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Filmmaking basics with WWI Virtual Academy: the ABC’s of film grammar

Film grammar is simply the group of components that comprise the techniques of filmmaking, and guide one through the different visual methods with which a story can be told. Much like how grammar dictates the various ways in which words can be strung together to communicate an idea, film grammar tells you how visual ideas can be combined to tell engaging stories. In this article, WWI Virtual Academy takes a look at the elements that have long since formed the cornerstones of filmmaking – we also examine these in detail through our online filmmaking courses


1) Frame
A frame is just one of the many still images that make up a film or a video. When filmmaking first began, and even in some parts today, these single images were captured on a strip of photographic film; upon closer inspection, each individual image looks like a framed picture and that’s where the term draws inspiration from.


2) Shot
A camera shot is made up of the string of frames that are shot uninterrupted from the moment a camera starts and stops rolling. Shots can be viewed as the basic building blocks of filmmaking as these can be used in numerous ways to add visual variety to your film while conveying certain emotions and ideas.


3) Scene
Simply put, a scene is made of various shots that comprise the action taking place in a single location and continuous time. If the location changes or the continuity of time isn’t maintained, you get a new scene.


4) Sequence
When a number of related series of scenes are put together, it forms a sequence, just like a paragraph is formed by various sentences. These scenes are usually linked by time and location.


5) Transitions
In film editing, a transition is a technique used to combine shots or scenes and refers to how one shot ends and the next one begins. Depending on the type of transition, they can be used to show various emotions, communicate a mood, or show the passage of time. Over time, certain transitions have found a firm foothold in the world of film editing, and here we take a look at some of the most common ones:

a) Cut
This is the most basic of all transitions and refers to one shot being immediately replaced by another. These are used so commonly that your average movie can be populated with thousands of cuts, as they are simple to use, and can be employed to show a change in perspective and to give the film a better flow.

b) Match Cut
Match cuts, when used well, can visually elevate your film since these use elements (such as continuity of a certain movement or sound) from the previous scene to smoothly transition to the next scene, in a fluid and seamless manner – it almost feels like the edit is hidden and match cuts don’t have the abruptness of a normal cut since they build smooth connections between two events.

c) Cut Away
A cutaway inserts another shot in the middle of a continuously filmed action. The shot that is inserted usually adds visual information that is relevant to that scene and then takes you back to the original shot, now imbued with new meaning. Cutaways are also a great way of maintaining continuity!

d) Jump Cut
When a single continuous shot is broken into parts and certain frames are removed from it, it is called a jump cut. This shows the passage of time and gives you the feel of jumping forward in a rather jerky manner.

e) Dissolve
A dissolve is a gradual change from one image to another, where the first image disappears while the second gradually appears. This is also called overlapping since both shots are visible together for an instant. A dissolve can be used as a less abrupt alternative to a straight cut since the change here happens slowly to show the story moving forward and signals to the viewers that the two shots are linked.

f) Fade-In and Fade-Out
When a single shot gradually turns into a single colour (usually black or white), or when a shot gradually appears on the screen from a solid colour, it is respectively called a fade-out and a fade-in. Fade-ins can be used to show the beginning of a scene while fade-outs signal its ending.

Fade outs are used when a major story segment ends and fade-ins are used when another story segment begins.

Along with these, there are certain other terminologies that every aspiring filmmaker needs to know – read about them here!

With WWI Virtual Academy’s Online Filmmaking Courses, take a deep dive into the various foundations of filmmaking, through video-based courses curated by the expert faculty of Whistling Woods International.

Our Advanced Certificate Program in Filmmaking offers a host of benefits – To sign up, call us on +91 (0)22-62716067 or +91 (0)22-62716069 or click here!