written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/24/2010
The way you angle your shots can convey a lot to the audience. Learn how to use some common camera angles in your digital video project.
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A Visual Canvas
Video is a primarily visual medium. Sound and other elements play key roles in a successful digital video project, but the visual creativity should be top priority. Small digital video cameras give us the ability to manipulate those images and present them in a variety of ways that we are not able to easily see in our normal life. Whether it is looking down on someone or seeing a series of events from a crooked slant, the way you position your camera will dramatically effect the emotional resonance the footage holds.
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If you want to remain relatively neutral with the way the audience views a person then you always want to keep the camera strait and angle the lens right at eye level. This is conventionally the way that people look at each other in casual situations, so they will not have any dramatic bias toward the subject. It can be said that this angle bears no emotional weight, minus all the other elements of the scene.
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Angle It Up or Down
If you would like to diminish, or take away from, the subject, then lift the camera up and angle it slightly down on the person. This will make the person appear short and less significant and then you can use this method. This also works for trying to level out someone who is very tall. If you lower the camera and look up at them they will appear large and powerful. In this framing their words will be taken with more validity and the audience tends to have more respect for them. If you are conducting a video interview it is best to always angle the camera upward just slightly so the audience believes the words of the subject.
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A crooked camera angle will make the audience feel off-kilter and is used to add a chaotic feeling to the action on the screen. If someone is intoxicated or there is intense violence occurring this can help add an emotional weight and disconnect to the events. Since this is an unnatural camera position that is not a replication of standard human sight, the audience will immediately realize that what is occurring is dramatic and unusual. Sometimes these are called Dutch angles, and can be used with any combination of other camera positions to combine feelings of power or weakness with feelings of chaos and disbelief.
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People respond to the framing of images in a unique way. Simply by adjusting the angle at which a digital video camera sits can dramatically change how they view the morality and factuality of an event. The important thing is to know how these elements affect the viewer and then use them in appropriate ways.