written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/20/2010
Learn how to use a POV shot correctly in your film or digital video project.
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Digital Video Filmmaking
The camera in filmmaking really captures different perspectives from which to see the story that is taking place. This camera can be, and often is, the point of view of an outside observer who is not part of the story space and is merely watching what is happening. At different times the camera can represent a figure that it actually in the film itself. Part of what the camera must do is direct the eyes of the audience so they will keep focused on the what the director wants them to. They often do this by tracking eyes and then giving a clear indication as to what the eyes are looking at, so as to keep the audience involved. To do this effectively the director of photography will often switch perspectives from the outside observer to the eye site of an actual character in the film. This is what a POV, or point of view, shot is used for.
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A POV shot, as the name indicates, is a camera angle that represents what a specific character is seeing. This puts the audience directly in the head space of that character and allows them to understand exactly what their "point of view" is, so to speak. This is not a technique that usually ever dominates the perspective through the film, though it can happen in limited experimental circumstances such as a gimmick in a short film or music video.
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Camera Angles and Point of View
To position the POV shot correctly you generally estimate the position and stature of the individual. You will want to somewhat mimic the spatial position they are in so that the POV seems realistic. Like any camera position, the audience has to buy that it can be seen. Even more than this you also have to suggest a spatial reality in the story space that the audience can believe. The position of the character's eyesight is a specific location in the story space, so the position of the camera has to be relative to this. It does not, however, have to be exact and often should not be. Instead you cheat the position so that it appears as if it could actually be from their point of view and still achieves what you need out of the shot.
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Timing Your POV Shot
The timing of a POV shot should usually be very short and indicated toward ahead of time. What this means is that often times the POV shot is motivated by a clear reason to see the perspective of the assumed individual. For example, a person could be looking at an object that is not well seen. Another person could mention that they are looking at said object. A POV shot would then be motivated to clearly see how and what the person is looking at. This is not done specifically to see the object, but instead to see the object in the way that the character is supposedly doing so in the film's story space. This allows the audience to begin to relate to the character, and specifically relate to their perspective of the world around them. This should obviously be limited as it takes away from the invisible style and editing preferences that happen most often in film preparation, but it does add to the communication with the audience in the limited framework.