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What is Shot Blocking in Film?

When you hear the term “shot blocking,” do you think about preventing a shot from taking place? If you’re a basketball player, you certainly do. But as a filmmaker, the mind might take a different approach. In film, various terms are used to describe processes that involve the camera movements, position, and use of equipment on the set. But what is shot blocking in film? And, more importantly, what does it mean?

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What is Shot Blocking in Film?

Shot blocking or film blocking represents the planning of where your characters will stand in regards to the rest of the set, but it’s also a bit more complex than that.

As the Director plans the blocking, a focus is on the audience’s eyes as the goal is to determine where you want the audience to look, what you expect the audience to feel and where your actors will stand in relation to all of this. 

Shot blocking is made up of a series of considerations that must be made before the shot is captured.

Before anything can be blocked, consideration for the following must be made:

  • Actors’ movements.
  • Body positions.
  • Body language.
  • Camera positions.
  • Camera movements.
  • Lighting and set design.

Steps to Blocking a Scene

As you learn more about the underlying techniques involved in blocking in film, and focus on answering more than just the common question, “What is shot blocking in film?”

You’ll quickly find that blocking a scene can help to define the character movements and body position as well as underlying body language and the camera position or movements which can impact the audience’s connection to the scene.

This essential process of blocking in film takes place in pre-production and includes:

  • Advance planning of the scene, shots, and camera placement.
  • Choreography of characters and their connection with the audience.
  • Planning and choosing of camera angles and placement to build emotional connections.
  • Providing the actor’s with a focal point and a list of actions to take within the scene.
  • A basis for producing the scene with room for adjustment and change before production is finalized.

To block a scene, the filmmaker will process through the following steps:

  1. Block – the initial determining of actor placement on the set and their relation to the camera position.
  2. Light – how the lighting will apply to the first shot.
  3. Rehearsal – practice setting the camera placement with cast and crew.
  4. Adjustment – the changing of lighting, camera placement, or actor placement.
  5. Shoot – the final shooting of the scene.

Shot blocking in film is then repeated over and over, with each shot and each set. This essential choreography of all elements on the set including the cast, crew, and equipment, harmoniously come together to create the finished project. 

One of the best ways to understand blocking is by seeing examples in known works. Check out Studio Binder’s analysis of blocking in The Wolf of Wall Street