The art of storytelling through video takes many forms, and one of the most immersive techniques filmmakers use is the point-of-view shot. A point-of-view, or POV, shot shows the perspective of what the character is seeing through their own eyes. As a budding videographer or auteur yourself, what should you know about POV shots in video? How can you utilize point-of-view shots for maximum effect?
Let’s delve into how POV shots work and how you can use them to draw your viewers into the narrative. Learn why these unique shots are pivotal in visual storytelling and how you can master them in your own video projects.
Understanding the POV Shot
In the realm of video production, POV shots are powerful tools for captivating storytelling. They present the perspective of a character within the narrative, providing the audience with a glimpse into that character’s world.
Types of POV Shots
The point-of-view shot encompasses several varieties that can have different effects in your movie or short video.
Filmmakers and videographers frequently use subjective POV shots when they want the audience to see exactly what the character sees—to look through their eyes, as it were. These shots can be particularly effective in creating a sense of empathy or understanding toward the character.
Unlike the subjective POV, objective point-of-view shots do not represent what the main character sees. Instead, they show the character in action from the viewpoint of another character. This technique allows the audience to observe the character’s actions and reactions within the context of the story.
This type of POV shot, as the name implies, is filmed from behind a character. It showcases the action from their perspective while including part of their shoulder or the back of their head in the frame. Camera operators frequently wear POV helmets when shooting these angles to maintain that immersion in the action. Over-the-shoulder techniques give the viewer a sense of being an onlooker or companion to the character, sharing their perspective but maintaining a certain distance.
Using POV Shots in Film Production
As previously mentioned, point-of-view shots serve as an immersive and unique storytelling mechanism. But when and why should you use these shots in your own video projects? It all depends on your specific narrative needs.
The Why and the When
Filmmakers employ POV shots when they want to immerse their audience deeply into the story and place them directly in the action. These shots are particularly useful in scenarios where you aim to establish a strong emotional connection between the viewer and the character. By offering a glimpse into the character’s perspective, a well-executed POV shot can evoke empathy and engagement from the audience.
Point-of-view shots greatly influence the pacing of the story, create suspense, or build anticipation. For instance, a series of rapid-fire POV shots can heighten tension in a high-stakes chase scene. Meanwhile, a prolonged POV shot might be useful in drawing out a moment of contemplation or realization for your character.
Uses in Film
Iconic filmmakers have used POV shots to great effect in movies to leave lasting effects on their audiences. Have you seen any of these famous films?
The Shining (1980)
The infamous tricycle scene in Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece heightens the sense of isolation and terror in the Overlook Hotel. Young Danny Torrance roams the hotel corridors on his trike, and the audience experiences his fear and anticipation firsthand.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino’s splashy directorial debut employs the POV shot to cruel and chilling effect. Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, and Mr. White gather around the car trunk and pop it open to reveal a tied-up and terrified police officer. The audience sees the hostage through their eyes as the three men chuckle.
Strange Days (1995)
This sci-fi offering from director Kathryn Bigelow utilizes innovative point-of-view shots to suggest sensory recording and playback. The camera “becomes” the squid, a device used in the narrative for capturing and playing back memories. This unique use of POV shots allows the audience to experience the events as the characters do.
Utilizing Techniques for Capturing Effective POV Shots
POV shots can be some of the most powerful elements of your filmmaking toolkit, as they provide a first-person perspective that pulls the viewers right into the action. How can you capture these shots to great effect?
Equipment You Need
Because cameras are frequently mounted on harnesses or helmet mounts for POV shots, your camera will need to be lightweight and relatively small. A classic DSLR camera is a popular choice, while more and more directors are embracing GoPro technology.
To minimize shake and blur, you’ll also want to invest in a stabilizer or gimbal. A little bit of shake can be immersive, but too much can induce nausea in your viewers.
Shooting Tips and Tricks
Planning is key if you want to blend POV shots into your larger narrative. Storyboard your shots beforehand to get a clear idea of what you want to capture. This will also help you determine the best camera angles and movements to use.
Try to keep the camera level with the subject’s eye line to give the most realistic possible perspective. And don’t forget about the lighting! Adequate and evocative lighting can greatly enhance the quality of your shots and make them more visually appealing.
Mistakes To Avoid
As you shoot your point-of-view footage, avoid moving the camera too quickly. Rapid movement can disorientate the viewer and distract from the narrative. Move the camera smoothly, with the help of stabilizing equipment, to maintain a sense of realism.
Don’t forget to consider the character’s perspective as you shoot. The POV shot should reflect what the character will actually see. Neglecting their height, position, and the direction they’re looking in can throw off the viewer and pull them out of the story.
When reviewing what you should know about point-of-view shots in your video production, remember that this technique is more than just a fancy cinematic tool. It’s an intimate bridge between the audience and the characters that elevates the storytelling experience. As a filmmaker or videographer, it’s important to recognize how to evoke understanding and empathy in your viewers using these innovative techniques.
POV shots are not just about seeing; they’re about feeling, understanding, and connecting. Master this style to create rich, immersive narratives that resonate with viewers long after the credits roll.