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Home > Career Growth and Development16 Cinematography Techniques: In-Depth Descriptions and Examples

16 Cinematography Techniques: In-Depth Descriptions and Examples

Cinema is something that is often referred to as the ‘Silver Screen.’ It has consistently become the medium of expression and entertainment since its inception. While the primary aim of cinema is entertainment, beyond that, it has massively impacted society by inspiring change and shaping the culture in a more profound way. But what goes behind the lenses that capture the essence of cinemas is unknown to many.

Taking a turn from the enjoyment of cinemas that we usually do, have you ever wondered about the cinematography techniques that are utilized to capture the visual essence? If you are keen to find out, you are at the right place.

Mastering the Lens: 16 Essential Cinematography Techniques Explained

There are various essential elements that you must know and be acquainted with in order to get started in this field. Taking the little steps can make the biggest difference. This is especially true of the camera techniques. Here are some of the well-known filmmaking techniques with examples that you need to know:

Eye-level shot

The eye-level shot is something that speaks for itself. Basically, the cinematographer positions the camera angle exactly at the level of the character’s eye. The subject is generally obtained from the knee to the head with very little surrounding context. 

Rather than manipulating an audience’s perspective or dramatizing a scene, this kind of shot represents a natural human viewpoint. As an output, it puts the audience right in the middle of the scene. 

As they match our natural perspective, the eye-level angles are particularly useful for a shot’s initial framing. An example of this is portrayed in Game of Thrones. It is the scene with Ramsey with Jon’s brother where Jon comes down from the horse.

Low-angle shot

In cinematography, a low-angle shot is carried out when the camera is positioned anywhere down the eye line and pointing upward. It may be even below the feet of the character. Only at that time is it called an extremely low-angle shot.

It is one of the greatest cinematography techniques, and it has widespread uses. A low-angle shot is only one of many angles of the camera that is possible, and it is something that can even be combined for an additional effect. 

Low-angle shots are utilized to showcase power based on your subject. One of the biggest examples of this was shown in the film The Great Gatsby during the grand party when Tobey Maguire was dancing on his first invitation by Gatsby. 

High-angle shot

In its simplest explanation, a high-angle shot is something of a filming technique where the camera generally looks down at the subject from above. When you have the preview of someone from a higher perspective, it makes the subject seem a little smaller. It is something that can result in different outcomes for the audiences. 

Based on the context of the story you are speaking about, a high-angle shot may elicit a wide variety of emotions. From vulnerability to danger, there are many purposes behind this one of many film techniques camera shots. If we are to give you an example, let’s take you back to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where Dobby was being shot from a high angle to showcase how small the elf was.

Dutch angle shot

In order to seamlessly execute this shot, you are required to rotate the camera to either of the sides until the verticals are tilted and the horizons are no longer parallel to the bottom of the frame. It is yet another shot that is utilized sparingly in narrative sort of cinematography, generally to showcase the disorientation and uneasiness. 

You may utilize this to showcase a character’s unstable mental state or illness. One of the biggest examples of this is during the film Mission Impossible when Tom Cruise realizes that he has become the target.

Pan shot

The panning shot is generally the horizontal equivalent of the tilt shot. It is something that may be utilized to just showcase the surroundings. However, you may just achieve truly professional results with it by keeping the panning accurate and smooth, particularly when there is action and a carefully composed final frame involved. You are required to be mindful that such movements must be perfectly executed in order to make them look natural. One of the biggest examples of this is in Kill Bill Volume 1, when the character of Uma Thurman throws the knife at Vernita Green.

Tilt shot

In this shot, the camera is in a fixed position and goes up and down vertically in a scene. This shot is known to be of use for showcasing the weakness or strength of a character. One of the biggest examples of this shot is during Star Wars.

Dolly shot

In general, a dolly shot is a certain kind of tracking shot where we generally follow a subject on an apparatus known as a dolly. A dolly is basically a cart where the camera is mounted. It basically rolls along with the dolly truck. 

The purpose of the dolly shot is to provide smooth and controlled camera movements. It is one of the finest camera techniques in film. The biggest example of this is in the film Jaws, which is a combination of the great Spielberg’s face to show off the abject horror of Chief Brody as he realizes that his kids are in the water with a white shark. 

Tracking shot

For tracking shots, you would require a dolly or a wheeled cart where you would mount the camera. The cart is something that needs to move on a rail track to follow a character who is moving. The biggest example of a tracking shot is in The Shining. It is where Stanley Kubrick utilized a long tracking shot to create tension and dread.

Crane shot

The crane shot is one of many cinematography examples that is considered to be traditional. The platforms may also accommodate a camera operator. If you are looking to create a suspenseful scene, this shot is the one you should go with. One of the biggest examples of a crane shot was taken during the famous chasing sequence in the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A.

Zoom shot

Zoom shot is known as one of the best in this cinematography techniques list. Zooming typically grants the impression of moving closer or further away from the subject. It is one of the best cinematography techniques that may be utilized effectively to magnify a specific focus point in the camera frame. One of the greatest examples of this is in the film Shining.

Close-up shot

In a close-up shot, the subject’s face or head generally takes up most of the frame and allows the emotions and reactions to dictate the scene. As an eye-level shot, it basically thrusts the subject into the forefront, allowing them to be at the centre of attention. A great example of this is in Casablanca, where the camera moves through various shots and establishes different levels of intimacy.

Medium shot

This shot is yet another one of the best cinematography techniques. It is also acknowledged as the ¾ shot. The medium shot generally shows the subject from the knees up. The camera angles enable the viewer to see the environment in the background and the gestures of the characters while still being close enough to capture their emotions.

It basically strikes a balance between context and intimacy and provides the viewer with a clear perception of the character’s upper body and facial expressions. The best example of this shot is during the progressive terror that was visible on the face of Cary Grant as he flees the crop duster in North by Northwest.

Wide shot

Generally, a wide shot is when a character or a group of characters are completely within a frame along with the surroundings. If we speak of the best cinematography techniques, a wide shot is considered to be the director’s best friend. The filmmakers typically use this sort of shot to give the audience an idea of the place. A prime example of this is in one of the best movies known as Schnieder’s List, in which there is a running image of a girl trapped in a concentration camp wearing a red coat.

Over-the-shoulder shot

The over-the-shoulder shot is yet another one of the prominent cinematography techniques. It generally uses the positioning of the camera behind the shoulder of a certain character while framing the subject in a close or medium shot. 

A shoulder-level shot generally has the form of an over-the-shoulder shot that can perfectly get the interaction between two characters within the same frame. A great example of this shot is in the movie Casablanca when Rick bids the iconic goodbye.

Two-shot

A two-shot is when two characters share the same frame. It is often side by side or in close proximity. The simple kind of arrangement is generally a natural means of introducing both characters and providing an immediate visual context for their connection. By keeping the two characters in position, the filmmakers may showcase a wide range of information. A great example of this is in Casablanca, where Rick and Ilsa are talking in the bar.

Shallow depth of field

It is one of the unique cinematography techniques out there. It basically refers to the size of the area and its sharpness in front and in the back of the focal point. The biggest example of this is in the Netflix film Army of the Dead. 

Conclusion

While a picture is something that speaks millions of worlds, being precise with the angles of each shot can make massive differences in cinematography. These elements possess the art of explaining, storytelling, and conveying emotions. Having an understanding of different cinematography techniques will add up to a massive difference in cinematography. 

Faqs On Cinematography Techniques

Q1: Why are there different kinds of shots in cinematography?

Ans: There are various sorts of shots in cinematography, and each one has its own purpose. The idea is to get the most out of a shot, and certain angles of the camera can portray the emotion you are trying to show in a better way.

Q2: What is a ¾ shot?

Ans: It is famously known as the medium shot. It is when the character is generally shown from the knees up. It is a shot that strikes the balance between intimacy and character.

Q3: What is an extremely close shot?

Ans: In an extremely close shot, the camera is generally focused on a certain feature of the subject or the character. For example, the focus of the camera might be on the hero’s eyes or lips.

Q4: What is a Bird’s eye shot?

Ans: The Bird’s eye shot is something that shows a massive scale. However, it does this from a way higher angle. It is something that is generally utilized to establish shots for introductions.

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