28 January 2022
A Question of Perspective:
Choosing the Right Perspective for Your Films
The camera is the eye of the beholder. The way it's directed at a subject influences the effect and tone of a scene. That's why it's important to choose camera perspectives carefully. Learn more about which camera perspectives create which effects.
Look Me Straight in the Eye!
Let's start with something obvious and a perspective that most filmmakers probably use intuitively: Framing the subject at eye level. This camera angle is ideal for capturing neutral scenes and dialog.
As soon as you shift the vertical axis of the camera lens, scenes begin to take on a new color. One person might suddenly look overpowering or even threatening to the viewer if you let them look into the camera from above. When filming from a low angle, the lens is aimed at the subject from below. Objects may appear more impressive than they actually are.
The worm's-eye view is even more extreme. In this case, the camera films directly from the ground. When you change the camera angle more towards 90 degrees, the scene appears as if viewed by an extremely small creature. The limiting axes, e.g. the horizon, disappear and the background vanishes.
Holding the camera directed downward at the subject from above results in the opposite of a low-angle shot, the high-angle shot. This view can be used to remove the threat of big, scary things. This also has an extreme case: The bird's-eye view. When looking down on a scene from above, the viewer sees a complete, overall picture.
One unusual perspective is a slanted shot (also called the "Dutch angle"). Combined with extreme low or high-angle shots, this perspective has a power all of its own. Fear, stress and even impending danger are figuratively conveyed by the extreme deviation from the normal perspective.
Should You Get Up Close or Keep Your Distance?
The perspective determines how the camera is focused on an object. The shot size determines what the viewer sees within the frame. In other words, you determine the distance to the object, person, or animal.
With the extreme long shot, subjects are barely visible and when they are, they are very small. This shot serves primarily as an aid for the viewer's orientation.
If, on the other hand, you want to show the environment in which your film's protagonists are located, shoot using a long shot.
By doing so, this shows the protagonist with the maximum view of their environment in such a way that the context becomes clear to the viewer. Is there a person leaning against a wall next to a refrigerator and a sink? All right, this scene takes place in a kitchen. The long shot is mostly used as an establishing shot, that is, to introduce a new scene. The full shot shows a person fully pictured in the foreground, without focusing on the surroundings in more detail. This shot is ideal for showing groups of people and their actions.
"Bang, bang. You're dead!"If you're shooting a Western, by chance, use the medium-long shot. This framing shows a subject from the knees up. The emphasis is on the movement of the arms and hands, for example, when a revolver is drawn. But maybe this is also useful in the age of the smartphone?
"Honey, we need to talk"
If you want to film conversations, there are several options:
1. Film your actors from the waist to the head. This allows the audience to observe exactly how the content of the conversation is conveyed through facial expressions and gestures. The medium shot enhances judgment and draws the viewer into the situation.
2. Unlike the medium shot, a close-up shot removes exaggerated gestures from the shot. The frame starts above the stomach and ends with the head, which is well-suited for dialog.
3. The extreme close-up is used to film the face. This perspective provides familiarity and deep insight into emotions. Actors have to put all of their skills on display with this camera perspective, because only facial expressions are in frame.
There's a Whole World in the Details
If you want to focus attention on a specific detail, hold the lens on this part of the entire picture. Close-up shots allow you to highlight elements that are important to the plot or show the viewer interesting details up close. Example: If an empty magazine is filmed during a gunfight, it becomes immediately clear to the audience that the gun's wielder has a problem.
All's Well That Ends Well
Keep in mind that you decide what and how the audience will see things. By intentionally choosing perspectives and shot sizes, it is possible to add your own personal touch to your videos. Experiment a bit – variety creates emotion, pace, and story.
And it can also be helpful to create a storyboard (https://www.magix.com/index.php?id=26645&L=25) beforehand. This way you can think about the type of shots you want to create before shooting.