Using The Master Scene Technique

shooting a master scene


No matter how much you’ve worked on your shooting script, and how prepared you are for shooting the scene, there is always something that can go wrong and that you can miss.
The master shot technique (also known as the Master Shot) comes to the rescue in such cases.


What is the master scene method?

The master scene method is one of the most fundamentals and common ways of shooting a scene. Basically what it means is that you start the shooting of each scene by shooting the whole scene in one long take in a wide-angle with all its essential elements. Then you can move on to shoot the coverage shots like the over the shoulder, medium shots, close-ups, etc. That way, in the editing room, if you find you missed a shot, you can use this cover shot (the master shot) to the rescue.

For example, in the pencil-eraser scene we see here in the picture, we will shoot the full scene from this wide angle

Example of master shot

And only after we will finish shooting all the scene from the wide-angle, we will start breaking it down to different shot such as this Medium shot

MS shot

Tips to Master the Master Scene Technique

Before I’ll tell you how to do this the right way, here are some tips you need to know:

  • When shooting a scene in a room, the master shot will usually be in the opposite corner. If you are shooting outside, just look for the farthest spot to cover everything in the shot.
  • Start the shooting with the master shot before the coverage shots to prevent problems in the continuity of the scene.
  • When a scene is too long or has a complex movement, you can break the Master shots into two masters. 
  • Watch for the 180-degree rule while you shoot the master and the coverage.
  • When you plan the shooting script breakdown, think about the time it will take to change the lightning from the master shot to the coverage shots.
  • Make sure you start the shot from the beginning of the scene until the ending of it.
  • Sometimes you can use the master shot method can also be used to add a particular atmosphere.

When done correctly, the audience will barely feel that the master scene was made to cover faults.

Shooting in one take is not as hard as it sounds

Don’t waste too much time on it. It’s not a big deal if the actors make mistakes. If an actor gets confused in the middle of the scene, you can take the second take from that point. So the master scene technique is a very basic but useful film technique that is used a lot in Film directing.