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Film School 101: Types of Shots and What They Mean

If there’s one thing that’s true of all films, whether it’s a Spielberg blockbuster, a Coen Brothers indie, or your niece’s sixth birthday party, it’s that movies have to tell a tale. That’s their very purpose, after all; they’re a visual story-telling medium.

When you’re filming that birthday party – or a wedding, or a prom, or Christmas Day, or any event, really – the viewer should be at the forefront of your mind. That’s why you’re making your home movie, to watch it back with your family time and again, reliving those wonderful memories. Because of that, you’ll want to keep them visually stimulated – simply pointing the camera and pressing record isn’t going to cut it.

Just because you’re shooting a home movie, that doesn’t mean your film can have any less of a narrative. Don’t worry though – there are a few things you can do to bring that story to life. First and foremost, though, is making full use of the shots available to you. Today, then, we’re going to be looking at camera shots and their purpose in telling a great story. We’ll start with the basics, the ones you’ll undoubtedly recognise from countless TVs and movies.

Long Shot


The long shot, sometimes referred to as a wide shot, establishes a subject in relation to his or her location. The point of a long shot is to set the scene for the audience – so, taking that birthday party as an example, you’d have the birthday girl, and all the guests, in the living room in a single shot.

Medium Shot


A medium shot generally refers to a full-body shot, or one from the waist up – which is helpful if you’re looking to capture both facial expressions and body language. Want to see the bride in all her glory, smiling away in her sheer white number? The medium shot is perfect for this.

Close-Up Shot


Close-ups are, as you probably guessed, close to the subject. This means you can focus your audience’s attention on, say, the bride’s blushes or the birthday boy’s beam. But it’s not just people, close-ups can be used for anything which you feel needs attention, like that awesomely-decorative birthday cake, say.

Extreme Shots


There are variations on the classic long, medium and close-up shots, these are the extreme shots. Let’s say you’re shooting the birthday cake in close-up – well an extreme close-up might only focus on the candles, or the delicate icing. An extreme long shot, on the other hand, has a massive scope that can cover an entire building. Or city. Or country. Or the world!

Ok, so those are the basic shot types – so, using them as a launchpad, let’s look at how to use them in telling a story, and creating a visually pleasing movie.

Establishing Shot


An establishing shot is vital for audiences, because it lets them know where the action is taking place. You’ll see establishing shots at the beginning of pretty much every scene that requires a location change, or a time-shift from day to night. It’s all about giving your audience context.

Cutaway Shot


Cutaways are important for two reasons. Firstly, they give you something to, well, cutaway to when editing. Secondly, they emphasise a particular action. Cutaways show something which is not already in the master shot. Your master shot might focus on the birthday girl – the cutaway would be lighting the candles on a cake in the kitchen.

Insert or Cut-In Shot


An insert shot is similar to a cutaway. Inserts are useful when editing, and highlight an action or emotion, but unlike their cutaway cousin, inserts retain focus on the subject. So when the birthday cake is brought in, the insert draws attention to a particular aspect or action, like a close-up of her mouth as she blows out the candles on the cake.

Ok, so let’s take all of that knowledge, and now look at applying them to camera angles. There are few things worse than watching a home movie which is filmed solely at eye-level. It’s uninspired and won’t hold the audience’s attention for long, which is why mixing it up with varying angles is the way to go.

Low-Angle Shot


A low-angle shot is one that – quelle surprise – is shot from below. The purpose of this is to imply dominance of the subject being filmed.

High-Angle Shot


Want the opposite of a low-angle shot? Want to show a subject’s vulnerability? The high-angle shot is the way to go.

Dutch Angle


Creating a sense of foreboding in your viewers is pretty easy, although it’s unlikely to go down well in a home video of your daughter’s wedding. Tilting the camera at an angle, known as a Dutch angle, gives an impression of uneasiness – just don’t over-use it!

Now you’re ready to start filming every magical moment. Telling a story through film takes a lot more than just pointing and shooting. But with a dash of creativity, you can keep your viewers enthralled from the opening shot to the final fade. And if you want to convert your home movie masterpiece from VHS to DVD, then we’re on hand to offer our expertise. We specialise in format transfers to help create memories you’ll want to watch again and again. To get the scoop on our services, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 and we’ll be delighted to help. In fact, nothing would give us greater pleasure.

Favourites of the Oscars 2015

The awards night Hollywood waits for is over for another year and the Oscar winners have been announced. At Video2Dvd Transfers, we love film, and so we are going to take you through the favourites of this year’s Academy Awards.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

This dramatic interpretation of the life of Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) was well received by critics, and was rewarded at the Oscars. Directed by James Marsh, the film portrays the relationship between Hawking and Jane Wilde, as well as Hawking’s struggle with motor neurone disease throughout his life.

The film received a total of five nominations on top of its award, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.

Oscars Won:

  • Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne

Birdman (2014)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s comedy did very well at the Oscars, taking away four awards. The all-star cast portrayed the story of a washed-up actor who battles his demons in order to recover his family, his career and himself before the opening of a Broadway show. The film gets its name from the superhero the actor once played, who overtook his personal and artistic identity and compromised his career by middle age.

The film won four Oscars on top of five other nominations, including Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Keaton), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Edward Norton), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Stone), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Sound Editing.

Oscars Won:

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Best Achievement in Directing
  • Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The heavily artistic and quirky adventure film, directed by Wes Anderson, also did very well at the Academy Awards, securing four Oscars out of nine nominations. The film depicts the story of Gustave H, the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka, and lobby boy and friend Zero. The film is set in the period between the First and Second World Wars, and offers the perfect balance of humour, whimsy and drama.

The film received a total of nine nominations, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement for Directing, Best Achievement for Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

Oscars Won:

  • Best Achievement in Costume Design
  • Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Best Achievement in Production Design

Whiplash (2014)

Damien Chazelle’s drama tells the story of a promising young drummer who seeks the respect of his abusive instructor, who will stop at nothing to get his students to reach their full potential. The film is based on Chazelle’s own experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band, and has received wide critical acclaim.

Whiplash won three awards from five nominations, including Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

Oscars Won:

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (J.K. Simmons)
  • Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Boyhood (2014)

This film, directed by Richard Linklater, received a lot of hype; mainly due to the fact that it was filmed with the same cast over a period of twelve years. Boyhood shows the story of growing up through the eyes of a boy named Mason, who genuinely grows up on screen before our eyes. Following the protagonist from the age of 5 to 18, the film captures the most poignant moments of childhood and adolescence in a way that is completely unprecedented on the big screen.

The film disappointingly only received one award out of a total of six nominations, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Writing, Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Film Editing.

Oscars Won:

  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Patricia Arquette

These films were the most popular and the most critically acclaimed of the past year, leading them to win the most coveted awards in Hollywood. However, here at Video2Dvd Transfers, we believe that all film is worth watching, and we treat your home movies just as we would the year’s biggest blockbuster. We offer a wide range of services, including betamax to DVD transfers, and can help you to bring your home videos back to life. For more information, contact us today or order via our website.

Set Helical Scan to Stun: Transferring Videos in Real Time

When copying DVD files on to DVD or digital formats, you can just transfer them to the format without too much hassle. Just because you’ve created a four-hour epic of Sheila and Pete’s wedding day, the transfer won’t actually take four hours to complete. The files are all digital anyway, right? So while the transfer may take a while, it won’t be real-time.

But let’s say you’ve got that awesome home movie recorded on VHS – then we’re dealing with the real-time factor. And suddenly going through that four-hour marathon of romance and memories can become a serious chore.


There’s a reason that converting VHS to DVD happens in real-time, and it’s all down to the helical scan – which sort of sounds like a gadget aboard to Starship Enterprise. The helical scan is the method with which images are recorded onto the magnetic film inside a video-tape. Fun fact of the day, pub quiz fans, VHS originally stood for Vertical Helical Scan before being changed to Video Home System.

So what happens? Well, when you pop your video inside the player, the tape’s taken from the cassette and wound past the read/write head. That’s where the magic happens, and the images on screen are recorded to the tape. The head produces a magnetic field which correspond to the signal being recorded, and as the tape passes along it, that magnetic signal is printed to the tape.


And although there have been digital applications used in the helical scan process, these formats need a far higher bandwidth – which means the tape would have to run super-fast to even capture anything, and that’d require a ton of tape. But it works perfectly for analogue tech like video-tapes.

Another fun fact, helical means spiral. Y’know, like a helix. And that’s the clue to how it all works inside.  The tape is drawn from one reel, rotated around a tilted drum head at a speed of almost 6m/s, and deposited on to the other reel, completed with shiny new images.

This doesn’t just happen when recording, but also playing the footage back. The magnetic tape needs to be spun around the scanner in order to show the picture on the strip. And that’s why converting VHS to DVD happens in real-time.

So if you fancy getting your videos transferred on to DVD, and don’t want to hassle of sitting through those awesome epics you’ve recorded, why not let the professionals do it for you. Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we’ve had years of experience creating the perfect transfer system. For more information about what we do, how we do it, and how we can help you preserve your memories, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 and our experienced team will be delighted to help.

Avoiding VVS: Get a New Perspective

Have you ever been watching someone’s home video and realised something’s wrong. At first, you can’t quite place what it is. It’s just an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach, disturbing you to the point of distraction. You can no longer focus on what’s being played in front of you. What is it?!


Then suddenly it hits you. It’s shot all wrong. It’s not how it should be. Yep, you’ve just met someone with Vertical Video Syndrome. The poor chump has been shooting videos in vertical format, meaning the image before you is a tall and skinny – like a latte, only far less delicious.

And we have the proliferation of smartphones to thank for this dreaded curse to home movies. Because we tend to handle phones vertically – tapping out a text or making a call, say – some people simply do the same with videos. Point and shoot.


Nothing is worse than checking out videos on Youtube, only to discover the amateur Spielberg has opted for a vertical, rather horizontal position. All that wasted black space at either side of the screen makes the videos deeply uninteresting – disquieting, even – because literally half the screen contains no images. They may think they’ve got the best shot of Uncle Ron drunkenly dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, but just imagine being able to see the wedding party’s reaction to it as it happens too!

When shooting videos on your phone, it’s always worth remembering to switch your device to landscape. After all, when was the last time you saw a movie at the cinema playing in portrait? Never, that’s when.  How about on TV? Same deal. And while it’s easy to rotate a photograph from portrait to landscape, that’s just not going to happen with video. Unless we all tilt our heads to one side.

Of course, these days, to quote a familiar advertising slogan, there’s an app for that. Head over to smartphone app stores and you can download apps which will always shoot in landscape, regardless of how the phone is held. Tech-site CNet has even argued that smartphone cameras should be, well, smart, and do it automatically.

But until that’s introduced, the best advice for anyone suffering Vertical Video Syndrome is… don’t. Not only are those videos missing out on a wealth of imagery and magical moments, it also looks pretty unprofessional.

Thankfully, given the way we hold actual video cameras, filmmakers who used old-school cameras rarely suffer from the debilitating VVS. So if you’ve got home movies on video – and want to watch them the way they were intended – we’ve got you covered. Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we’re experts in VHS to DVD conversion. For more info on what we do, how we do it, and how we can help you, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 or email and we’ll be delighted to help.

Love Is In the Air

We are now well into January and fast approaching February, the most important month on the romantic calendar. There is of course very good reason for this and it becomes ever more obvious the closer we move to the 14th of February.

Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to give your significant other a wonderful gift that really signifies your connection. One of the most difficult things about Valentine’s Day is picking out the perfect gift, and it’s far too easy to end up giving chocolates… again! In this blog we have put together a list of our favourite 3 gifts that work for both genders and are sure to put you very firmly in the good books;

Day Out

All couples have shared interests and things that they like to enjoy together, and this is a great place to start when looking for a gift. If you have a favourite band, sporting event or even a dancing event then buying tickets and planning a day or an evening together is a perfect way to make sure that you have a wonderful time.


Rejuvenated Memories

Here at Video 2 DVD we are experts in converting video to DVD and know that this is a great way to make sure those precious memories can be relived time and time again. Converting your wedding video to DVD or having your favourite picture enlarged and framed demonstrates that you value these memories and want to make more.



Many partners are far too scared at the thought of getting their partner clothing, and indeed, getting them the right size can be a tricky thing to do correctly. Choose the exact right dinner jacket or little black dress though, and it will show that you are comfortable with them and also hint toward a romantic meal in the near future. A great way to avoid any ill-fitting clothing is to check the label for size and brand of your partners’ favourite clothes; this will give you a great idea of the size to buy and from where.


So if you’re struggling for ideas, worry not, as these three options should cover you for the next three February 14th’s. If we have inspired you to convert your old videos then don’t hesitate to contact us today and we will be happy to help.

New Year Round-up: The Best Films of 2014

From the sci-fi epics that had cinema goers clamouring to fill seats to the quieter tales of human life and emotion, 2014 was a year of diverse movies, each with their own magic to share with the viewers. Before we start getting excited about the future Oscar winners and box office smashes that 2015 has to bring, it’s time to take a look at some of the best movies of the past year.



With past hits including the trilogy that put a dark twist on comic book legend Batman and the mind-bending dream exploration Inception, director Christopher Nolan is gaining a reputation for crowd pleasing films with thought-provoking hearts. His 2014 offering Interstellar was certainly no exception. By combining the irresistible adventure of space exploration with a warm, human story, Nolan created an epic that was sure to keep its audience discussing the finer points of its plot for days.

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Much of the charm of cult favourite Wes Anderson’s latest movie was in its visual style: beautiful architecture and an unusual colour palette ensured that it made a strong impression when viewed on the big screen. With a charming tale of daring escapades and doomed love to back up these impressive visuals, there was no doubt that The Grand Budapest Hotel would find a place in many viewers’ hearts.



Scooping up several Golden Globes, including best film and best director, Boyhood is a soft, lyrical film that leaves a lasting impression. A coming-of-age story based on the life of writer-director Richard Linklater, it charts the story of boyhood to adulthood via first love, first heartbreak and first discovery of Star Wars. The film started shooting in 2002, and took 12 years to complete – allowing the story to grow as its actors did.



A hard-hitting latecomer, Unbroken tells of the true hardships faced by USA Olympian Louis Zamperini after he was imprisoned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Directed by Angelina Jolie and featuring Jack O’Connell in the starring role, this is a film that challenges its audience to face the horror of war; it also speaks of the strength of human tenacity in the face of experiences that push it right to its limit.

2014 may have been a fantastic year for big name and big budget films, but for many people it will still be their home movies that really take centre stage. Filled with the personal moment that no director can ever recreate, these are films to be kept safe and stored for many future viewings. At Video 2 DVD Transfers we specialise in helping you treasure and share these memories, so when you need to transfer video to DVD in order to keep your home movies safe or circulate them round friends and relatives we will always be happy to oblige. Contact us on 0800 592433 or email us at to find out more.