For movies to capture the imagination of the viewers, they must have several film techniques to make them fun and entertaining to watch. One of these techniques is cinematography, which involves incorporating different camera techniques in a movie, such as camera movements, angles, shots and lighting. Using one technique for long would make a movie monotonous and boring. In order not to lose the attention of the viewers, film directors opt to use as many techniques as possible in a movie. These techniques are discussed below.
A camera shot refers to the total amount of frame that is dedicated for a scene. Shots are very important as they put into focus different aspects of a movie’s setting, themes and characters. Without proper camera shots, the movie will lack in visual appeal and to some extent its intended meaning. Here are different types of shots used in film cinematography.
Extremely Long Shot
Also referred to as an Establishing shot, an extremely long shot captures a large amount of landscape. This shot is usually used to establish the general setting of a film or at the beginning of a scene to indicate where the scene will take place. This shot uses famous landmarks to identify a city, such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building for New York City and the Eiffel Tower for Paris in France.
A long shot concentrates on a human figure or object in relation to the surroundings. Unlike in an extremely long shot where the focus is on the landscape, in long shot the focus is on the object within the landscape. For instance, a long shot may indicate the building where the following scene is about to take place.
A Full Shot
A full shot captures the full view of characters. Viewers can understand the relationship between different characters from this shot. They can also view different collection of costumes that the characters are wearing.
A Mid Shot
A mid shot captures the character from the head up to the waist. This shot allows viewers to see the expression of characters’ faces, their emotions and how they interact with other characters. It is also referred to as the social shot.
A Close-up Shot
This shot captures single characters’ faces to highlight their feelings and it is through their emotions that viewers connect with them. It is also referred to as the personal shot.
Camera angles are used to put viewers in unique positions in order for them to understand the perspectives that the filmmakers are trying to portray. The following are different camera angles used in films.
A Bird’s Eye Angle
With this camera angle, the viewer is above the scene and looks down like a bird. Together with an extremely long shot, it is used as an establishing shot to establish a setting. It is mostly used in a battle setting.
A High Angle/ Aerial Shot
Unlike the bird’s eye angle that concentrates on a whole scene, the high angle concentrates on a subject from above, without much regard to the surroundings. A good example of a high angle shot would be a scene on top of a building.
An Eye Level Angle
This is the most used angle in film. Characters’ faces are on equal level with the viewers. It makes the viewers connect well with the characters.
A Low Angle
In this angle, the camera is positioned below a character’s waistline, such that the camera looks up. It makes the actor look powerful, as the viewers’ feel small and vulnerable watching the characters from below.
A Dutch Angle
Also referred to as the Dutch Tilt, this technique involves tilting the camera to some level of degree, so that the frame is slanted on one side. It portrays feelings of tension, madness or intoxication. Although it is widely believed that the style originated from Netherlands, the Dutch angle is actually from Germany. This angle was first used in German films in the early 1900s and so, the word ‘Dutch’ is actually a misspelling of the word ‘Deutsch’, which means German.
In order to get the desired camera shots and angles, cameras have to be placed at the right place and time. This is where the camera movement techniques come about. The following are examples of camera movements in cinematography.
A Crane Shot
Specifically used in movies to signify the end of a movie or scene, this effect is achieved by mounting a camera on a crane and moving it upwards.
A Tracking Shot/Dolly Shot
Even though these two types of shots are different, they achieve the same effect. A camera mounted on a track achieves a tracking shot, while a camera attached to a moving trolley achieves a dolly shot. These two shots are mostly used to fully explore a scene, such as a room to give the viewers a comprehensive tour of the scene. It is also used in a running/chase scene to follow characters around.
Lighting in Cinematography
Lighting is very important as it brings out the general mood of a scene in a movie. Lighting technicians are tasked with the responsibility of lighting up a setting to suit the mood of the scene. Bright lights are generally used in happy scenes, while dark and shadowy lightings are used in scary or horrifying scenes.
Special effects refer to visual tricks or illusions used in movies, television and video games. Special effects are divided into two categories: mechanical effects and optical effects. Mechanical effects are physical effects that enhance an action scene, such as cars spinning and flipping, things exploding or walls and doors breaking during fighting. Optical effects on the other hand are visual tricks created by cameras. This article will look at optical special effects, as they are part and parcel of cinematography.
This technique involves freezing or slowing down events that cannot be captured by cameras in order to make them more visible to the viewer. A good example of this is where the speed of bullets in the air is slowed down completely and the camera switches angles, so that the viewer can view what is happening at a close range.
This technique involves removing the background from the character and replacing it with another. A character performs in front of a green screen or a blue screen. During post-production, the desired background is inserted within the blue/green screen to act as the scene where the actor pretended to be in. Blue and green colors are preferred because they are the colors that differ most with the human skin color.
Otherwise known as the substitution splice, the stop trick creates the illusion of a character or object appearing/disappearing or transforming into other objects within the same scene. A scene is stopped and a character is removed or replaced with another object within a scene. Then recording is resumed. However to seamlessly connect the two shots together, there has to be proper editing, addition of special effects and the transition between the two scenes fastened at a lightning speed.
Computer Generated Imagery
Computer generated imagery or CGI refers to the process of creating 3D images and inserting them in films. They are usually creatures that do not exist and are thus designed by computer experts to be included in films.
- Cinematic techniques – Wikipedia
- Special effect – Wikipedia
- Best Cinematography: Looking At Life of Pi