What is a “Two Shot” In Film and TV?

This post is by Jason Hellerman from No Film School

One of the most versatile camera angles out there for framing multiple characters in a medium is the two shot. It can translate relationships, highlight tension, and give you what you need out of any genre where two important figures are driving the plot in one, uncut shot.

Today, we’re going to dive into the definition, looks at uses, and figure out some examples.

Let’s, the two of us, take a closer look within the same frame together.

Two Shot Definition

Two Shot Definition

In film and television, a “two shot” (or simply “two”) is a type of camera shot that frames two subjects within the same frame.

The subjects don’t necessarily have to be side-by-side; they can be positioned in various ways within the frame.

The Purpose of the Two Shot

The primary purpose of a two shot in film and television is to establish or emphasize the relationship between two characters.

It visually communicates their connection and interactions to the audience.

  1. Relationship Dynamics: They reveal the nature of the relationship between the characters, whether it’s romantic, friendly, antagonistic, or something else. The characters’ body language, facial expressions, and proximity within the frame all contribute to conveying their emotional connection.
  2. Equality and Balance: Two shots often present both characters with equal visual weight, suggesting that they are of equal importance to the story. This can be particularly significant when portraying power dynamics or shifts in relationships.
  3. Conversation and Interaction: They are frequently used to frame dialogues or interactions between two characters, allowing the audience to observe their verbal and nonverbal communication simultaneously.
  4. Visual Storytelling: Two shots can be used creatively to convey specific emotions or themes. For example, a tight two shot might emphasize intimacy or tension, while a wide two shot could highlight isolation or distance.
  5. Blocking and Movement: In scenes with dialogue, two shots can provide space for actors to move and interact within the frame, maintaining visual interest while still capturing the essence of their conversation.

Examples of Two Shots in Film and TV

There are tons of examples of the two shot in the above video. Basically, any time you have two characters in the frame, you’re shooting a two.

Think about people lovers on the piano in Casablanca, the hitmen in Pulp Fiction, or the romantically story-driven walk-and-talks in the Before trilogy—all these movies live and die on the two shot.

Overall, this simple but understated medium shot is a versatile tool in the filmmaker’s arsenal, offering a way to communicate character relationships, emotions, and themes in a visually compelling manner.

Let me know what you think in the comments.