How to Use

This is an introductory unit in filmmaking, which consists of four lessons (included in the slider at the bottom). Each lesson features content, activities, exercises and online samples. Each unit includes a culminating project, with “specs” that outline what the project should be, and “reflection questions” to guide student discussions.

Unit Overview

There is a large mental leap for students to make a distinction between camerawork and cinematography. Almost all students can operate a camera. They can point it at a subject and follow it. However, it takes practice and planning for a student to think in terms of designing a scene and composing a shot. This unit module is designed to get students to realize that filmmaking is a lot more than knowing how to operate a camera. Even Uncle Johnny can point his smartphone at the pitcher in a baseball game and hit record. It’s the art of filming, not the act. We want to get students to start thinking about filmmaking as an art, and to provide students with the toolbox to stitch creative shots into a scene. We want them to start becoming cinematographers, not camera-persons.

This unit is useful for students grades five and up, and can be used as a quick primer to provide structure to a video project in any discipline.

Unit Project: A Conversation

Action shots of car chases, exploding buildings, fight scenes or rowing a canoe on a scenic lake are the movie scenes we tend remember. But the simple conversation–just a couple of people talking–is the bread and butter of the filmmaking world.

This unit’s project is to create a visually appealing, rhythmic short video that captures the flow of a typical (or not so typical) conversation. To do it, we need to master the building blocks of cinematography: composition, the five primary shot types, the three primary camera angles, and the techniques to put them all together.

Project Specs
  • Video Length: 30-to-45 seconds (with an overlook-able 15-second buffer on each end).
  • Content: Two people having a conversation.
  • Include at least one of the following lines of dialogue:
    • We pinky swore that this wouldn’t be a fling. We pinky swore!
    • I never liked your parents anyway.
    • Lunch is like death. Not the end, no. The beginning.
    • Did you see those robots? How did you not see the robots? I can’t believe you missed the robots!
  • Include an instance of each of the five primary shot types.
  • Include an instance of the three primary camera angles.
Reflection Questions
  1. How did you choose to maximize the composition of your scene? Which elements did you emphasize? Which elements did you ignore?
  2. How did you select the order of the shot types for your video? Why did you choose them?
  3. How did you select the angles of your video? Why did you choose them?
  4. What techniques did you use to get your scene to flow?

Lesson 1 – Framing

Start Lesson

Lesson 2 – Shot Types

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Lesson 3 – Camera Angles

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Lesson 4 – Crafting a Scene

Start Lesson