CAMERA ANGLES: the Art of Manipulation

Whereas shot sizes direct who and what we see, camera angles affect how we perceive it. Is a character going to appear dominant and tall? Or short and weak? A strong weapon in the cinematographer’s arsenal is the ability to position the camera in relation to the subject or scenery.

Eyelevel Angle

An eyelevel angle is the one in which the camera is placed at the subject’s height, so if the actor is looking at the lens, he wouldn’t have to look up or down. Eyelevel shots are incredibly common because they are neutral. They often have no dramatic power whatsoever, thus they are ideal for romantic comedies and news casting.

eyelevel angle

    

Low Angle

Low angles are captured from a camera placed below the actor’s eyes, looking up at them. Low angles make characters look dominant, aggressive, or ominous.

low angle in matilda

High Angle

In a high angle, the camera is above the subject, looking down. This position makes characters look weak, submissive, or frightened. They are also good POVs of an adult looking at a child:

high angle in matilda

Dutch Tilt

Also called canted angle, a Dutch tilt has the camera leaning sideways, transforming the horizon into a slope. A Dutch tilt changes horizontal and vertical lines into diagonals and creates a more dynamic composition. Though rare, canted angles can be employed with great artistic effect to disorient and disturb the viewer.

dutch tilt rules of attraction

Point-of-View (POV)

As the name suggests, point-of-view shots are angles in which the camera incorporates a character’s eyes. POVs are usually preceded by a close-up of the character’s eyes.

The King's Speech POV microphone

Needless to say, cinematographers will choose different angles for different scenes within the same movie depending of the scene goal or purpose. When analyzing the camera angles used in a movie, it is wise to note how different angles are used in each scene.

Sometimes different angles will be chosen to emphasize different elements in the screen. For example, if an airplane flying overhead is of importance to the story, then filmmakers may choose to use a low-angle shot to show the sky and the plane.

 

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