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Weekly Video Tip: Establishing Shots

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By Stephen Schweickart

RISMEDIA, July 26, 2011—How many times have you joined a TV program or movie in progress, not having the faintest idea who is who or what’s going on? We flounder because we don’t have a framework to process what we’re seeing. While most of us aren’t full- fledged movie makers, people who watch what we shoot need to know what’s going on right from the get-go. That’s why a so-called establishing shot is so important for providing context. It gives the mind a starting point to organize and process information.

For a neighborhood video tour, it might mean starting your video by filming a sign that says “Welcome to Maple Grove”. In an agent profile, it may mean showing the outside of your brokerage firm first, followed by a name plate on your desk, followed by a personal introduction on camera. For home video tours, perhaps a curb side view of the property. If the situation is a bit challenging, experiment with tight shots or different angles of the home. If it’s a fixer-upper, perhaps an initial focus on the neighborhood. Be creative, but establish context as quickly as possible, using both video and graphics. People normally decide to continue watching a video within the first few seconds. If they have to start guessing, it’s over before it begins.

Stephen Schweickart is the co-founder of VScreen. For more information on this topic, visit VScreen’s site at http://www.vscreen.com/.

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