2.3 Movie Making Techniques: The Angles

Camera Angles may either be technically geometric or suggestive.

In general, angles denote camera height with respect to the subject. They are:

1- Low Angle: the camera looks up to the character's face. (Figs.1 & 2)

2- Normal Angle: camera at eye-level with the actor.

3- High Angle: the camera is higher than the character. (Figs.3, 5 - 7)

4- Bird's Eye: the camera is directly above the character. (Fig.4)

Low Angle Sharon Stone  in Scissors

Fig 1: A Low Angle of Sharon Stone in "Scissors"
This angle un-conventionally suggests Insecurity

2.3.1 Passive Geometric Angles  

Passive geometric angles are used in the mechanical understanding of a shot.

Whenever a subject is placed higher than another subject or object, the line of sight in between, becomes oblique (Figs. 3, 4 & 5).

If this sight line is used as the line of action for the camera, then the shot becomes a low angle for the higher character and a high angle for the other. This technique is just used in this sense to unify geometry.

Another standard technique of the industry is to use a high angle for far subjects (Fig 6).

Even at extreme long shots, high angles make subject movement more detectable, and adds the depth dimension to movement. The locale and character position becomes clear.

It is a custom that a camera cranes up as the subject moves away and cranes down as he/she adheres.

Low Angle Sharon Stone in Scissors

Fig 2: Another Low Angle of Sharon Stone in "Scissors"
This angle portrays her Dominant Side

High Angle Sharon Stone in Scissors

Fig 3: This slight High Angle is used according to the two Subjects Sight Line

Bird's View in Scissors

Fig 4: A Bird's View of Sharon in Scissors, used according to the Viewing Subject Sight Line

2.3.2 Suggestive Angles

Suggestive angles are another dimension used by the production designer or director to add meaning to the characters.

When a Low angle is used where it isn't called for, it usually adds importance and strength to the subject being shot.

Moreover, low angles are effective for action; they speed movement and heighten suspense or sense of confusion.

In Fig. 2, the Low Angle used strengthens the characters ground.

However, there are no definite rules. Meaning can change according to context.

In Fig. 1 the Low Angle adds to the sense of insecurity of the character.

High angles, on the other hand, reduce the height of subjects and their importance.

However, since high angles provide general overviews, the true meaning isn't understood or felt except when combined with a clear context.

An example of this is Fig.7. This image may seem to the ignorant observer as a general overview of the luxurious appartment.

But that's not the case. The character, played by Sharon Stone, is trapped inside the appartment by somene that wants to drive her crazy.

So, when we now look at her from above, we cannot but pity her and feel how small, weak, and poor she is in this horrible lonely place.

High Angle Sharon Stone He Said She Said

Fig 5: A High Angle of Sharon in He Said She Said, used also according to the two Subjects Sight Line

High Angle Gloria

Fig 6: A High Angle of Sharon Stone in Gloria, used Mechanically.
It provides a Clear Overview as she pushes her way between cars.

High Angle Sharon Stone Scissors

Fig 7: This High Angle of Sharon in Scissors is not a General Overview of the place.
It contributes to the feeling of her imprisonment within the appartment.


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