I am several days behind on this course due to the fact that my M.E fluctuated and I was rendered unable to do anything, just feeling really ill. Of course the course states that you don’t need to worry that you’re missing study because whatever you do in the day adds to the course. So my days sat on the couch feeling ill didn’t cause me to miss the course, instead they helped as I watched the entire StarWars prequel trilogy along with a James Bond or two. And as any budding cinematophrapher knows you can’t just watch a movie, your subconscious is automatically analysing the scenes, noticing the famous slide transitions, the camera angles, music, effects.
Today though I am back to the practical work.
Try to find good examples of camera angles used to create atmosphere or alter the meaning of a scene or shot. As you watch consider whether the angle effects
Viewpoint – does it indicate a special POV?
Relationship – does it changes your relationship with the characters on screen?
Status – does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
Suspense – does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Mood – does it create a particular feeling or mood?
Make notes and if possible upload clips or stills to your blog to illustrate this.
Low angle shot. This is achieved by shooting upwards at the subject, it can convey, dominance, fear and power. Darth Vader is often shown like this in StarWars. It shows the viewer he is a force to be feared and I remember as a child certainly being scared of him. The black clothing reinforces this as well with psychological connotations of death. Also in his suit he towers over anyone at 2.03 metres tall.
An example of the low angle shot can be seen in the song ‘Eyes Shut’ by Years and Years. The music video opens with band member Olly Alexander walking towards the camera. The whole of the movie is filmed in one shot, a tracking or dolly shot. As the chorus starts though ‘Nothing’s going to hurt me with my eye’s shut’ the camera changes to a low angle (still in one shot) so Olly Alexander is towering over the camera. It gives the feeling of strength and empowerment and ties in the cinematography with the song lyrics.
The house in Psycho was also shot using a low angle to create a feeing of terror and to show the evil inside.
The High angle shot is used when the camera is looking down on the subject. It can be used to create feelings of weakness, submission or danger. Depending on context it can feel like there is someone watching the subject from afar causing the subject to seem vulnerable. It can also be used to show a taller person looking down at someone smaller.
In this frame below Thor and Captain America are staring up at the viewer, fear and uncertainty plastered on their faces, they’re clearly in the midst of battle and shooting down at them like this makes them seem small and vulnerable. The canted angle also serves to reinforce the drama and tenseness of the situation. This type of shot also connects with the viewer as they are staring directly at them.
The same high angle shot is in action here in Jurassic World as the Indominus prepares to sink it’s teeth into the Gyrosphere and it’s helpless victims. The teeth of the I-Rex provide a natural frame, one of terror. I also like the structure of the Gyrosphere, a circular composition always draws the eye straight to it, it can be overpowering in some situations but is an ideal and extremely effective way to lead the viewers eye to where the cinematographer wants it. And as the viewer is always drawn to another person no matter how small the fact they are enclosed in it makes a very powerful composition. It flips from low angle shots to accentuate the power of the I-Rex. There are also subjective viewpoints as the boys stare up at the fearsome creature.
Also known as Dutch Angle this shot is created when the camera is tilted, distorting perspective. It can be used to add impact or more drama to intense scenes. It can also confuse or disorientate the viewer and conveys a changing character. It can be incredibly tricky to get it just right “The technique of getting it right is to populate one side of the frame more than the other and not have the subject at the centre of the frame.”
This technique is used excessively in Slumdog Millionaire. Almost too excessively judging by this video
J.J Abraham’s uses it to good effect in Star Wars – The Force Awakens
Point of View
As discussed in an earlier post, this is the subjective view, i.e shooting from the view point of the character. Usually from the main character but it can work extremely well shot from say the enemy’s POV, staring down at the protagonist.
This technique can also be used for when a character has passed out and it changes to a subjective shot as the blurred world comes into focus. Also they may wake up with several people staring over them. Or in this scene in Divergent when Tris is kicked in the face and stares up at Peter. The low angle shot makes him seem really powerful and scary. It makes the viewer feel like they have taken the brunt of the attack.
Eye level shots
This is the most used in movies as it is a simple portrayal of the character, there is nothing dramatic, in fact they are rather neutral. A lot of romantic comedies use them.
That said if you look at the still below from Harry Potter, it is a very powerful shot, the intensity in his eyes, the fear, the colours and lighting all suggest something ominous. It is an engaging shot as it puts the subject on eye level with the viewer.
Birds Eye View
Similar to an extreme wide shot you can see the whole environment, used in scenes such as Lord of the Rings. In the CBBC series Worlds End the scene begins with a birds eye view following a car through the Northumberland countryside to the castle.
A mixture of high angle and low angle shots are used in Roald Dahl’s classic, Matilda. The low angles are used to show the power the Wormwoods have over Matilda, making them seem more powerful and threatening, perhaps to show the force Matilda has to fight against. In contrast when Matilda is shown it is often using a high shot to make her seem weak and vulnerable. Miss Honey is also shown in this way when being overpowered by the fearsome Trunchubull.