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Understanding the language of the camera

A two shot  

There is a reason behind every shot and every frame, its composition, angle and lighting. Like any art form, cinema too evolves — to take a story to the audience in the most convincing manner. Much effort is taken in making them view the film in the way the filmmaker wants them to.

Some of you find yourself at a point in life, where you have to take the biggest decision of your life — your career. Imagine a one-to-one discussion between a son and his mother on this as they walk on a park and we will see how it can be shot, in terms of camera placement.

When the shot has only two people in the frame it is called a two shot. It usually involves discussion or encounter between the two. As the mother and son duo walk down the park, the camera mounted on a dolly or handheld, is allowed to move along with the characters. This is called Following the Action shot. It makes you feel the absence of a camera, thereby focusing only on the subject elements.

The duo sits down as their conversation progresses. We take the audience closer to them and the emotion becomes strong.

Imagine the mother giving a piece of advice and the camera covers a frame from the shoulder of the son with the mother in focus. This is called an Over the Shoulder Shot (called OSS).

The camera gets closer and it becomes one of the subjects. You will notice how the other subject talks to the camera. This is a Point of view shot.

Here, the discussion becomes intense — the mother expresses her regret over some wrong choices she had made.

Suddenly, the audience are startled by a crashing sound. Here the camera zooms in to show the shock and suspense in the characters’ faces.Thesize of the shot changes (from mid shot to close up). The zoom in the lens is moved and not the camera. This is a Zoom Shot

Caught unaware, the two run to see what the sound is. A handheld camera runs along with them.It’s a Hand Held Shot. Shots taken with a hand-held camera can mean different things in different contexts.

Generally they create a sense of agitation in the audience or the subject.

Movement of a camera plays a major role in communicating the emotions in the film. As the camera gets closer to the subject, the attention towards the subject becomes intensified.

As the camera moves back, the character may seem withdrawn. However the emotion in which the movement is associated strictly depends on the context of the narrative.


Dolly Zoom Shot (popularly called Vertigo Effect): This effect was first used in the psychological thriller Vertigo, hence the name. It can be achieved by simultaneously carrying out the dolly back and zoom in. It would give an illusion of “falling away” Pan & Tilt Shot: Horizontal movement of the camera is called as Pan Shot. Vertical movement of the camera is called as Tilt Shot.

Special equipment that enables camera movement

Dolly with track : Camera dolly is a device which aids in moving the camera towards or away from the subject. This device is fitted with track wheels which enable effortlessly movement.

Crane shot: As the name suggests the shot is taken from a crane. These shots can provide varied movements like pan, tilt or combinations.

(D.G.Eugene is an assistant professor at the Department of Visual Communication, Loyola College, Chennai.)

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 1:58:48 PM |

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