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Close up

A type of shot taken at close range that tightly frames the subject.

A close-up or closeup in filmmaking, television production, still photography, and the comic strip medium is a type of shot that tightly frames a person or object. Close-ups are one of the standard shots used regularly with medium and long shots (cinematic techniques). Close-ups display the most detail, but they do not include the broader scene. Moving toward or away from a close-up is a common type of zooming.

Close-ups are used in many ways and for many reasons. They are often employed as cutaways from a more distant shot to show detail, such as characters' emotions, or some intricate activity with their hands. Close cuts to characters' faces are used far more often in television than in movies; they are especially common in soap operas. For a director to deliberately avoid close-ups may create in the audience an emotional distance from the subject matter.

Close-ups are used for distinguishing main characters. Major characters are often given a close-up when they are introduced as a way of indicating their importance. Leading characters will have multiple close-ups. There is a long-standing stereotype of insecure actors desiring a close-up at every opportunity and counting the number of close-ups they received. An example of this stereotype occurs when the character Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, announces "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up" as she is taken into police custody in the film's finale.

Close-up shots do not show the subject in the broad context of its surroundings. If overused, they may leave viewers uncertain as to what they are seeing. Close-ups are rarely done with wide-angle lenses, because perspective causes objects in the center of the picture to be unnaturally enlarged. This may convey a sense of confusion, intoxication, or other unusual mental state.

There are various degrees of close-up depending on how tight (zoomed in) the shot is. The terminology varies between countries and even different companies, but in general these are:

  • Medium Close Up ("MCU" on camera scripts): Halfway between a mid shot and a close-up. Usually covers the subject's head and shoulders.
  • Close Up ("CU"): A certain feature, such as someone's head, takes up the whole frame.
  • Extreme Close Up ("ECU" or "XCU"): The shot is so tight that only a detail of the subject, such as someone's eyes, can be seen.
  • Lean-In: when the juxtaposition of shots in a sequence, usually in a scene of dialogue, starts with medium or long shots, for example, and ends with close-ups.
  • Lean-Out: the opposite of a lean-in, moving from close-ups out to longer shots.
  • Lean: when a lean-in is followed by a lean-out.

When the close-up is used in shooting, the subject should not be put in exactly the middle of the frame. Instead, it should be located in the frame according to the law of golden section.

Key Terms

characters
close
example
extreme close
griffith
head
lean
long shots
medium
subject

Additional Resources

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Acronymn

CU

Synonymns

Close up
(none found)

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Sources & Credits

Last modified on June 7 2019
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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