Telling your story through film allows your viewer to step into your world and go on a journey. But telling your story through visuals means you often have to be mindful about showcasing each shot to ensure the story is coherent, pleasant and above all, entertaining and engaging for your audience.
Whether you’re running a professional video production company or a beginner looking to create their first short, there are time-tested formulas you can use to make communicating your story easier. One of the most popular of these is the five-shot method.
Ideal for shorts or small projects, it lets you add structure and depth without losing the objective of your film or video – tell your story. Here’s a quick breakdown of the process. See if you can use it for your project.
Step 01: Gather ideas and plan everything out.
Before starting, you need to be clear about what you’re doing and why. First, figure out the story you want to tell. Jot down your thoughts about the film, the project or create a list of everything you need. You should know the storyline inside and out, the direction, what you want to include, what you don’t want to include etc. Basically, anything that needs to be done for the film or video shoot should be jotted down and arranged according to your process.
This process can be overwhelming especially when your list or notes begin to fill pages and pages. Try not to get overwhelmed. This is your brainstorming session only. You’re expected to cut down, refine and rewrite once you have a clearer picture of what you want in mind.
Step 02: Create your storyboard.
Most beginner filmmakers skip this step. While there’s nothing wrong with not doing a storyboard in a traditional sense, it’s best to build your experience by going through this process. A storyboard is a rough visual representation of your ideas. It includes the shots you’ll include and the type of scenes you would like to compose. You don’t need a super refined storyboard, as long as you can tell what shots you need and how it conveys the story, you should be fine.
Having a storyboard helps you focus so there’s no distraction or confusion about what things to include or not when filming. You can also develop a shot list instead if you don’t want to do the storyboard. Just make sure to include detailed text so you know what to do.
Step 03: Plan and schedule filming.
Now you can do the fun part – actually filming your scenes! Make sure you have your shot list or your storyboard on hand.
A couple of things to remember, if you need to switch costumes or can only do partial shoots in a day, take note of continuity in the costume, lighting, setting and more. It’s important everything looks consistent. If you are shooting in a particular location, make sure to plan ahead and shoot each scene needed in that location while you’re there. This will save you time and effort so you don’t go back and forth.
Another thing to note is to add visual variety to your shots. Sticking to only one perspective or one type of shot will easily bore your audience so vary it up.
Step 04: Don’t forget the B-Roll!
Make sure to have B-rolls or extra footage on hand. Having extra footage, wide shots, close-ups or anything from the scene will help you with transition shots during editing. B-rolls are a great way to have one scene flow smoothly to the next, making it easier to watch.
Step 05: Edit your work.
Once you’re done with all the filming, you can now proceed to post-processing. Editing is where all your hard work comes together. Don’t worry, as long as you followed the previous steps to a T, the editing process should be easier since you already know what story you want to tell.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of this five-shot step, you should be able to apply it for longer films or video projects.