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Cinematography: Camera Shots, Angles, and Movement
Transcript of Cinematography: Camera Shots, Angles, and Movement
As a film maker and movie director, shot composition is almost as important to telling your story as the script itself!
How you frame your subject (
), the angle at which you film (
), and whether or not you move the camera (
), all have a major psychological affect on your audience and can help you better convey the meaning, mood, and emotion of your film.
Camera shot type selection is a very important aspect of film making. The way a shot is framed helps focus the audience on the part of the story the film maker is emphasizing, and sends subliminal information about the subject and action in the frame.
Another element of shot composition, camera movement can add dramatic effects to your films as well. While many shots are and should be still and stable, adding camera movement is sometimes just the extra touch your shot needs.
After shot type, the angle of the shot is the second element of any frame. Angle selection is crucial since it conveys emotion and meaning.
As a budding film maker, picking the perfect shot type, angle, and camera movement is a fundamental skill that will separate your films from the pack, adding interest, excitement, mood, and meaning to the story you want to tell.
This presentation has only scratched the surface of these cinematography building blocks. Once you've mastered these basic shot techniques, keep learning, exploring, and creating new ways to compose shots that help enhance your films!
(CU) Close Up
A certain feature or part of the subject, usually the face, takes up the whole frame.
(MCU) Medium Close Up
Half way between a Mid Shot and a Close Up, Medium Closeups show the face and chest.
(ECU) Extreme Close Up
The ECU gets right in and shows extreme detail.
Mid and Wide Shots
(MS) Mid Shot
Shows some part of the subject in more detail while still giving an impression of the whole subject. Usually a shot from the waist up.
(WS) Wide Shot, AKA: Long Shot, Full Shot.
The subject takes up the full frame, or at least as much as comfortably possible.
(VWS) Very Wide Shot
The subject is visible (barely), but the emphasis is still on placing him in his environment.
(EWS) Extreme Wide Shot
The view is so far from the subject that he isn't even visible. Often used as an establishing shot.
Shows some (other) part of the subject in detail.
A shot of something near the subject, but other than the subject.
A shot of two people, framed similarly to a mid shot
(OSS) Over-the-Shoulder Shot
Looking from behind a person at the subject.
Reaction Shot or Noddy Shot
Usually refers to a shot of the interviewer listening and reacting to the subject.
(POV) Point-of-View Shot
Shows a view from the subject's perspective.
(ES) Establishing Shot and (WS) Weather Shot
Usually the first shot of a scene, clues the viewer in to where the action is taking place and the environment of the subjects.
A shot of the St. Louis Arch on a beautiful day tells the viewer the action following happens in Saint Louis and conveys a pleasant mood.
A shot of the outside of the Friendship Hotel tells the viewer that the shots after it are taking place inside the hotel.
This is the most common view, being the real-world angle that we are all used to. It shows subjects as we would expect to see them in real life. If the subject is very small (eg. a puppy) or laying on the ground, an Eye Level shot goes down to their level and "looks them in the eye". It is a fairly neutral shot.
A high angle shows the subject from above, i.e. the camera is angled down towards the subject. This has the effect of diminishing the subject, making them appear less powerful, less significant or even submissive.
This shows the subject from below, giving them the impression of being more powerful or dominant.
Bird's Eye View
The scene is shown from directly above. This is a completely different and somewhat unnatural point of view which can be used for dramatic effect or for showing a different spatial perspective.
In drama it can be used to show the positions and motions of different characters and objects, enabling the viewer to see things the characters can't.
The bird's-eye view is also very useful in sports, documentaries, etc.
Slanted or "Dutch Tilt"
This is where the camera is purposely tilted to one side so the horizon is on an angle. This creates an interesting and dramatic effect and is effective for communicating confusion, instability, or disorientation.
Famous examples include Carol Reed's
The Third Man
, Orson Welles'
, and the
Dutch tilts are also popular in MTV-style video production, where unusual angles and lots of camera movement play a big part.
An arc shot is a camera movement around the subject, somewhat like a tracking shot, in a circle or semi-circle.
Pan and Tilt Shots
Pan and Tilt Shots involve a pivot of the camera either from side to side (Panning) or up and down (Tilting). Think of it this way: move your head from side to side as if to say "No!"... that's panning; nod your head up and down as if to say "Yes!"... that's tilting.
A pan is a horizontal camera movement in which the camera moves left and right about a central axis. This is a swiveling movement, i.e. mounted in a fixed location on a tripod or shoulder, rather than a dolly-like movement in which the entire mounting system moves.
To create a smooth pan it's a good idea to practice the movement first. If you need to move or stretch your body during the move, it helps to position yourself so you end up in the more comfortable position. In other words you should become more comfortable as the move progresses rather than less comfortable.
A tilt is a vertical camera movement in which the camera points up or down from a stationary location. For example, if you mount a camera on your shoulder and nod it up and down, you are tilting the camera.
The tilt should not be confused with the Dutch Tilt which means a deliberately slanted camera angle.
Tracking, Dolly, and Following Shots
These shots all incorporate full movement of the camera. They are often shot by professionals on a track much like a roller coaster track, or using a special movie camera dolly, so that the shots remain stable and smooth.
moves the camera from side-to-side, parallel to the action.
moves in-or-out on a subject.
follows the subject from in front or behind, keeping the distance between the camera and subject constant.
Easy methods for capturing these shots include the subject holding the camera in hand as they move, placing the camera on a "wheelie" chair or skateboard, or the cameraman laying down on a furniture dolly while someone drags the dolly during filming.
Shaky Camera shots are achieved by simply filming the shot with the camera hand-held rather than stabilized on a tripod or other surface. While hand held camera shake is usually undesirable, like a Dutch Tilt shot, Shaky Camera shots impart a sense of instability, confusion, or fear.
Shaky Camera is often employed in "found footage" films like
The Blair Witch Project