The narrative of a film or video relies on various dynamic components that come together to create a cohesive story – from writing to direction to acting and editing. But one of the most important and often overlooked components is the scene composition, which in itself is dependent on how you frame your shots and the angle at which the camera is placed.
We’ve already covered everything you need to know about different camera shots in another blog but in this article we will take a deep dive into the different camera angles.
But what exactly are camera angles? Simply put, it is the angle at which the camera is placed in relation to the subject in a particular shot. When used correctly, camera angles can determine the mood of the scene, establish a character’s control over its world and drive the overall narrative. So to help you make your videos technically and aesthetically stronger, we will take a look at 11 different camera angles and understand how you can use each of them effectively.
Here’s what we'll cover:
1. Low Angle Shot
2. Eye Level Shot
3. Shoulder Level Shot
4. Hip Level Shot
5. Knee Level Shot
6. Ground Level Shot
7. Dutch Angle Shot
8. High Angle Shot
9. Overhead Shot/ Bird's-eye view
10. Aerial Shot
11. POV Shot
Let’s dive right in!
As the name suggests, in this angle, the camera is placed below the eye level in such a way that the central character or object in frame gains dominance over the surroundings. These kinds of shots are widely used by film-makers to introduce their protagonists or antagonists.
Notice how Todd Phillips uses a series of low angle shots at a critical juncture in his 2019 blockbuster Joker. In this scene, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) has just overcome years of bullying and committed a crime that signifies the birth of the antihero, Joker. Fleck celebrates his sudden gain of power by breaking out in a trance-like dance and the effective use of low angle shots only makes it more menacing.
When filming your own videos, you can use this angle to add a larger-than-life element to your scenes. You can use these to open a scene as your subject walks into frame or follow them as they walk towards something. Low angle shots work really well for fashion videos, where you want to show the subject as powerful and intense, as well as in travel videos to enhance certain architectural elements.
Pro tip: The kind of music you use and how you transition between clips is just as important as the camera angle you use. To make this process easier, you can edit your videos using InVideo’s online editor and choose from hundreds of transitions and thousands of royalty-free music tracks.
One of the most commonly used camera angles, an eye level shot is used in the film-making world to establish a sense of neutrality between a character and its environment. In this angle, the object or the head of the face is perfectly in-line with the camera lens, which implies that neither the subject nor the situation is overpowering.
Many film-makers have also used eye level camera angles to open up their characters to the audience. As you can see in the GIF above, Martin Scorsese, in his 1976 classic Taxi Driver, intercuts eye level close-ups of Robert De Niro with fazed shots of New York city right in the film’s opening credits. Not only does this immediately establish Travis Bickle’s (De Niro) state of mind, but also sets context to the character’s view of the world.
How to use it: If you create talking head videos for YouTube or any other social media platform, chances are that you already shoot at eye level. This is the angle that makes most sense for talking head videos because of the connection it helps you build with the viewer. But that is not the only thing you can use this angle for – eye-level shots can also be used while filming vlogs, interviews, and any other interaction-based video content.
While eye level shots help establish a direct connection between the subject & the audience, it can also make your character seem shorter than they are and can create an unsettling feeling, especially in wider shots. In order to avoid this, film-makers usually end up placing the camera at a slightly lower level, around the character’s shoulders, giving this camera angle the name shoulder-level shot.
Shoulder level is one of the most popular types of camera angles and is characterized by minimal head room and slightly lower eye line. Due to their lower-than-eye-level placement, these shots are often confused with low angle shots. However, when you observe closely, you will realize that they are as different as chalk & cheese.
How to use it: If you want to add a cinematic touch to your video content, especially in monologues, shoulder level shots can prove to be very effective. Notice how David Fincher places the camera at The Narrator’s (Brad Pitt) shoulder level for a character-defining monologue in Fight Club (1999). Alternatively, shoulder level shots can also be your go-to camera angle if you want to edit a conversation between two or more characters in your video.
Pro tip: While editing a conversation, one must use cuts effectively to maintain pace, stay true to the scene and include just the right words & expressions to drive the narrative forward. Check out this blog on the different types of cuts every video editor should know and how you can edit them using InVideo’s online video editor.
Hip level shots, as the name suggests, are characterized by waist-high placement of the camera to capture one or more subjects. This camera angle has also been commonly used in western movies to bring focus to actions around the hip region of the character, such as, drawing a gun from a holster or taking out something from a pocket. This is why hip level shots are also sometimes referred to as ‘cowboy shots’.
Watch this scene from Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 crime drama Reservoir Dogs. Notice how Tarantino, in what is considered to be one of the best uses of hip-level shot, frames Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) and Mr. Orange (Tim Roth). Barring a few closeups, most of the scene is filmed in the cowboy shot as it seamlessly builds a connection between a character who is standing while the other one sits tied to a chair.
How to use it: You can use hip-level shots when you’re shooting with multiple characters or objects, especially if they are not on the same height. Hip-level shots can allow you to capture the scene in its entirety while also preventing any one object or subject from looking overpowering. These shots are also super useful in fashion videos – where you want to showcase detailing in a garment that appears at the hip level – as well as in fitness videos where you want to focus on glute or leg exercises.
When the camera is placed around the knee level of the central character, the filming technique is referred to as a knee level shot. This camera angle is also considered to be a variation of the low angle shot and can be used to ascertain a character’s domination over the world. Additionally, film-makers also use these shots to show a character’s movement in its larger setting. Remember this iconic scene from The Matrix (1999)? Recall how directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski used a knee level shot to depict Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) interaction with his environment.
How to use it: The knee level shot is a highly cinematic camera angle that can be used to add an element of suspense to your short films, music videos or vlogs. Place the camera around your central character’s knee level and use it to capture how others in the frame are interacting with their surroundings. It is also easier to put the camera at this angle rather than a ground level shot if you want to film while moving since you can easily hold the gimbal at this height.
A dramatized version of the knee level shot, a ground level shot is a camera angle that involves placing the camera at its lowest possible level, that is, the ground. One of the most rare camera angles, ground level shots can be a great way to build tension and catch the audiences’ attention. Owing to its ballet setting, Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 thriller Black Swan has some of the most memorable ground level shots in film history.
How to use it: You can use ground-level shots to make your character introductions more aesthetic, for instance, by showing them walking in the space, without revealing their face. But if you’re not making a film, you can still use ground-level shots as b-roll for dance videos and tutorial videos, as well as in fashion videos to showcase footwear.
Pro tip: When editing your video, you want to make sure that one shot from one angle doesn’t go on for too long. This can make the viewer experience disorienting. A good way is to introduce the same scene from multiple different angles to give the viewer a fair idea of what the scene is about. To get a better understanding of how to edit your videos to create a more cinematic output, check out this blog and head on over to the InVideo editor to get started.
The Dutch angle, or Dutch tilt, is a camera technique that dates back to German films of the late 1920s before it started finding wider acceptance in Hollywood in the 1930s. Characterized by a tilted X-axis, dutch angles are used by film-makers to create a dramatic effect and leave the audience feeling confused, unstable and disoriented.
Terry Gilliam’s 1998 dark comedy Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas follows the misadventures of Raoul (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Gonzo’s (Benecio Del Toro) misadventures through Las Vegas. The film is known for its highly effective use of dutch angles as it banked on its premise of drugs & its effects to create a disoriented feeling amongst viewers. Check out this clip from the below to understand the use of dutch camera angles.
As a content creator, you can incorporate dutch angle shots to enhance tension and generate fear amongst your audience. Alternatively, you can also incorporate a few dutch angle shots to give your video montages an edgy vibe. One of the most important rules of using this absurd film camera angle, however, is to use it only when required - save these signature shots for when the character/story demands it and avoid using them just for the sake of it.
A high angle shot is a cinema technique wherein the camera points down at a subject/character from above the eye level. When used correctly, this camera angle can help establish feelings of vulnerability, weakness and helplessness in a character. Film-makers like Alfred Hitchcock are said to be masters of high angle shots, having used them excessively to even instill fear, anxiety and discomfort amongst the audience.
Let us look at two GIFs from The Avengers (2012) and try to understand the use of high angle shots in video production.
Here, Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) get their first glimpse of the alien invasion. Despite being superheroes, they are shocked & confused. The situation has proven to be more powerful than they are, leaving them with no clue on how to act next.
However, once the Avengers get a hold of the situation and figure out how to work together to fight the aliens, notice how the camera angle shifts to low, resulting in one of the most iconic shots in movie history.
When making your own videos, one reason to use high angle shots is to bring out the vulnerability of your character, but if you’re not a traditional filmmaker, you can still get creative with these. Vloggers are often seen using high angle shots to showcase their workspace or living quarters. You can even use these to show yourself in a new setting as well.
But the most important thing to remember is that the way you transition from one shot to another can really impact how your story is told, like we saw above in the example from The Avengers. There are two types of transitions – in camera transitions that you need to create while filming and transitions in editing that you add when you’re editing your video. You can easily introduce editing transitions to your videos using InVideo’s online editor and to get a better understanding of in-camera transitions, check out this video by Jesse Driftwood.
A highly versatile camera angle, the overhead shot, or bird’s eye view, involves placing the camera directly above the subject to capture it from a 90 degree angle. Michael Gondry’s famous ‘watching stars’ scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) uses a bird’s eye view to showcase the tension between Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), signified here by the cracks on the ice.
As we can see in the GIF above, the most common implication of the overhead shot is to showcase a character against his/her surroundings. On the other hand, you can also take clues from film-makers like Wes Anderson who have used overhead shots excessively as fillers to give a visual break between scenes. Check out this compilation of some of the most memorable overhead shots from Anderson’s filmography to get a better idea of how you can use these shots.
A camera angle that’s become very popular recently, thanks to the boom in drone photography, aerial shots are used in video production to establish the film’s geographical setting. Once considered a big-budget luxury, original aerial photography is now within reach of almost any production. Notice how David Fincher uses this camera angle to acknowledge the presence of the Zodiac Killer in his 2007 thriller Zodiac.
While aerial shots have been used extensively since the mid 1960s, most notably in films like The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965) and The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963), this is one camera angle that has constantly been reinvented in modern film-making and video content creation. In the last few years, travel & lifestyle content creators and daily vloggers have particularly leveraged aerial shots to overcome recording challenges and produce high-quality footage at minimal costs.
Film-makers, have for years, used Point-of-View (POV) to put their audience in the shoes of a character or object and make them see the world from their perspective. In simpler terms, a POV shot is one where the camera acts as the eyes of a character and the audience sees what they see. Check out this highly acclaimed opening sequence from Gaspar Noé’s 2009 experimental drama Enter The Void to understand how you can incorporate POV shots in your video content.
While POV shots were initially associated with the slasher/killer genre, the rise of immersive technologies like virtual reality proves that POV shots are here to stay.
POV shots have become super popular with vloggers and internet content creators as they are not only easy to film but they kind of give the viewer an insight into how you see the world. You can get super creative with these as well by introducing different kinds of overlays and filters to further insinuate how you feel about the situation or image on screen – something that’s super easy to do with InVideo’s intuitive online editor.
While your core story will always be at the heart of the videos that you create, knowledge of different camera angles can go a long way in pushing forth your intended narrative goal. Use these camera angles in tandem with the right camera shots to ensure that your message is never lost in translation. To understand the different types of camera shots and when to use them, check out this blog on InVideo.
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