April 19, 2019

50+ Camera Angles, Shots, and Movements: A Complete Guide

Camera Angles Camera Shots Camera Movements
Have you ever been overwhelmed at the possibility of every camera angle, framing, and shot type available as a filmmaker? Us too. So we provided a cheat sheet with definitions for you! 

There are so many camera movements and camera angles; it can be hard to keep track. To make film and television like the masters, you need to practice and learn the various camera movements, angles, shots, and tools.

But how can you know if you’re hitting all the basics without a comprehensive checklist of camera angles and shots?

We put our heads together and came up with this list that should help any filmmaker master the basics and take on the industry.

Camera Angles and Shots Are Created with Tools and Mechanisms

Before we jump into camera shots and movements, let’s go over some of the tools you’ll need to get the job done. They’re your bag of tricks and combined with shots, angle, focus, and framing will take your audience on a journey they never forget.

Let’s jump into camera tools.

Camera Angles and Shots - Tools and Mechanisms

  1. Sticks / Tripod

You could go handheld, but getting a tripod adds a steady hand to your camera shot. You’re going to want one with a fluid head for pans and other camera movements.

  1. Slider Shot

A slider enables you to shift the camera from left to right with fluidity and stability. You can move in and out with the slider and always appear controlled.

  1. Handheld Shot

Looking for that shaky feeling of real life? Handheld camera shots bring realism and a frenetic pace to every shot. So channel your inner Paul Greengrass and go for it.

  1. Steadicam Shot

Want to feel organized and calculated like Fincher? A Steadicam lets you have the access of handheld, but the stability of the slider or tripod.

  1. Gimbal Shot

A gimbal is a support that allows the rotation of the camera on a single axis. The gimbal is something to use if you don’t the room or access to a Steadicam setup.

  1. Crane Shot

If you want to emphasize scope and scale, consider mounting your camera on a crane. Sure, you’ll need a Hollywood-budget, but the crane adds size and scope and can take you from the top floor to the bottom with ease.

  1. Jib Shot

Want a craning effect without the expensive and bulky apparatus? Consider getting a jib. The jib works like a crane, but is smaller and can be controlled mechanically or by one person. The jib allows you to go from roof to floor, or follow someone at foot level and end on their face.

  1. Drone Shot

Want to get wild? Hook your camera up to a tiny robot and send it into the air. A drone is a fun idea for production value. We’ll get into it more in the aerial shot section, but a drove helps you give the character and problems perspective.

  1. Wire Rig

A wire is placed over a sporting event, concert, or humongous scene. Then the camera is hooked up to an apparatus that travels across the wire to gather deliberate moves, interesting angles, and intimate details by dropping in on the action.

Camera Shots

Okay, you have your camera. You have your screenplay. It's time to set up and shoot. But which shot fits your story? Let’s go through some camera shot definitions so you can decide the shot that perfectly aligns with your story’s needs.

Continue to read to learn more!

Camera Shots

  1. Extreme Close-Up (ECU)

This shot emphasizes a small area or detail of the subject, like the eye(s) or mouth. Some people call in Extreme Close Up of the eyes an Italian Shot, which got its name from Sergio Leone’s Italian-Western films like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Camera Angles and Shots - Extreme Close Up

  1. Close-Up (CU)

This shot fills the screen with the subject at hand. It frames emotions or a reaction to the action.

Camera Angles and Shots - Close Up

  1. Medium Shot (MS)

This is one of the most common shots seen. It focuses on showing more of the character in their environment.

Camera Angles and Shots - medium shot

  1. Full Shot (FS)

Just like the name, this shows the full character and the environment around them.

Camera Angles and Shots - Full shot

  1. Long Shot or Wide Shot (LS)

Here we get the subject from top to bottom, or we can get a shot of the entirety of the landscape. This shot usually frames its subject within the scenery or can be used to establish the beginning or the end of a scene.

Camera Angles and Shots - wide shot

  1. Extreme Long Shot (ELS) or Extreme Wide Shot

The widest of the shots, this gives us the full breadth of what we are seeing. We get the characters set against a backdrop or we just a sprawling backdrop. These are used to create scope and scale as well as set tone and mood.

Camera Angles and Shots - extreme wide shot

  1. American Shot / Cowboy shot

This is one variation of the Medium Shot. Its name comes from Western films from the 1930s and 1940s, which would frame the subject from their holsters to fit the character’s gun into the shot. That’s super American.

Camera Angles and Shots - Cowboy shot

  1. Reaction shot

Shows a character’s reaction to the shot that has preceded it. Useful in the Kuleshov effect.

Camera Angles and Shots - Reaction shot

  1. Establishing Shot

An establishing shot is a wide shot that helps the viewer gain knowledge over the time and location of a scene.

Camera Angles and Shots - establishing shot

  1. Cutaway Shot

These are shots usually in close-up that get inserted in editing to bring attention to small details and information for the audience within the scene. They often align with POV shots.

  1. Over The Shoulder (OTS)

The subject is shot from behind the shoulder of another, framing the shoulder, neck, and back of the head of the subject facing away from the camera. This connects two speakers rather than the detachment of single shots. You'll commonly hear this shot referred to as an "OTS", which is simply "over the shoulder."

Camera Angles and Shots - OTS

  1. POV Shot

This shot mimics what a particular character in a scene is seeing. This puts the audience directly into the head of the character, letting them experience their emotional state.

Camera Angles and Shots - POV

Camera Framing

Each of these camera frames lines up and directly correlates with the shot you’ve chosen. Your character steps into frame. So how many characters will be there and what’s the advantage to cramming more in, leaving some out, and shooting with an obstructed frame?

Keep scrolling to learn more!  

Camera angles, shots and movement - camera framing

  1. Single Shot

Want to view one character at a time? That’s what we call a single.

Camera Angles and Shots - Single shot

  1. Two Shot

You’ve seen one character, now let’s add another to the mix.

Camera Angles and Shots - two shot

  1. Three Shot

What’s better than two? How about three characters filling your screen. We could go on to the fours and fives, but you get the picture.

Camera angles, shots tools, movements - three shot

  1. Over-the-Shoulder Shot (OTS)

When two people are talking, this shot allows you to shoot over one of the characters’ shoulders to get an intimate portrayal of the conversation at hand. The other person’s should might be visible or blurred, depending on the focus.

Camera Angles and Shots - OTS
  1. Point-of-View Shot (POV)

Yes, this applies shots and framing. This shot takes the first person point of view and allows us to see the world through the eyes of the character. It can help us see what's coming for us, who we are following, or to feel completely immersed into the world of the story.

Camera Angles and Shots - POV

Camera Angles

Once you decide the lens and the framing, you're going to want to figure out the angle at which the audience will view the action. Camera angles are important because they can show different emotions and open the viewer up to certain details about the world.

Let’s go over the basic camera angles.

Camera Angles

  1. Eye Level Shot

For most camera angles, we like to be on the same level as the character. So their eye level. This gives us a naturalistic feel.

Camera Angles and Shots - eye level shot

  1. Low Angle Shot

Shots that come from a low angle give power to the objects they look at. These provide scope and scale, dominance, and can be used to make a character appear strong or in control.

Camera Angles and Shots - low angle shot

  1. High Angle Shot

This is used to look down on a character or object. It can make someone feel insignificant or can lay out the pathway for what lies ahead — commonly seen in film noir.

Camera Angles and Shots - high angle shot

  1. Hip Level Shot

What’s your cowboy got in their holster? A hip-level shot is a camera angle that focuses on the characters from the waist up. Technically, shooting this low means you probably aren’t using the viewfinder, so you have to just test it out and see what you get.

Camera Angles and Shots - hip level shot

  1. Knee Level Shot

Sometimes you want to give the scale of a character without showing their full body. This medium shot helps you understand the character but also get a sense of their surroundings.  

Knee Level Shot

  1. Ground Level Shot

Let’s get low with the ground level shot. Here maybe you’re following ants in your reality show or your Pixar movie. This shot takes you close to the earth for a falling boot or to give scale to the horizon.

Camera Angles and Shots - ground level shot

  1. Shoulder-Level Shot

Sometimes you want to go in for a close-up, a reaction, or a walk and talk and you just want to see the top half of the character(s). This increases the intimate portrait and gets us close to the character’s heart and feeling.

Camera Angles and Shots - shoulder level shot

  1. Dutch Angle Shot

Sometimes the plot goes sideways. And so does the world. Popular in film noir, thrillers, and comedies, this angle makes you feel uneasy when you view it. It’s shot at a canted angle, so the world appears off and disorienting.

Camera Angles and Shots - Dutch Angle

  1. Birds-Eye-View Shot / Overhead Shot

Popular in Hitchcock's the Bird and any movie where you follow a car, the overhead or bird’s eye view shot shows us the world and the scale of the problem, or insignificance of the character involved. We can drop into the action or pull out of it.

birds eye view over head shot

  1. Aerial Shot / Drone Shot / Helicopter Shot

If you want to emphasize the magnitude of the story, the scale of a battle, or just sweep over an ocean, a road, or rolling hills, nothing is better than an aerial shot.

Camera Focus

Unlike the stage, filmmaking can put special emphasis on specific parts of the camera fame with focus and depth of field. The focus, combined with the shot, framing, and angle helps to single out what the director wants the audience to know.

Let’s learn more about the camera focus!

Camera Focus

  1. Rack Focus / Focus Pull

A rack focus is the practice of changing the focus of the lens during a shot. The term can refer to small or large changes of focus which play with the depth of field.

  1. Shallow Focus

Shallow focus is a cinematographic technique incorporating a small depth of field. In shallow focus one layer of the image is in focus while the rest is out of focus. Shallow focus is typically used to emphasize detail.

shallow focus

  1. Deep Focus

Deep focus is a photographic and cinematographic technique using a large depth of field, meaning everything or almost everything is in focus. 

deep focus

  1. Tilt-Shift-Focus

Tilt-shift photography, or focus, is the use of camera movements that change the position of the lens.

Camera Movements

We tend to only focus on the most famous of camera movements, the oner, but there are lots of other camera movements that directors and cinematographers employ to set the tone of the film or television show and to get coverage of every scene.

Let’s go over a few of them.

Camera Movements

  1. Static / Fixed Shot

A shot where the camera does not move.

  1. Zoom Shot

The camera's lens is adjusted to increase or decrease the camera's field of view, magnifying a portion of the scene without moving the camera.

  1. Pan Shot

The camera rotates from side to side so that it aims more to the left or right. The camera does not change the location.

  1. Tilt Shot

The camera rotates to aim upward or downward without changing the location. Tilt is sometimes called "pitch" of the shot. 

  1. Swish Pan / Whip Pan

A whip pan is a type of pan shot in which the camera pans so quickly that the picture blurs into indistinct streaks. Wes Anderson, PTA, and Damien Chazelle love these. 

  1. Swish Tilt Shot

The camera rotates to aim upward or downward without changing the location at a fast speed.

  1. Tracking Shot

The camera moves and follows a subject.

  1. Crab Shot

Here's a super technical term. It's a version of tracking, trucking and dollying. This is side-to-side movement at a constant distance from the action at hand. 

  1. Arc Shot

An arc shot is a camera move around the subject, somewhat like a tracking shot, where the camera moves in a rough semi-circle around the subject. Michael Bay loves these shots. 

  1. The Oner or Long Take 

A one-shot or continuous shot feature film is a full-length movie filmed in one long take by a single camera or manufactured to give the impression it was a singular action.

What’s next? Understand Film Theory with this Guide!

If you want to work in Hollywood as a creative or even critique film and television for a living, Film Theory is extremely important. In this post, we're going to learn how to put that training of consuming media into action by learning about Film Theory.

So click the link to keep learning!     


 

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8 Comments

Wooow nice)

April 21, 2019 at 10:44AM, Edited April 21, 10:45AM

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Robert Foster
Director
81

AWESOME.

April 22, 2019 at 3:32PM, Edited April 22, 3:32PM

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Jo Light
Writer

Understanding Film Theory , Treatment and Motif. Makes truly a great Director.

May 6, 2019 at 9:52PM, Edited May 6, 9:52PM

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Carl
88

Thnx a lot! Great job)

May 7, 2019 at 3:52PM, Edited May 7, 3:52PM

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I think, that cut-in and cutaway shot оften confused)))

May 7, 2019 at 4:56PM, Edited May 7, 4:56PM

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Wow, Sooooo comprehensive that I'm going to need to dedicate some serious time to working my way through all the video resources that you have shared!!

But thank you, Jason! and thanks to all of #nofilmschool crew. I'm a "Long time listener, first-time caller (well, typer) guy". Love your work!
Cheers

June 4, 2019 at 10:58PM, Edited June 4, 10:58PM

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Brad Houston
Chief Engageneer, Filmmaker/Videographer
74

Happy to have you!

July 2, 2019 at 12:50PM

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Jason Hellerman
Copywriter
Writer

I'm going to need to dedicate some serious time to working my way through all the video resources that you have shared!

July 18, 2019 at 3:51AM, Edited July 18, 3:51AM

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