Cinematography

Framing, camera angles and movement

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Here's what we'll cover.

  1. Shot types 
  2. Camera angles
  3. Camera movement

Framing camera shots

The word ‘frame’ is used a lot when it comes to films and filmmaking, and it's used to describe the rectangular frame a camera sees through.

When you're framing a camera shot, 'framing' refers to how you decide what will appear within the camera frame.

This can involve deciding how far, or how close, the camera will be to what it is filming. Deciding how far the camera is positioned from a subject (usually a character) or object doesn’t just dictate what the audience should be looking at, it hints at what is important, and can also convey a feeling. 

We call this distance a camera shot. Below is a video showing examples of three main types, wide shot, mid-shot, and close-up.

Now you've seen some visual examples of those three shot types, read through the page shot type extended before moving onto the next activity.

Shot types extended.

Complete one or all of the following activities using your understanding of shot types.

Shot types: activity 1

Open the document Film It - framing shot types below. Add rectangular frames (digitally or physically, it’s up to you) onto the image to illustrate the following shot types: long shot, mid shot, close up, and extreme close up.

Add a note for each shot type and explain why a cinematographer might use each shot. Don't forget you can read a lot more and look at more visual examples of shot types here.

Shot types: activity 2

Download the template Film It - illustrating shot types from below. You’ll notice there are 7 frames labeled with shot types. Draw an example of each shot type to show your understanding using one to two characters in each panel help illustrate the shot type. See if you can give your characters expression and or indicate movement that relates to what each shot type can be good for capturing.

Shot types: activity 3

If you have a bit more time, nothing is better than going out and actually filming or photographing examples of shot types.

Grab a camera and photograph examples of each shot to show your understanding. When doing this, give whoever is in your photos some basic acting instructions – to do this you’ll need to think about what the shot types are good for. So for your extreme close up would you like the person’s eyes to express fear, wonder, sadness? In the mid-shot do you want the person to be performing some sort of action or striking a pose? For the two-shot, what kind of interaction do you want your characters to be having?

Present your images as a poster or a presentation, and include a short written or verbal explanation of what you were trying to capture in each image.

Camera angles

The way the camera is angled can contribute to the meaning the audience will get from the shot and can be used to make characters look a certain way. You might choose a low-angle to make something or someone look powerful, scary, heroic, or important. And you might choose a high-angle to get the opposite of that.

The angle can also help an audience get a sense for what a character is experiencing and what they are feeling, all these by simply changing the angle of the camera.

Watch the video below. It goes through three key types of camera angles, low-angle, high-angle, and the dutch angle.

Before tackling any of the activities below, read through the extended camera angles page, as it has descriptions and visual examples of all the camera angles. 

Camera angles - extended.

Looking at examples of camera angles is all good and well, but you won't get the hang of them unless you try them out yourself. 

Try one or all of the following activities:

Camera angles: activity 1

Create a poster that shows examples of all the different camera angles shown above, but find images from movies you know. You can take screen grabs from the film itself, or search online. 

Camera angles: activity 2

Using a camera, take a series of photos of a subject, preferably a person. You can partner up with someone in your classroom. Take a photo from a low angle, an extremely low angle, high angle, eye level, and dutch angle. Before taking each photo, give some instruction to the person posing for the photo that relates to the reason you're using that angle. For example is your low angle to make your subject look heroic, or evil and intimidating?

Camera movement

When framing the camera, and establishing the camera angle, you’ll most likely be in a stationery position with the camera on a tripod in what we call a static (not moving) position.

Your camera doesn’t have to be static though, it can move! And how it moves is important to how the viewer will experience the footage you film. Shaky hand-held style might make the audience feel ill but it might make them feel part of or close to the action. Smooth tracking shots might feel more assured and again bring the audience into the action, but in a very different way.

Watch the video below which illustrates two camera movement types in panning, and tracking.

Before trying out the camera movement activities, find out more about different types of camera movements on the camera movement extended page.

Camera movement - extended.

Camera movement activity

For this activity you'll need a video camera or a device that captures video (like an iPad). You'll also need a large, open space to film in.

It's excellent if you have access to a tripod, but if you don't you can do without one for now.

Film a simple scene of a character walking across a large, open space. You'll film the same scene three times, each time a little differently:

  1. Film the character from side on using a long shot, with the camera static (still, not moving)
  2. With the camera in the same position, film your actor again but this time either pan with, or towards, your character. So 'with' meaning following them, 'towards' meaning the camera pans from the direction the character is walking towards.
  3. Now, with your camera off your tripod, shoot the action again but track behind (follow) your character and film. You can try the opposite, and track from the front as your character moves.

Reflection:

Watch back all your footage, and discuss what you liked about each camera movement.

Things to think about include; did some shots convey more information to the viewer? Do you think some would make the audience feel different from others? Were some more visually engaging than others?

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