Different Camera Angles Create Different Emotions

Different Camera Angles Create Different EmotionsFilmmakers and cinematographers are not typically who you would picture when someone mentions an artist. However, if we look closely at the various angles or viewpoints that could be chosen for filming, a true artist knows how to evoke emotion from the viewer by choosing just the right angle.

Upon choosing the perfect angle, the cinematographer must then choose whether or not to add movement and which type of framing. This permits the movie creator to add emotional hooks to the film to draw in and keep the audience’s attention.

Eye Level

The most common, basic, and neutral camera angle is taken at eye level. As the name would suggest, the camera is at the same height as most of the characters in the scene.

This puts the audience at their level, so the filmmaker isn’t using height to add drama, so it’s often used in scenes in which the audience is getting background information, or perhaps the focus is on the characters themselves in the scene rather than the scenery. Or, at eye level, emotion and drama can be added through movement like:

  • Hand-held shots, meaning the camera is literally in the cameraman’s hand and therefore a little shaky. This makes the audience feel like they are included in the scene with a reality feel
  • Zooming action, either slow or quick zoomadds dramatic effect. In a dolly zoom, the zooming is sudden and indicates something bad is about to happen to that character.
  • Arc shots mean the camera circles around the subject, really showing all sides of the person. You might feel like you’re getting to know them better
  • Tracking is when the camera follows the character, but not much else is moving
  • Pan shots slowly survey the scenery from one side to another, but a whip pan does it quickly like when a character turns their head. Filmmakers often add a sound to it.
  • Locked-down shots are when even though action is clearly happening elsewhere, the cameraman keeps focus steadily on the same characters, who often don’t even react, and you know that what they are doing or saying is most important.
  • Over-the-Shoulder is when the camera is behind the character and you can feel as though you’re experiencing the scene with that person. It can also show you how close the characters are
  • Point of View Shots can make you feel creepy. You feel like you were placed inside the person’s eyes and are looking through that window with them, and they don’t know they’re being watched

The movie artist must also decide about framing. Eye level framing may be:

  • Close-ups, which are just focused on a character’s face. It helps you feel whatever they are feeling.
  • Two-shots, where two characters may be sitting side by side and you are hearing their conversation, like at a bar or dinner table, adding a level of intimacy
  • Medium shots that allow you to only see the character from the waist up
  • Long shots which show the entire body and can make you feel that character is very important and focused on their body language
  • Cowboy shots are focused in on the mid-thigh of the character and close up, and you will feel that the characters are having a standoff

Bird’s Eye View

This camera angle is taken from above and is often called an aerial shot. It can seem unnatural and strange, make you feel Godlike or more significant that what you’re looking at below.

It can also make you feel small, if the scene below you is vast. Aerial shots at the beginning of movies often set the scene and allow the audience to take in a view or establish the setting.

At bird’s eye view, the cinematographer can choose to add emotion or drama with movement and some will be the same tactics as above, but from overhead. Some others are:

  • Tilts, which is when the camera is down with the scene, but then moves steadily up to the ceiling or sky. This makes you feel like the scene, but more often the movie, is over
  • Sequence shots – these are overlooking a scene, but there is no cutting of the scene. The camera just moves around from place to place and possibly angle to angle, and often the characters are unaware of things that are happening that the audience gets to see
  • Zooming in or out, fast or slow, can again, happen from overhead
  • Top shots, which allow the audience to survey or assess a scene, but it’s usually after a lot of action has happened and the point is to let you see and feel the aftermath

High Angle

High angle camera views are elevated and can show a unique perspective. It can make you feel like the characters are less significant or that we are just onlookers, not really involved in the emotion of the movie yet.

It could also be that the filmmaker is showing you a scene that is part of a bigger picture. Sometimes, when high angles are focused on one character alone, they may want to show a strong feeling or realization that character is having.

Movement can become very important with high angle shooting. For example:

  • Steadicam shots put the camera on hydraulics which allows it to be so balanced and smooth that it can follow a character a very long way, even down stairs and through winding hallways, without ever cutting the scene. It’s like when a character is showing someone around, even if it’s the audience
  • Sequence shots can also be filmed at a high angle
  • Bridging shots are simply to show elapsed time or a change of location. They may show a plane moving across a map or the hands of a clock quickly moving around a clock

Low Angle

A low angle shot is used to make you feel that the character is larger than he or she may really be. Often the camera will speed up the movement to give the audience a feeling of disorientation. At these angles, seeing the sky or ceiling is common. It may make you feel the character is dominant, important, heroic, or even more evil. It can also make a city look emptier.

Oblique or Canted Angle

This one is chosen by filmmakers who want to evoke imbalance, disorientation, a unique point of view, or instability. This could be from the movement of a handheld camera, which can have the same effect. This is often called “tilt”, where the scene is on or nearly on its side.