The use of different perspectives in film affords directors and cinematographers alike an invaluable tool in manipulating our views and feelings. From a very simple one-point-shot of a hallway that draws the viewer’s eyes to something that we need to see, to a flat-framed shot of a person that can connote many different meanings. The spectator’s perspective of a character holds an important significance in terms of our relationship to them.
“Today, Many directors still consider photography of the actors to be the main storytelling imagery with the location the equivalent of stage scenery, appropriate only for establishing shots” (Katz, 1991, pg 239)
A camera angle by itself has no meaning, but can gain meaning through effective use of narrative and story telling, and therefore amplify any themes that the film-makers are trying to convey via the story.
Zero Point Perspective/Flat Framing
This shot, taken from Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine (1995) is framed using a zero-point perspective. This type of shot seeks to have as little depth as possible so as to highlight whatever is nearest to the camera, in this case, the characters.
One Point Perspective
There are two types of one point perspective shots. The one shown on the right is from Ridley Scott’s superb 1979 film Alien. This type of one point shot features a convergence point the draws your attention to the very certain of the screen and gives the greatest sense of depth in relation to z-axis. The other type of one point perspective, implements what seems like a flat frame, but has one line of convergence leading away from the centre of the screen.
“Whether we’re looking at a room, a building or a densely wooded forest certain viewpoints will emphasize depth and volume more than others” (Katz, 1991, pg 239)
Two Point Perspective
Two point perspective will either lead your attention toward, or away from something on screen. In this scene from
Children of Men (2006) directed by Alfonso Cuarón the convergence points lead toward the dismal image of dystopian London and is exactly the main character is looking at too.
Three Point Perspective
Three point perspective features three different lines of convergence and therefore offers the greatest sense of depth. The three lines of convergence are important in this 1993 film Stalingrad, directed by Joseph Vilsmaier.
Katz, Steven D, 1991 – Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen, Michael Wiese Productions
La Haine, 1995. [Film] Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, France: Canal+
Alien, 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott, United Kingdom: 20th Century Fox
Children of Men, 2006 [Film] Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, United Kingdom: Universal Pictures
Stalingrad, 1993. [Film] Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, Germany: Strand Releasing