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Visual Storytelling: How to Film a Scene

Lesson 13 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

Visual Storytelling: How to Film a Scene

Lesson 13 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

13. Visual Storytelling: How to Film a Scene


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

Visual Storytelling: How to Film a Scene

Visual storytelling. How to approach a scene. I wanted to, there's a lot of different ways that I've thought about teaching this and I wanted to break it down in the most simple, easy to understand way. That's gonna help you when you're in a situation where you're approaching a scene. Give you the tools that you need to be able to do this with confidence, right? So the things that you need to, what makes up a story, you wanna know where the story is, who's in the story, and what they're doing. Right? So that's what's telling us the story. And that's really just the literal, technical parts of it. The emotion obviously is a whole nother concept, but you get that through covering these basics and this helps you set up each scene so that you have the shots that you need to then deliver that emotion in a way that is meaningful and relevant and they understand. So you're creating a story that immerses them in it so that they can really connect with the subjects. And whether that's the viewe...

r as the client who you're making the film for. It might be future generations, it might be their great-great-grandchildren that are gonna be watching this later. And so creating something for them that's gonna be, tell the full story or tell the story of that day, of this season of their life, right? Okay, so, the where. This is where I would do a wide shot. So a wide shot is a really great way to tell us where we are. This is setting up the scene, it's an establishing shot. It tells us where the family is, is it in their home, are they at the park. Getting far back, getting a wide shot of that. Telling us then, we move into the who. So a mid shot is great for giving us who the subject is, showing us who it is that we're talking about. And I mean, that seems really obvious, but having enough mid shots in there really helps give us more of that personal connection with the subject, tells us who the characters are, gives us information about the relationships between the people, a mid shot, right? So a mid shot is probably like waist up, something like that. So a close up's really close, wide shot's really far, mid shot is waist up or around there. So it's a parts of the body, half of the body, things like that. And we're really just talking distance and shot types, right, at this moment in time. Then the what, so your close up, so what are they doing? So for an example, I'll go back to the scene we've been talking about which you'll see later in the class, which is the dad getting the Father's Day present, right? So you get a wide shot far back of the kids putting the present on the table. And then who is in this scene? Well, it's the kids and you're bringing more of that into, you're getting in closer to show more of who the subjects are. So getting more information about the kids, the boys that are giving the gift to the father. Prepping that whole scene up. The what, so then close ups of the actual gift that they're gonna give him and things like that. So there are all those logical things to think about. And understanding how a shot type will give you that information from a storytelling point of view, will help you know how to approach this scene. Okay? So where, who, and what, wide shot, mid shot, close up. It's really, really important to have a variety mixed in. So when you're shooting, be mindful. If your shot types are all pretty wide, it's not gonna be as visually interesting. Okay? So a really good mixture of wide shots, mid shots, and close ups. And there's obviously a lot of variety within that as well. I mean, that's pretty watered down. It's the simplistic version. So you could have a close up mid shot where it's even a little bit tighter than a close up but not quite a mid shot and things like that. So there's variety within that, but from a general point of view, the main thing you want to do is change up the distance between you and your subject. And give yourself the information that you will use then later when you're editing the film. So enough information about the scene and what's going on, enough closer up information about the people and their relationships with each other, and then even closer up of what it is that they're doing and what it is that they're touching and little details here and there. Those close ups.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work