot

generally a long shot that shows the general location of the scene

point-of-view shot (POV)

shows the scene from the point of view of a character

over-the-shoulder shot

The partner in a dialogue is seen from the perspective of a person standing just behind and a little to one side of the other partner so that parts of both are in the frame.

reverse-angle shot

a shot from the opposite side

Camera Angle

This is the position of your camera relative to the subject in question.

The content of an image can be manipulated by changing the perspective.

Bird’s Eye View.

Usually done as some form of wide shot, this is where the camera is directly over the subject. This shot makes the viewer feel like 'God', because God observes everything that happens from above our heads. The people look as small as ants and this makes those looking at the picture feel tall and proud.


The camera is directly above the subject (essentially a tighter version of the Bird’s Eye View). Is used to look at something that is below. This framing makes the subject weak and vulnerable.

Eye Level Shot

the fairly conventional angle at which the camera is pointed at the subject;

it is often used to convey the idea of realism, authenticity and objectivity.

This is the basic framing for a video conference, at least in the beginning.

Low Angle Shot

Objects and people are filmed from below, the importance of what is

shown tends to be enlarged thereby. Often used to make the subject seem dominant and powerful.

Worm's Eye View

Is a view of an object from below, as if the observer were an insect. It is the opposite of the Bird’s Eye View.

Camera Shot Size and Camera Angle in a Video conferencing.

The framing angle that is used during a video conference does not vary much, due to the instrument used on the one hand, and the need for communication on the other.

It would be very interesting to experiment with different types of teaching, for example where the instructor is filmed from above all the time, or where the framing only includes a very close-up. Or even with a reverse-angle shot, where instead of seeing the instructor, the students see what he sees, i.e. the video conference monitor.

Although interesting from an artistic point of view, this type of shot would not help the communication and teaching of the class, especially in a dance class.

We can therefore state that the shots of a video conference will be between a close-up and a wide shot, with some intermediate shots. The point of view will be represented by two main shots: the establish shot and the point-of-view shot (POV).

These with some camera movements that we will see in the next Blog represent the technical and expressive possibilities for our teaching.

And all things considered, these are not few.

In the next blog we will deal with camera movements.


43 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page