Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Camera Shots, Angles and Movement.

Camera Angles

The relationship between the camera and the object being photographed
(ie the ANGLE) gives emotional information to an audience, and guides
their judgment about the character or object in shot. The more extreme
the angle (ie the further away it is from eye left), the more symbolic
and heavily-loaded the shot.

1. The Bird's-Eye view

This shows a scene from directly overhead, a very unnatural and
strange angle. Familiar objects viewed from this angle might seem
totally unrecognisable at first (umbrellas in a crowd, dancers' legs).
This shot does, however, put the audience in a godlike position,
looking down on the action. People can be made to look insignificant,
ant-like, part of a wider scheme of things. Hitchcock (and his
admirers, like Brian de Palma) is fond of this style of shot.
Cameraman gets a high angle shot
A cameraman, raised above the action, gets a high angle shot

2. High Angle

Not so extreme as a bird's eye view. The camera is elevated above the
action using a crane to give a general overview. High angles make the
object photographed seem smaller, and less significant (or scary). The
object or character often gets swallowed up by their setting - they
become part of a wider picture.

3. Eye Level

A fairly neutral shot; the camera is positioned as though it is a
human actually observing a scene, so that eg actors' heads are on a
level with the focus. The camera will be placed approximately five to
six feet from the ground.

4. Low Angle

These increase height (useful for short actors like Tom Cruise or
James McAvoy) and give a sense of speeded motion. Low angles help give
a sense of confusion to a viewer, of powerlessness within the action
of a scene. The background of a low angle shot will tend to be just
sky or ceiling, the lack of detail about the setting adding to the
disorientation of the viewer. The added height of the object may make
it inspire fear and insecurity in the viewer, who is psychologically
dominated by the figure on the screen.

5. Oblique/Canted Angle

Sometimes the camera is tilted (ie is not placed horizontal to floor
level), to suggest imbalance, transition and instability (very popular
in horror movies). This technique is used to suggest POINT-OF-View
shots (ie when the camera becomes the 'eyes' of one particular
character,seeing what they see — a hand held camera is often used for

Camera Movement

A director may choose to move action along by telling the story as a
series of cuts, going from one shot to another, or they may decide to
move the camera with the action. Moving the camera often takes a great
deal of time, and makes the action seem slower, as it takes several
second for a moving camera shot to be effective, when the same
information may be placed on screen in a series of fast cuts. Not only
must the style of movement be chosen, but the method of actually
moving the camera must be selected too. There are seven basic methods:

1. Pans

A movement which scans a scene horizontally. The camera is placed on a
tripod, which operates as a stationary axis point as the camera is
turned, often to follow a moving object which is kept in the middle of
the frame.

2. Tilts

A movement which scans a scene vertically, otherwise similar to a pan.

3. Dolly Shots

Sometimes called TRUCKING or TRACKING shots. The camera is placed on a
moving vehicle and moves alongside the action, generally following a
moving figure or object. Complicated dolly shots will involve a track
being laid on set for the camera to follow, hence the name. The camera
might be mounted on a car, a plane, or even a shopping trolley (good
method for independent film-makers looking to save a few dollars). A
dolly shot may be a good way of portraying movement, the journey of a
character for instance, or for moving from a long shot to a close-up,
gradually focusing the audience on a particular object or character.

4. Hand-held shots

The hand-held movie camera first saw widespread use during World War
II, when news reporters took their windup Arriflexes and Eyemos into
the heat of battle, producing some of the most arresting footage of
the twentieth century. After the war, it took a while for commercially
produced movies to catch up, and documentary makers led the way,
demanding the production of smaller, lighter cameras that could be
moved in and out of a scene with speed, producing a "fly-on-the-wall"
effect.This aesthetic took a while to catch on with mainstream
Hollywood, as it gives a jerky, ragged effect, totally at odds with
the organised smoothness of a dolly shot. The Steadicam (a heavy
contraption which is attached a camera to an operator by a harness.
The camera is stabilized so it moves independently) was debuted in
Marathon Man (1976), bringing a new smoothness to hand held camera
movement and has been used to great effect in movies and TV shows ever
since. No "walk and talk" sequence would be complete without one. Hand
held cameras denote a certain kind of gritty realism, and they can
make the audience feel as though they are part of a scene, rather than
viewing it from a detached, frozen position.

5. Crane Shots

Basically, dolly-shots-in-the-air. A crane (or jib), is a large, heavy
piece of equipment, but is a useful way of moving a camera - it can
move up, down, left, right, swooping in on action or moving diagonally
out of it. The camera operator and camera are counter-balanced by a
heavy weight, and trust their safety to a skilled crane/jib operator.

6. Zoom Lenses

A zoom lens contains a mechanism that changes the magnification of an
image. On a still camera, this means that the photographer can get a
'close up' shot while still being some distance from the subject. A
video zoom lens can change the position of the audience, either very
quickly (a smash zoom) or slowly, without moving the camera an inch,
thus saving a lot of time and trouble. The drawbacks to zoom use
include the fact that while a dolly shot involves a steady movement
similar to the focusing change in the human eye, the zoom lens tends
to be jerky (unless used very slowly) and to distort an image, making
objects appear closer together than they really are. Zoom lenses are
also drastically over-used by many directors (including those holding
palmcorders), who try to give the impression of movement and
excitement in a scene where it does not exist. Use with caution - and
a tripod!

7. The Aerial Shot

An exciting variation of a crane shot, usually taken from a
helicopter. This is often used at the beginning of a film, in order to
establish setting and movement. A helicopter is like a particularly
flexible sort of crane - it can go anywhere, keep up with anything,
move in and out of a scene, and convey real drama and exhilaration —
so long as you don't need to get too close to your actors or use
location sound with the shots.

Camera Shots

1. Establishing shot: Opening shot or sequence, frequently an
exterior 'General View' as an Extreme Long Shot (XLS). EWS (Extreme Wide Shot)

The view is so far from the subject that she isn't even visible. This is often used as an establishing shot. In the extreme wide shot, the view is so far from the subject that she isn't even visible. The point of this shot is to show the subject's surroundings. Photo 22580

The EWS is often used as an "establishing shot" - the first shot of a new scene, designed to show the audience where the action is taking place.

The EWS is also known as an extra long shot or extreme long show (acronym XLS).

2. VWS (Very Wide Shot)

The subject is visible (barely), but the emphasis is still on placing her in her environment.

The very wide shot is much closer to the subject than an extreme wide shot, but still much further away than a wide shot. The subject is (just) visible here, but the emphasis is very much on placing her in her environment.

This often works as an establishing shot, in which the audience is shown the whole setting so they can orient themselves. The VWS also allows plenty of room for action to take place, or for multiple subjects to appear on screen.

3. Long shot (LS): Shot which shows all or most of a fairly large
subject (for example, a person) and usually much of the surroundings.
Extreme Long Shot (XLS) - see establishing shot: In this type of shot
the camera is at its furthest distance from the subject, emphasising
the background.The subject takes up the full frame, or at least as much as possible. The same as a long shot.
In the wide shot, the subject takes up the full frame. In this case, the girl's feet are almost at the bottom of frame, and her head is almost at the top. Obviously the subject doesn't take up the whole width and height of the frame, since this is as close as we can get without losing any part of her.
The small amount of room above and below the subject can be thought of as safety room - you don't want to be cutting the top of the head off. It would also look uncomfortable if her feet and head were exactly at the top and bottom of frame.

As with most shot types, the wide shot means different things to different people. However the wide shot seems to suffer more from varying interpretations than other types. Many people take the WS to mean something much wider than our example, i.e. what we would call a very wide shot.

3. Medium Long Shot (MLS): In the case of a standing actor, the
lower frame line cuts off his feet and ankles. Some documentaries with
social themes favour keeping people in the longer shots, keeping
social circumstances rather than the individual as the focus of

4. Medium Shot or Mid-Shot (MS). In such a shot the
subject or actor and its setting occupy roughly equal areas in the
frame. In the case of the standing actor, the lower frame passes
through the waist. There is space for hand gestures to be seen.MS (Mid Shot)

Shows some part of the subject in more detail whilst still giving an impression of the whole subject.
The mid shot shows some part of the subject in more detail, whilst still showing enough for the audience to feel as if they were looking at the whole subject.

In fact, this is an approximation of how you would see a person "in the flesh" if you were having a casual conversation. You wouldn't be paying any attention to their lower body, so that part of the picture is unnecessary.

The MS is appropriate when the subject is speaking without too much emotion or intense concentration. It also works well when the intent is to deliver information, which is why it is frequently used by television news presenters. You will often see a story begin with a MS of the reporter (providing information), followed by closer shots of interview subjects (providing reactions and emotion).
As well as being a comfortable, emotionally neutral shot, the mid shot allows room for hand gestures and a bit of movement.

5. Medium Close Shot (MCS): The setting can still be seen. The
lower frame line passes through the chest of the actor. Medium shots
are frequently used for the tight presentation of two actors (the two
shot), or with dexterity three (the three shot).

6. Close-up (CU): A picture which shows a fairly small part of the
scene, such as a character's face, in great detail so that it fills
the screen. It abstracts the subject from a context.

7. MCU (Medium Close-Up): head and shoulders.

MCU (Medium Close Up)

Half way between a Mid Shot and a Close Up. This shot shows the face more clearly, without getting uncomfortably close.

8. BCU (Big Close-Up): forehead to chin. Close-ups focus attention
on a person's feelings or reactions, and are sometimes used in
interviews to show people in a state of emotional excitement, grief or
joy. In interviews, the use of BCUs may emphasise the interviewee's
tension and suggest lying or guilt. BCUs are rarely used for important
public figures; MCUs are preferred, the camera providing a sense of
distance. Note that in western cultures the space within about 24
inches (60 cm) is generally felt to be private space, and BCUs may be

Storyboards can help to quickly convey what a director wants a scene
to look like. You don't need to be a sketch artist in order to get
your point across!

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