An example from How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck (p. 106)
I tell people to shoot short shots because (a) our brains process information so fast that long shots are likely to be boring and (b) most new videographers don’t know how to do it.
Then I get email that refers to “the rule of shooting short shots.” So let’s be real clear: This is creativity, baby. There ain’t no rules. But you do need to learn how to shoot short shots. Instead of focusing on “rules” that there are penalties for breaking, think in terms of skills that there are benefits to learning.
The more skills you have, the more tools you have to get the job done. When you learn to drive, you drill the basics. Five car lengths distance between cars on the freeway. Hands at ten and two. Signal 200 yards before the turn. Fill the tank before you return Dad’s car. But when we’re on our own in real life, we don’t slavishly follow what we learned. We relax into a driving style that gets the job done for us, while hopefully not forgetting those lifesaving tidbits. Like the gas thing.
Same with shooting video. Practice the short shots. Drill them. Understand them. Then go out and do what you want. No rules.
When you’re a grand master you can really screw with the form– and make it work. Director Robert Altman started his career toeing the line in early TV, then went his own way. In the book, I talk about his 8 minute opening shot from his 1992 classic The Player– Warner Brothers took it off YouTube since originally posted it, but you can see a piece and some other good long takes in this doc piece from Cinefix:
Hey! Are you following me on Twitter? I’m thinking perhaps you should. @SteveStockman