Camera Techniques for Film and TV
A camera shot is the amount of space that is seen in one shot or frame. Camera shots are used to portray the different parts of a film’s setting, characters and themes. As a result, camera shots are very important in shaping meaning in a film.
An ELS or extreme long shot (or Establishing Shot) contains a large amount of landscape. It is often used at the beginning of a scene or a film to establish general location (setting).
A LS or long shot contains landscape but gives the viewer a more specific idea of setting. A long shot may show the viewers the building where the action will take place.
A full shot contains a complete view of the characters. From this shot, viewers can take in the costumes of characters and may also help to demonstrate the relationships between characters.
A MS or mid shot contains the characters or a character from the waist up. From this shot, viewers can see the characters’ faces more clearly as well as their interaction with other characters. This is also known as a social shot
A CU or close-up contains just one character’s face. This enables viewers to understand the actor’s emotions and also allows them to feel empathy for the character. This is also known as a personal shot.
An ECU or extreme close-up contains one part of a character’s face or other object. This technique is quite common in horror films, particularly the example above. This type of shot creates an intense mood and provides interaction between the audience and the viewer.
It is important that you do not confuse camera angles and camera shots. Camera shots are used to demonstrate different aspects of setting, themes and characters. Camera angles are used to position the viewer so that they can understand the relationships between the characters. These are very important for shaping meaning in film as well as in other visual texts.
The following examples will help you to understand the differences between the different camera angles:
A bird’s eye angle is an angle that looks directly down upon a scene. This angle is often used as an establishing angle, along with an extreme long shot, to establish setting.
A high angle is a camera angle that looks down upon a subject. A character shot with a high angle will look vulnerable or small. These angles are often used to demonstrate to the audience a perspective of a particular character. As a viewer we can realise that the person talking to Matilda in the shot below, feels powerful.
An eye-level angle puts the audience on an equal footing with the character/s. This is the most commonly used angle in most films as it allows the viewers to feel comfortable with the characters.
A low angle is a camera angle that looks up at a character. This is the opposite of a high angle and makes a character look more powerful. This can make the audience feel vulnerable and small by looking up at the character. This can help the responder feel empathy if they are viewing the frame from another character’s point of view.
In any film or visual text that you view you will be able to see many different examples of camera angles. When watching film and TV, I always try to make a note of the different camera angles and think of how they affect my perception of the different characters.
Another camera angle that you might come across is a Dutch angle.
A Dutch angle or Oblique angle is used to demonstrate the confusion of a character. The example above should disorientate you.
Composers of films also use camera movement to shape meaning. The following are some examples of common camera movements and how they can be used to shape meaning in films.
A crane shot is often used by composers of films to signify the end of a film or scene. The effect is achieved by the camera being put on a crane that can move upwards
A tracking shot and a dolly shot have the same effect. A tracking shot moves on tracks and a dolly shot is mounted on a trolley. This camera movement is used in a number of ways but is most commonly used to explore a room such as a restaurant. By using a tracking shot or a dolly shot the composer of a film gives the viewer a detailed tour of a situation. It can also be used to follow a character.
Panning is used to give the viewer a panoramic view of a set or setting. This can be used to establish a scene
An Evangelion shot is derived from the popular anime series ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. This camera movement begins as an extreme close-up and zooms out abruptly, creating a blurring effect to emphasise the speed and size of the object
Lighting is a very important aspect for shaping meaning in films. It helps to create atmosphere in a shot that may otherwise be lost. Mood lighting in a house helps to create atmosphere, the same as lighting in a Film does. A room that is brightly lit by neon lights might seem to be sterile for example hospital scenes are more than likely going to be lit with neon lights, another example being a dark room with barely any light but the light that is there helps to create lots of shadows would more than likely be perceived as eerie or scary with the right music. The lighting technicians alongside the Director of Photography in a film crew have the task of creating lighting to suit the mood and atmosphere of each scene in a film.
Cinematography is the combination of the techniques described above. This includes camera shots, camera angles, camera movement and lighting. You use the term “Cinematography” to group all of these together, for example; ‘The Cinematography in that film was exceptional.’
Mise en Scene
Mise en scene refers to all the objects and characters in a particular frame. More specifically, the composition of the frame; When you use the term “mise en scene”, you are discussing where the composer or director has placed all the elements of the scene within the frame.
TV Standards- Aspect Ratios
Aspect ratio is the ratio of the width to the height of an image, footage or a screen.
Standard aspect ratio is 4:3, the vast majority of TVs had an aspect ratio of 4:3 until the last 10 years when widescreen TVs were introduced into homes everywhere. The widescreen standard for television is 16:9 and is 1.85:1 for film, widescreen for film is 2.35:1, this can also be known as “cinema scope” which is an image shot in 16:9 and compressed to 2.35:1 or 2.39:1.
Below is a chart with common Aspect Ratios on it:
480i – 720 x480 is the standard resolution for television and DVD and is the analog broadcast limit in NTSC areas. (NTSC is the Television Broadcasting System used in North America and Japan)
576i – 720 x 576 is the standard TV and DVD resolution in PAL areas such as the UK. It was also the standard for analogue broadcast limit in PAL areas, although since the Digital Switchover there is no longer analogue TV.
1080p – 1080p is the standard resolution for High Definition, it is mostly used for blu-ray DVD’s, Gaming and general Online content.
1080 is the vertical resolution, its full resolution is 1920 – 1080 which equals around 2 million pixels. The P, in ‘1080p’ stands for progressive, meaning it plays one full frame after the other.
1080i – 1080i is the standard resolution for High Definition broadcast, it very much the same as 1080p, apart from the fact that it is interlaced (hence the i instead of p, after 1080), this means two halves of a frame are played in every frame shown. This means you have to film at 50i to get 25 frames per second.
Ultra High Definition or ‘UHD’ – 3840×2160 is 4 times the resolution of 1080p, UHD is the next step up in terms of Resolution for TVs.
2K – 2048 x 1080 is standard cinema resolution. 2K is the resolution that films are shown at in the cinema and is the standard for cinema projections, although since 4K has been introduced more and more cinemas are now changing to projectors that are capable of showing 4K.
4k – 4096 x 2160 is the next step up from 2K, it is 4 times the resolution of 2K and is the format most movies and a lot of dramas are being shot in these days. Although most cinemas still project their films at 2k, 4k is becoming widely introduced. 4K is shows around 8 million pixels per frame (8 megapixels).