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#OO8 | CREATING AN 'Establishing Shot'

In this post I'll show you how I create an Establishing Shot (ES) from start to finish.

[ What is an Establishing Shot? ]

An establishing shot is a shot in filmmaking or television that sets up the context for the scene ahead, designed to inform the audience where the action will be taking place. It shows the relationship between people and objects, and establishes the scene’s geography.

These kinds of shots can do more than set up physical space, as they are often used to reveal character or plot information. Practically speaking, establishing shots are commonly wide shots, especially when used at the very beginning of a film. Because the establishing shot is at the beginning of a scene it is also used to set a particular tone and mood for what the audience is about to see.

The director might make additional shot choices, or lighting decisions that help to strengthen the tone or mood in the establishing shot. Establishing shots can also show the passage of time, show the relationship between characters and the story world, set the tone and mood of a scene and can help foreshadow.

Common uses of an establishing shot include:

  • Showing the relationship between the setting and the characters

  • Using aerial or wide shots to provide context on the geographical location

  • Showing the passage of time

  • Setting the mood and tone of a scene or potentially foreshadowing an event

  • Grounding the scene in time

  • Providing supporting details

  • Introducing a new concept

The Establishing Shot is just one of the many standard shot sizes in film. It provides the widest and most "macro" perspective on the world and the characters. From there, standard shot sizes get tighter and tighter on groups, individuals and faces. Some Directors skip the establishing shot completely, they may believe that the shot is uninteresting and doesn’t add much to the film. The choice to leave it out may also invoke an intentional sense of confusion or misdirection for viewers.


I have something in mind already, but I need references. I take to sites that have stock-photography and videos by all kinds of photographers and find something as close to my vision as I can.

In this reference shot, I can see that there are elements that could vary for each country like the electrical towers. I do some localisation research to make sure that I'm not modelling British/American/European objects in a South Korean setting. I like to prioritise authenticity when creating a world based on reality. Of course, there are instances where it would be a good idea to exaggerate and emphasise unrealistic elements of reality for a particular world or environment to compliment the story. In this case we're going for realism.

I start off with an empty world, no sky, no light. The first thing I do is add in a skydome, this is a sphere mesh with a sky texture projected onto the inside of it to give an illusion of a sky.

Then I go inside the skydome to add the floor and some basic lighting. This is what it looks like so far.

This is always how I start out when I'm creating an environment, a large empty ground with a sky. The canvas is empty for me to create anything I can dream of. Now I need assets (3d models) to fill up the empty space. I try to build assets myself wherever I can, with being a small studio you need to make time-cuts wherever you can eg. buying pre-made 3d models or hiring 3D artists to model them for you. There might seem like there's a lot of choice on 3D model buying websites but not only are the AAA-quality models expensive, when you're making a film/game that's unique, you want to avoid using models that might be in hundreds of other artists films/games. As an indie studio, we're relying on donations to fund this production, and that's where most of the donations have gone. I found some Towers that fit the localisation criteria for this world based on South Korea. I have a few variations which I'll use for this Establishing Shot. I fix up some issues in MAYA then take them into Unreal Engine.

The towers are the main feature in this shot, so now that I've got them in my hands, I can focus on gathering other assets. Once I've got a small collection of models, I start placing them in the empty scene.

Now it's a process of looking at my reference image and creating something from it. It's always useful to have references, especially of real photographs. I start with placing the towers and building around that, moving the towers where needed.

After a while it starts to come together. Once I'm happy with the composition of the scene I render it out and do some post-process editing.

I'll show you the shot when it's finished on Patreon!

I will keep this Progression Blog updated with a new post every month. I hope you find some interest in this information 'behind the scenes' of the production. Thank you again for supporting my work and the chAosOPUS STUDIO ~ ¬mOss 🌱

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