Cinematic Techniques | Critical Studies
Camera Shots: A camera shot is the amount of space that is seen in one shot or frame. Camera shots are used to introduce the setting, themes and characters of Cinematic Techniques.
- An extreme long shot contains a large amount of landscape. It is often used at the beginning of a scene or a film to establish general location (setting). This is also known as an establishing shot.
- A long shot contains landscape but gives the viewer a more specific idea of setting. A long shot may show the viewers the building where the action will take place.
- A full shot contains a complete view of the characters. From this shot, viewers can take in the costumes of characters and may also help to demonstrate the relationships between characters.
- A mid-shot contains the characters or a character from the waist up. From this shot, viewers can see the characters’ faces more clearly as well as their interaction with other characters. This is also known as a social shot.
- A close-up contains just one character’s face. This enables viewers to understand the actor’s emotions and also allows them to feel empathy for the character. This is also known as a personal shot.
- An extreme close-up contains one part of a character’s face or other object. This technique is quite common in horror films. This type of shot creates an intense mood and provides interaction between the audience and the viewer.
Camera Movement: is something we interpret without thinking about it of Cinematic Techniques. The purposes of common camera movements are listed below:
- A crane shot is often used by composers of films to signify the end of a film or scene. The effect is achieved by the camera being put on a crane that can move upwards.
- A tracking shot and a dolly shot have the same effect. A tracking shot moves on tracks and a dolly shot is mounted on a trolley to achieve the effect in the example above. This camera movement is used in a number of ways but is most commonly used to explore a room such as a restaurant. By using a tracking shot or a dolly shot the composer of a film gives the viewer a detailed tour of a situation. It can also be used to follow a character.
- Panning is used to give the viewer a panoramic view of a set or setting. This can be used to establish a scene.
Camera Angles: It is important that you do not confuse camera angles and camera shots. Camera angles are used to position the viewer so that they can understand the relationships between the characters of Cinematic Techniques. They are more deliberately technique-y – that is, they cause a strong effect.
- A bird’s eye angle is an angle that looks directly down upon a scene. This angle is often used as an establishing angle, along with an extreme long shot, to establish setting.
- A high angle is a camera angle that looks down upon a subject. A character shot with a high angle will look vulnerable or small. These angles are often used to demonstrate to the audience a perspective of a particular character.
- An eye-level angle puts the audience on an equal footing with the characters. This is the most commonly used angle in most films as it allows the viewers to feel comfortable with the characters.
- A low angle is a camera angle that looks up at a character. This is the opposite of a high angle and makes a character look more powerful. This can make the audience feel vulnerable and small by looking up at the character. This can help the responder feel empathy if they are viewing the frame from another character’s point of view.
- A Dutch angle is used to demonstrate the confusion of a character or the strangeness of a place. A Dutch angle should disorient you.
Editing: When shooting is finished there will be hours and hours of footage – most of which will never be seen or used. It is the editor’s role to ensure continuity (that the film flows from one scene to another and that plot and character development makes sense throughout the film). There are many editing techniques and rules and we will cover the basics of Cinematic Techniques:
1. A Cutaway: A cutaway in a film occurs when a scene is interrupted by another piece of footage. For example, a character driving a car down the street may have been filmed all in one shot, but half-way down the street a piece of footage of the character spying on the driver has been edited in.
2. A Dissolve: This occurs when one scene slowly fades into another. This is often done to show the link between two scenes or the passing of time.
3. Wipes: There are a variety of wipes. Wipes are used as transitional techniques between scenes. The following are examples of wipes. Pay close attention to how these wipes link scenes and therefore help to shape meaning.
- A clock wipe is used to connote time passing between two scenes. (the old scene disappears a quadrant at a time and is replaced with the new scene, like clock hands turning round)
- A matrix wipe can consist of a variety of patterns that form the transition between scenes. It will be up to you to decide why a composer has used a particular matrix wipe.
Sound and Lighting
Lighting is a very important aspect for shaping meaning in films. What kind of atmosphere is created in a room lit by candles? A room that is brightly lit by neon lights might seem sterile or a shadowy room might be eerie or scary of Cinematic Techniques.
The sound, soundtrack and music in a film are very important to the impact of films and play a major role in shaping meaning in the text. The difference between sound, soundtrack and music is as follows:
- Sound is generally referred to as diegetic sounds.
- Soundtracks are any songs used during the film.
- Music is the incidental mood music known as the film score.
The use of Soundtracks and Music are more likely to be significant techniques, but there are exceptions, especially in the absence of other music, the noise of footsteps, for example, might be very important.
Diegetic and Non-Diegetic sound
Is sound that occurs in film that is natural. These sounds include doors opening and closing, footsteps, dialogue, any music that comes from radios in the film or played on musical instruments, thunderstorms, tyres screeching and explosions. Any sound that is caused by actions or actually happens in the course of the film is Diegetic sound.
Is sound that is added to the film during editing. These sounds include:
- music and songs that are added to the film.
- music that sets mood for films (such as screeching violins at climax moments)
- narration (voiceovers)
- sounds added as special effects, especially in slapstick comedy.