There are many ways to create moods and set the scene in film without tonnes of action. Let’s take a look at establishing shots, and how you can use them in your video projects!

What Is an Establishing Shot

The clue may be in the name a little here. When we establish anything, it starts, well, at the start. Introducing a topic for a conversation, kicking off an essay, or setting up a vlog for YouTube.

You can probably guess, then, that establishing shots appear at the beginning of a scene or segment. People say that actions speak louder than words. This can absolutely be the case when it comes to film or video, if that action is a cleverly composed, beautifully produced shot.

Establishing shots tell viewers where they are, who they’re with, what the mood or theme is, and potentially what to expect. These types of shots can encapsulate what might take a few pages in a written novel. They’re steeped with implications and nuances, when executed effectively.

Generally, they are long or extremely-long shots, that are able to pack in a large amount of scenery and visual information.

How to Use Establishing Shots

Using them at the opening of scenes is the very basic answer to this question. But, what exactly are the ingredients for a perfect establishing shot, like the one described above? Check out some of the examples in this video, and note what they feature and possibly have in common.

That’s a lot of shots of the outside of buildings, huh?

It’s a technique that gets used a lot because it simply works! Rather than jumping straight into a scene, with conversations between characters and more detailed interactions, establishing shots offer context.

These scenic frames act almost like notes on a script. Immediately, we might know that whatever is about to happen is taking place inside a cinema on a dark, rainy night around Christmastime.

It’s not all about standard, fairly static scenic shots, though. Establishing shots are an opportunity to reveal place, but also to convey tone and energy. This means that characters can be used within them, performing an action or simply being. If a filmmaker wanted to create frantic energy, lots of movement and running about would support this.

Important elements like Foley and music shouldn’t be overlooked either. These are all part of the opening scene and establishing shot. Eeriness can be created through spooky environment sounds, or with the use of a jarring soundtrack. You can add music to film with Synchedin, with subscription plans that are ideal for student filmmakers working with a strict budget.