The Establishing Shot



The Establishing Shot

Film directors use different types of camera shots for specific purposes. An establishing shot is an image shown briefly at the beginning of a scene, usually taken from far away, that is used to provide context for the rest of the scene. One purpose of the establishing shot is to communicate background information to the viewer, such as the setting—where and when the rest of the scene will occur. It also establishes the mood or feeling of the scene. Due to the context that the establishing shot provides, the characters and events that are shown next are better understood by the viewer.

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    <-NARRATOR:-> Now listen to part of a lecture on this topic in a film class.
    <-MALE PROFESSOR:-> So, the other day I went to this great new movie.
    And one of the scenes in particular, I thought, was really set up nicely.
    At the start of the scene...
    uh, before the action and talking and things started...
    you saw, on the movie screen, an image of a city.
    You could tell it was a big city ...there were lots of buildings-tall ones, skyscrapers.
    And the cars and signs on the city streets looked old-fashioned-like they were from the past, like the 1940s.
    The other thing I noticed right away, from this first image, just when the scene started, was that the city seemed, uh, gloomy.
    You couldn't see much because it was, well, there was mostly darkness rather than sunlight, and there was only just a little bit of light from the streetlamps.
    On top of that, it was raining, and kinda foggy.
    All of these details worked together to create a dark, gloomy, mysterious feeling.
    So, then, when the action started, and it showed detectives talking to each other in an office, I already knew that the office was located in a tall building in a big city, sometime in the 1940s.
    And I, uh, had a good idea that the events that'd be taking place would be pretty dark and mysterious, because of the shot, the image, I saw at the beginning of the scene.


Using the professor's example, explain what an establishing shot is and how it is used.


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