What Are the Five C's of Cinematography?

By Miles Jarvis ; Updated September 15, 2017
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The five C's of cinematography are outlined by Joseph V. Mascelli in his book, "The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques." The five C's represent important fundamental concepts and techniques of film making and are essential areas of study for aspiring filmmakers. They are camera angles, continuity, cutting, closeups and composition.

Camera Angles

Camera angle refers to the angle at which a camera is positioned when filming. High-angle shots look down on a subject. Low-angle shots aim up at a subject to make the subject appear big and dominant in the screen. Wide shots are used to capture a subject's surroundings and often are used when establishing a scene. The various angles are chosen to help explore a film's narrative development.

Continuity

Continuity is the consistency of a film's static and dynamic elements. A film must flow naturally to make sense to a viewer and shots are recorded avoiding inconsistencies in characters, plot or subject matter. Continuity means that clothing, sets and objects are not suddenly altered between shots in the same scene. It also means that characters sustain consistent personalities and that objects do not suddenly change, appear or disappear.

Cutting

Cutting is how shots are organized in sequence. It's important to create a series of shots that flow naturally into each other. This means viewers are unlikely to follow or be affected by a film when its shots do not follow naturally. One example of a cutting technique is cross-cutting. This is when a camera moves from one scene of action to another to show two events taking place simultaneously. Cutting on action is another technique where one shot finishes on an action that leads to the next shot.

Closeups

Closeups are detailed shots of a subject. Small details in these shots appear large on a movie screen. There are different degrees of closeups, including medium closeups and extreme closeups. Over-the-shoulder shots are a type literally filmed over a subject's shoulder toward another subject, usually done during a conversation. Closeups also move away from the action of a shot to show intimate details of a subject's emotions or draw attention to specific objects.

Composition

Composition refers to how images in a shot are arranged and organized. In other words, composition is the visual order of a shot. This includes how a shot is balanced, or arranged in the frame, to draw viewers' attention to particular subjects or objects. The space, colors, balance of light and dark and other visual elements are other important aspects of a shot's composition.

About the Author

Miles Jarvis has been writing since 2009, with expertise in the field of East Asian languages and culture. He earned a B.A. in Chinese studies at the University of Waikato and has also studied at universities in Hong Kong and Japan.