When you're shooting your movie or TV episode, there are lots of camera angles and movements to choose from in every scene. But one that often gets forgotten is the bridging shot. I find it's a handy tool to connect scenes, ideas, and even to bring the theme to the forefront. But why aren't people using them more?
Today, I want to go over how to complete a bridging shot, why they are effective tools, and we'll also go over the definition and example. Sound good? Strap in, because we have a lot to learn.
What Is a Bridging Shot in Film and TV? (Definition & Examples)
Don't know what a bridging shot is off the top of your head? Neither did I, until I did some research. But I bet when you read the definition, you'll recognize this common camera angle in film and television.
Bridging Shot Definition
A bridging shot connects two otherwise completely disconnected moments of a story.
These shots can come together in a time jump or place switch, but their main purpose is to repair a discontinuity that would otherwise exist without these shots. These bridging shots have the sole purpose of connecting two shots by having both of them use the same camera angle or movement—or even a connected intention of the two shots together. Many times, but not always, a match cut is used as a bridging shot.
Why Use a Bridging Shot?
If you want your film to move forward at a tight pace, bridging shots really help. You don't want to watch a character take an entire car ride, do you? The nice thing about these shots is that they can take us through time and space without the audience really knowing they're there. Especially when they are done artfully.
Bridging Shot Composition
There are endless ways to pull off a bridging shot. So much of your composition matters on the two shots you're trying to connect—they can be shot the same way or they can be shot where you would naturally feel like one should come after the other.
One of the most classic examples is from 2001: A Space Odyssey when we cut through time as a bone becomes a spaceship.
'2001: A Space Odyssey'Credit: Warner Bros.
Bridging Shot Examples
I think these shots are way easier to define when you look at some examples of them. For example, let's jump into the original Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
At the beginning of the movie, we meet a young Elizabeth Swann. Then we transition to her as a 20-something. In order to connect both girls, there is a close-up shot on her eyes. We cut between them, and change the color temperature. But it's ingrained in the audience that between these two shots, we have a connection to the person.
Of course, Spielberg uses a similar shot in Saving Private Ryan, using the eyes to trick us into thinking the old man in the cemetery is Tom Hanks, and then coming back to those eyes at the end of the movie to really show us they belong to Matt Damon's character, who has been saved.
Another really snarky one is the end of Hitchcock's North by Northwest, where they use a man climbing on top of a woman, and then juxtapose that with a train going in a tunnel to wink at sex without ever showing it. It's a great example of showing two different shots are used, but we immediately understand they are connected to one another.
Perhaps the most famous bridging shot of all time comes from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, where we get the plan traveling by map. These shots are edited together to connect them even further. But this transition gets us from the U.S. to Nepal in just a few minutes.
Summing Up the Bridging Shot in Film and TV
As I mentioned in the opening, everyone has seen a bridging shot, but a lot of times we forget that they are often the backbone of cinematic language. We need these shots to help keep the illusion of cinema in place and to move the story forward. They can also act as devices to put forward the theme, like they do in 2001, or trick the audience like in Saving Private Ryan.
What are some of your favorite bridging shots? Let us know in the comments.