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Cinematography 1 / Camera / Focal Length / Angle

Cinematography (lets call it SG for sake of time)

In short, SG is the subject of visually revealing the emotion and meaning that the script and director wants to convey, providing the necessary techniques and conditions, and conveying the same emotions and meaning to the audience with minimum deviation.

It covers a very extensive field of work, from the fine technical features of the camera to the setting of the stage, lighting, and beyond the meta, to the spiritual, to the transfer of emotions. It is the most important element that make a movie or animation good or bad.

Let's start by addressing the two most important elements and their details, without turning article into an academic one. Camera and Light. Apart from that, we will try to explain the transitions and the montage/editing elements later on.


Now, we will try to cover usage aspects without touching to the technical details of a camera.

In this case, we will examine the camera under the three most basic sub-headings that supports and enhances the narrative.

Focal length/Framing, Angle-Placement and Movement.


In a linear narration, framing moves from wide to narrow. In wide, the place and the atmosphere is in focus. When we get close to the narrow, we start to focus on subject, events, emotions, after some point everything becomes blurry and abstract but the impacts and emotions of the subject.

Establishing Shot : Essentially, it doesn't dependent on certain wide focal lengths, framing. As the name implies, ES is meant to show our events taking place in what kind of an environment, atmosphere, structure. It can be a vast skyline, a panorama, an aerial village shot, a restaurant or even a drop of water, depending on the situation.

Blade Runner 2049


Extreme Long Shot (ELS) : It shows the scale or smallness of the subject comparing to the environment it is in. It is used to show the subject as distant, foreign, crushed by the environment, as well as giving an idea about the purpose, direction, difficulties, oddities and beauties that the subject will encounter.

The opening sequence of Stankey Kubrick's "The Shining" is a good example:

The Shining

The Revenant

The Lord of the Rings


Long Shot (Wide Shot) : It shows the subject from head to toe, does not completely cover the frame, the environment is still dominant, but it gives more information about the characteristic features of the subject, his feelings, purpose and direction. The subject-environment relationship is more pronounced. It is also frequently used as Establishing or Master Shot.

Days of Heaven

Road to Perdition


Full Shot : It is the shot where the subject fills the frame from head to toe, but the connection with the scene is still not broken. It is close enough to capture the details in the subject's appearance. It is used to capture action, movement or an event rather than the emotional state of the character, as well as to express common features, purposes, or contrasts:


Medium Long Shot - ( Cowboy-American-3/4) : This shot frames the character above the knee. Mainly used for action and character build. It is called Cowboy or American shot because it is the closest shot to show the characters in western movies with a gun in their waist belt or hand.

The Dark Knight - Combined with the low angle, it can make a solid villain portrait.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Matrix - Action plus proper angle, here we have a superhero.


Medium Shot : Although similar to MLS, it frames the character from the waistline.

There is still an environment, but the characters and traits begin to dominate. Emotional sensation and characteristic features are more pronounced. It is the most used framing type in movies.


Medium Close Up (MCU) : It starts slightly above chest level. It is biased towards the face but still maintains its distance from the subject. Frequently used in face-to-face dialogues and keeps the characters' distance. Gives the impression of not being too much familar:

The Big Lebowski. Dude!...

Strange guy who annoys Dude by trying to chat.


Close Up : Where things start to get personal and the environment is getting closer to out of focus. In case of our subject is a human, it focuses on the face and shows emotions and reactions more in depth. By its nature, contrarily to the MCU, it is sincere/warm, not distant. It highlights the emotional cues (tears, bloodshot, eye boogers...) in the character's eyes that we may not notice in other shots.

The Shining

Blade Runner


Choker: It is a narrower variation of Close Up. It usually frames the subject from under the mouth to slightly above the eyebrows and half of the forehead. It may be called slightly exaggarated Close Up. The environment is now in the blur of absence. Even parts of the subject that are not considered essential in the frame are blurred to avoid distractions like ears. It is a sensitive framing and should be used carefully.

The Silence of the Lambs - Hannibal Lecter.

Requiem for a Dream.


Extreme Close Up : Finito. Ultimate framing that makes us closest to the subject. Fills up entire frame. No environment. Everything you see is the subject. Eyes, mouth, gun, trigger, pen in the writing hand... It maximizes the emotional load, giving sensitive details in the consequences of events.

X-Men First Class - Magneto.

Kill Bill - Wrath of the Bride !

Black Swan - Metamorphosis of Nina...


Angle - Placement

Basically, work of showing different and exaggerated feelings and characteristic features by giving the camera angle and positioning in the shots we have listed above.

High Angle : Where the camera looks down. Although it is used for different purposes depending on the framings above, it generally makes the subject look weak, defenseless, oppressed, or afraid. It can be used to show the environment in more detail in Establishing Shots or to exaggerate the overwhelming feeling of the environment on the subject in Extreme Long Shots.

Harry and the Cruel Snake...

Even if you are Avengers, there are always things that can get you down. like Superman! Viva DC...


Low Angle : Contrast of High Angle, camera looking up. This makes the subject seem big, brave, important, powerful, arrogant, heroic, or dangerous, scary. Mostly assembled with High Angle sequentially.

The Dark Knight

Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice

The Dark Knight - Joker.


Dutch Angle/Tilt : Angling the camera on its bank axis. It shows various psychological negativities such as the uneasiness of the character, the loss of the concept of place, direction and time. It bends the perspective perception of the viewer by giving the feeling of anomaly in place shots. See Inception example:

Mission Impossible



Over-the-Shoulder Shot (OTS) : It frames two subjects from one's shoulder level in range of Medium and Close Up framing. It is often used in dialogue or conflict and shows the bond and interactive reactions between two characters. Shoulder and back should not be in frame too much to distract framing. You may never show the shoulder or back too.

Examples can be seen frequently in documentary interviews.

The Dark Knight


The Prisoner

Fight Club


Bird's-Eye Shot (Top Shot): Yeah bird's eye view, no need to describe. It can be used to show the viewer the subject's movement, direction, special relationship to the environment and environmental factors that the character is unaware of, potential dangers, surprises, loneliness, relief or claustrophobia.


Kill Bill

Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind


Point of View Shot (POV) : Shots where we see the scene through the eyes of a particular character. Common use cases are, awakening, fainting, becoming unconsciousness, gaining counsciusness, viewing via a device. (binoculars, night vision, periscope, telescope etc...).

Inglorious Basterds

Reservoir Dogs

The Amazing Spiderman. Very nice execution...


Next, we will talk about Movement.

Stay safe.

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