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The Psychology Of Camera Shots Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 4970 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Changing the shots, and the camera movements, has been used to give more expression within the scene. This is the way that emotion is created, and the audience is able to assimilate it. The psychological factor is playing a key role in this process. In the early years of the cinema there were few visual ideas. The directors only used wide shots and allowed the action to stay within the frame. At the beginning it was a tempting to bring reality to the screen or a scene or very similar to reality, as it would seem to be alive.

Later, it was discovered, that these images taken from different shots, gave a different sensation. It affected the audience psychologically, creating an emotion on them.

The development years invented different ways to create emotion; all these ways are related with the psychological effect, to show the maximum realism with images.

There are different kinds of shots and each shot has a different function, it depends on what is wanted to show to the audience. The same happens with the camera movements, it depends on how the camera is moved, and that makes it possible the feel different sensations, which are used to give rhythm at the story.

Different directors have been looking for different ways to make the audience feel new sensations. It is because of them that nowadays there exist a wide range of techniques, which are useful to show the stories with as much realism as possible, through the screen.

How to reach the viewer emotionally

Production design:

When designed as visually representative of the content of a movie, we most needs first define the sets (locations), to help develop the audiovisual content that we want show.

In the cinema there are things that sometimes we can’t transmit with words, and it needs to be transmit ted with images, therefore choosing the correct shots is more important. The pictures can help us to find the correct tone in a scene. [1]

The production design is more important because it has to answer what? and how? It represents an idea or a script, that is to say we need know that images are used to convey feelings, sensations and create the desired effect to the audience. [1]

To create emotions it needs a plan of shooting, some of the actions are:

– Visit to the location, the sets, make photos and take the notes of all ideas that come to mind. How we imagine the scene. In this way the director reproduces the movie in his mind.

– Once he has all the notes and diagrams we can create the technical script. It needs find to the emotional distance. We have thought that kind of shot is the most appropriate.

Emotional distance à is the kind of shot that express better an emotion in a concrete scene, the shot that will convey the message that we want to the audience. [1]

When creating we use different technical methods. One technical method is to listen to music while we imagine how the scene should be. This will help us to achieve quality and get good results. [1].

Another technique is doing different groups of pictures; the photos will help us for drawing the storyboard later. At the end we have to choose which are the ones that would be better. [1]


The objective of cinema is showing on the screen something similar to real life. To achieve this, we need to combine different shots creating a psychological sensation of reality to the audience.

What a movie is trying to achieve when made, is that the audience use their mind to think, not just to watch images. It asks questions at the audience like “What?”, “Who?”, “How?”, “Why?” only with the image, and he has to look for the answer using his mind. Thus, it creates an emotion to the spectator.

One of the objectives is to prove that psychologically the cinema has the capacity to make the audience feel different moods during the two hours length of a movie. During a movie, it is possible to feel happy, then sad, horrified, and sad again. It is possible to manipulate the feelings just with images and sound.


D.W Griffith was the first to experiment with the cinema and to use film language, after this all the people began to use different techniques. Some techniques were filming in from different points of views. He used perpendicular planes to the axis of the camera for example. [2]

Before 1915, every shot was static. The field of view is everything that we see on the screen. [2]

After discovering different camera position they had to put a name to them: General view, Establishing shot, wide angle, long medium shot, Close medium shot, American shot, Mid-shot, Head and shoulders and close up. [2]

In 1923, every shot was filmed in horizontal and Jean Epstein began to use the camera with independent movements. [2]

In 1909, Griffith was the first to use travelling movement. [2]

In 1925, Murnau was the first to use ‘fixed-circle tracking’ in the film ‘The Last Laugh’ [2]

In 1930, Lewis Milestone used ‘the crane’ to create a new camera movement in his film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. [2]

1942, In this year in the film “Citizien Kane” deep focus was used to provide depth. [2]

In 1991 the poet Ricciotto Canudo said that the cinema is the seventh art. [2]

The first theories of cinema were created by famous people such as Charlie Chaplin, Tomas Ince and Mack Senett

Jean Epstein began using editing for his visual expressions. Different shots created different emotions. Also the Russian director Sergei Eisentein gives a lot of importance to rhythm and symbol, putting creativity in his films though ‘montage’. [2]

The first person that created the psychological effects in their productions was Arnheim. He used the basic of montage (editing) thing to create film expression [2]

In 1902 Edwin Porter Satton created for first time a sense of movement. To achieve agreed different series of scenes [2]

Also in 1902 the “holding back the resolution of the drama” was invented, late it was called “suspense time”. [2]

Psychological techniques using images

The Kulekov experiment

In 1920 Kulekov did an experiment, to demonstrate the psychology in the world of cinema,

He reproduced the facial expression of a person with a close-up and went adding pictures about different things.

In each shot, There appeared a close-up of a person followed by one of the pictures. The observers mind displayed a different sensation and emotion in every shot. [6]

The McGuffin

The McGuffin was invented by Alfred Hichcock. It’s about creating an element in the plot that creates suspense and creates an expectation in the audience, but has no relevance to the script, though it helps to understand some parts of the story.

It is a psychological technique of cinema that is used to confuse the audience as a means of attracting their attention.

The McGufin can be an object, a name, a scene that appears in a story and is important for the advancement of the film, however it is not relevant to be story. [5]

The Suspense

The suspense was invented by Griffith, is used to keep the audience in expectation and tension. [5]

Psychology of different shot

Shots of camera

Cinema uses different kinds of shots, to get different sensations. Below are presented the most used shots:

– EWS (Extreme Wide Shot): This shot is used to visualize from a long distance, to show landscapes or to give the sensation of a huge space. It is a much used shot in war movies, o in natural disaster films showing an explosion of a volcano, or a flooded city. These shots are used to give a disaster sensation. [7]

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– VWS (very wide shot): this shot shows a general view that introduces the spectator into the scene. This sort of shot, shows more things than the other ones, It explains why when these shots are used it is necessary to keep them for a longer time than the others. It allows the spectator to acquire as much information as possible. [7]

WS (Wide Shot or full shot): this shot is the most similar to reality. The people, most of the times see in a wide shot. In a wide shot, the distance between the camera and the scene recorded is about 30 meters (the same distance that there is in the cinema, between the screen and the spectator). This shot is used to show the entire character, from head to foot with background details. it can be used to express a narrative and dramatic sensation. [7]

In the conversations, the long shots are used when the scene is long. Normally it is better not to put the actor in the middle of the screen, but off-center. An advantage of the full shot, instead of close ups, is that is possible to show all the action without having the change the shot happens in the frame. [1]

ML (full shot or American Shot): this shot covers from knees to head, leaving a bit of space on the top. It is used a lot in the cinema, mainly in Hollywood. In the past, these shots were used very often in westerns, to show how the actor pulled out his gun. This shot let showing the details around the character at the same time that he is the main and the most important part. [8]

MS (Mid Shot): this shot shows the actors from the waist, it is focused in the conversations of the characters, not in the situation. The audience has already located the characters in a wide shot shown before. This shot keeps the spectator focused on the conversation, instead of the action. [9]

Mid shot is mainly used in dialogue scenes, because it shows the corporal language and the gesticulation of the actor. Mid shots are very used in combination with close-ups shots. [1]

MCU (Medium close up): this shot starts on the chest of the character and it takes up almost all the screen, it is a subjective shot. It transmits a proximity sensation with the actor, giving the maximum attention of the mood of the characters. [7]

CU ( Close Up): this shot is focused on the facial expressions, giving us more psychological information, and thus it is possible to transmit the feelings of the character to the spectator, for instance, happiness, sadness, exhaustion.

This technique is often used on television to generate a proximity sensation between the actor and the audience. It is also very frequently used in love and romantic movies because it lets the audience interpret the looks, gesticulations or tears. [9]

Furthermore, it is also used to show the expression of a character, and this is possible because the camera is focused on their eyes, which are the most expressive part at a human beings. The camera leads the audience into the personal space, allowing observation of private moments of a character’s life.

When a close- up is done, the most important thing is not to situate the person in the middle of the screen because it stops the rhythm. Normally some spaces left in the direction where the actor is looking to. [1]

ECU (Extreme Close up): it is also known as a detailed shot. Using only this shot, without any other, doesn’t transmit any psychological information to the spectator. However if it comes, for instance, with a general shot, it can strengthen the action. For example, if there is a scene where the actor picks up a gun from the floor, with a extreme close up shot showing the hand taking the gun, it is possible to transmit a bigger tension sensation giving a more dramatic quality to the scene. [9]

(OSS) Over-the shoulder shot: this shot is used in the conversation scenes. There is an objective shot showing a first image of the back part of the receptor in the conversation, and the frontal part of the speaker. This shot tries to show a real situation of conversation. The camera changes its position depending on who is talking. [7]

Long take (sequence shot): the sequence shot is a shot without cuts. It means, filming in just one time, using different camera movements and different focuses. This kind of shot is not used very often because it is too long for the spectator. It gives a subjective point of view of a infinite shot. [8]

Subjective shot: in this shot the eyes of the actor are the eyes of the camera. The camera does not show the actions of the character, but it takes part of that action. It is the only shot were the actor looks at the camera, because it is a part of the scene. This shot is very often used to create horror and tension. There are a lot of horror movies where this shot is used. [8]

Positions of camera

To get an emotion and a feeling from the audience, not only are different types of shots, used but also it is also necessary to use different camera movements with different angle of shooting.

We can perceive the things around us depending on how we watch them. We use the camera angle to create a different perception of the images.

One of the things that must be taken into account when filming is the placing of the camera. It is important to get different quality camera angles.

The Bird’s Eye view àthis shot is rarely used, the objective of this shot is filming in an aerial view. Sometimes it can be used to give the effect of many people, but normally this shot is used for aerial views of the cities and landscapes. (E.g The city of New York from the air) the shot involves tilt the camera down over the eye level; it is used when it is wanted to give a sensation of inferiority or fear to a character or in some scene. E.g. when a character sees a High Angle although he hasn’t seen the rest of the movie, he already receives information about the character. [9]

Eye Level à Is the most used shot of all. The camera is located in a horizontal position, just in the eye axis. It is the closest shot to the spectator, because the camera is located in the same position than human view. It shows what in happening in the movie but does not express much emotion. When filming in Eye Level we have to keep in mind that any change of the angle could express feelings that may not interest us. [9]

Low Angle à it produces the opposite effect of the High Angle . It is necessary to tilt the camera up. It is used to give the sensation of power, domination, superiority of the character or action that is playing. This is usually used to give prominence to the character and to create an accelerated motion sensation. [10]

Oblique angle shot à It is a shot laterally inclined, we use this shot when we want show instability, transition, imbalance and disorientation. It is very useful for horror movies. [9]

Movements of camera

Camera movements are very basic. We can move the camera up or down, right or left. The director, with these basics movements can get different shots depending on which audiovisual product is wanted, creating different kinds of emotions.

Pansà This involves moving the camera in a horizontal direction to the right or left. To create a pan it is recommend using a tripod. It is used to give the effect of looking from left to right or the other way around, as if the camera was our eyes. It is also used to track a character in any action; it gives the impression that the screen is wide. This allows us to see more things from the same place. [11]

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Tiltsà It is to move the camera in vertical direction; this movement is less used than Pan. Depending on the impression that is wanted to show, we would tilt the camera more speedy or less. E. g in a movie where there are a lot of actions, the tilt movement will be very quickly. The tilt from down to up is used to exalt the subject, however, from up to down has the opposite effect. [11]

Dolly shots à To make this tracking is necessary a dolly or something that provides movement. It is required to put the camera on a mobile platform. With this technique it is possible to achieve different camera movements. It is possible because while we are moving with the Dolly the camera also has its own movements. This resource is used to go along the action with the camera, giving a more realistic sensation of movement. E.g. when an actor walks and runs the camera follows him at the same speed. [9]

Hand held shot àA Hand held shot is filming with the camera in the hand, following the action movements, This is possible because exist the Steadycam , that stabilizes the image. This system is used to give more realism, suspense and the effect of seeing same things that see the person who is walking. This gives a psychological feeling to audience as if they were in the movie. This movement is often used in documentaries. [9]

Crane shots à to achieve this movements the camera is put in a crane, with this technique we can get various high shots, creating different effects. It is also used when it is wanted to create sense of suspense or emotional scenes. In other occasions it is also used to finish movies. [12]

Zoom lens à this movement is made without moving the camera, just moving the lens. The objective of this movement is to make the zoom in and out of the image that we want view. It is used to give a sense similar to the approach of the eye. [8]

Bullet Time àthis movement is quite new, it is more used since the 90 s.

The Bullet Time is created by placing many cameras with a small distance between them, in the form of an arc; this is used to capture the same subject, at the same moment but from different angles.

This technique is used very often in science fiction movies, all images captured at 24 frames per second gives us a slow motion effect unnatural, and it is also used to slow down a specific action or to create a sense of drama. [13]

Figure 2

Movies and directors

Sergei Eisenstein

Eisenstein after of working in the theater, research was devoted to the cinema and discovers that every shot showed a different psychological stimulus and together with other shots created a new stimulus.

In the film “The Battleship Potemkin” He is filming the scene of Odessa Steps (Potemkin Stairs) with 17 shots and 6 minutes, transmitting to audience drama and tension, continually one element reinforces another element. This is the first time someone uses many shots, the dramatic impact to audience was very shocking. [3]

Figure 3

The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Director: Sergei Eisenstein Duration: 80 min Country: Russia

Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock used a lot of the suspense in dramatic films. In the movie Psycho, during the shower scenes his use of different types of shots continues to create tension to spectator. [5]

Figure 4

Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock Duration: 109 min. ountry: United States

Ingmar Bergman

Bergman was a Swedish director, who was dedicated to create different movies with a dramatic tone; His technique to reach the audience was to show different shots of expression of the face slowly to give the spectator time to think. One of the best movies that he made was “The seventh Seal”, the director used close-up with mid shots to display the facial expression and convey dramatics [14]

Figure 5

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Director: Ingmar Bergman Duration: 96 min. Country: United States

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg is an expert at creating suspense, in his movies he has used different techniques to give emotion and drama to the action scenes playing with the different shots. One of the films that Spielberg has used these techniques is “JAWS”. In Jaws he used a lot of close-ups and mid shots, from different angles to show the expression of the face. Another technique that sometimes applied is filming the scenes using different subjective shots in the water with low angle shots, Spielberg employed this skill to give the sensation that the shark was the camera. Spielberg did this because he does not want shows the shark directly, how its aspect was and creates more suspense. Besides he has other resources to create tension and suspense, he mixing shots the action scenes where it appeared large groups of frightened people with close-ups of people’s face. Spielberg achieves with “JAWS” a psychological effect in the mind of the audience with his movie, so that after there were people who did not dare to swim at the beach. [15]

Figure 6

Figure 7

Jaws (1975)

Director: Steven Spielberg Duration: 124 min. Country: United Kingdom

Combination of shots

In the cinema when we want to show a scene unlike the theater we need to display it from different points of view and different shots, it is necessary to give rhythm to the scene or action. In the montage there are no rules, the cinema is an art and the director is the artist, the objective of the cinema is employing the correct shots and movements of camera to transmit something to the audience. For example if they want to demonstrate drama in a scene, we must first think a plot or situation and then we have to take all shots and create a conflict by selecting the correct shots, with this we achieve express a emotion. [4]

With the combination of a close-up, long shot and a medium shot we see continuity in space. Usually these types of shots are often used to display the human figure and not places or locations. [1]

Combination of shots in dialogues

The objective is to create a line of action that gives continuity to the dialogue using different point of views of the characters. There are different techniques to achieve these effects.

Technique of 180 degrees: This technique is based in put three cameras in a semi circumference of 180 degrees at the image.

Triangle technique: To achieve this technique it need put three cameras triangle-shaped, it is most used in television. With this technique we get different sensation, it depends if we make a close up or mid shot [1]

Technique over-the-shoulders-shots: this technique uses two camera positions, in the first shot appear the character 1 from behind and the character 2 appear in the face speaking and in the second shot is the other way around. It is widely apply in conversations.

Close-up technique: There are two cameras; everyone is focused on a character, in this shot the face fills the screen.

All these techniques show to the subjects but everyone express one different thing. Depending on what you want to convey to our audiences use one or other. When we shoot cannot pass the line of action. Only in certain cases when the subjects are in movement can jump the line of action. [1]

Combination of shots

To represent a scene in a film, it is necessary to create an emotion, the audience can feel involved within the scene. This is a psychological sensation; you can get, playing with different shots. There are different examples:

Scene 1: Appear a girl walking down the street alone during the night and suddenly someone comes from behind. One way to show this action is:

Firstly display one wide shot of the girl walking down the street, and then shows a close-up of the ear. The psychological effect it creates is that the spectators think that someone is chasing, then change to a medium shot where the girl is turned with an expression of fear. With only three shots and without voice we have excited the audience.

Scene 2: Appear one cowboy in a wide shot, he enter in a saloon, and then we show a close-up of the gun, inn this moment without tell anything at spectator, he assumed to be a fight or something, later filming a mid shot where the cowboy turns and look at someone fixedly. With only this three shots we have transmit to spectator that he fight with somebody.

Scene 3: Scene in an abandoned factory where there is one man who is coming in the door and suddenly appear another man is hidden and start shooting.

First there is a wide shot where we observe one man entering a factory, and then there is a mid shot where we can see another man hiding and a close-up of hand with a gun. All this images express the public a drama and tension, the image of the gun and the hiding man express than at any time start to shooting.

Scene 4: There is a girl in a shop with a robber that is threatening with a gun, someone tells the police and he will save her.

To represent this dramatic scene we use two different scenes but parallel scenes in the same context. In the first scene appear how the robber is about to shoot the girl in the shop and in the second scene we observe a police car running at full speed down the road. When you mix the two scenes, the mind understands that he shall save the girl.

How apply different shots in different of films styles.

Romantic films: In this kind of movies are used a lot of mid shots and close ups.

Science fiction films and action films: the most used shots are wide shots and extreme wide shot

Documentary films: In documentary films are normally used wide shots, extreme wide shot and aerial shot

Horror films: In horror films it is important to scare the audience, normally is used close-up and mid shots to show the expression of frightened faces.

Comedy films: In the comedy movies usually there are quite dialogues, the most used shots are mid shots and wide shots.

The importance of editing

Editing is like a puzzle and the puzzle pieces are all the shots that have been shooting before. Every shot has different narrative information and the sum of these shots creates an emphasis to the audience.

There are three basic connections of continuity:

Temporal connection à this shows a sequence where there is a continuous action, in one shot appears one action and the next shot appears the consequence of the action. For example, in a shot where we see a man falling down the stairs and in the next shot we see him lying on the floor. [1]

Spatial connection àIt is when a Long shot shows a subject and the next shot shows a part of this subject but enlarged .For instance, it seen a church on a shot and in the next shot the church bell. [1]

Logical connection à in a logical connection first appears an image of a subject and later another different image, but the two images have a logical connection. (Shot by shot 146)For example, in the first shot there is technician and in the next one it is seen the garage. [1]

These connections are used to create a dramatic plot.

Sergei Eisenstein was one of the first directors that used the combination of different shots in the edition to express emotion. Eisenstein created questions and ideas to the spectator, the questions on the first shot and on the second were answered in the third. Depending on the order we put the plans we can create to the audience different questions.In the montage, the director can give information to the audience that the character does not need to know. We should bear in mind that not all the shots have the same narrative capacity to express some emphasis. [1]

The use of shots in animation movies

In 3D animation movies are used the same shots and camera movements than in the rest of real movies. Whenever you want to create a movie or animation, the first thing needed is a storyboard. This is because the animation movie tries to simulate the reality as much as possible.

In animation 2D it is used the same shot to show the images and characters but the camera movements are not used because there isn’t depth of the field.


During the course of time people have grown accustomed to the effects that are transmitted through films. So, throughout history, cinema has been reinvented by creative directors who have created new techniques and new ways to reach the audience. From the first film created by the Lumiere brothers to the contemporary 3D movies.

Cinema has the power to enter psychologically in the minds of people, creating different feelings and moods as suspense, drama, tension and terror.

The cinema aims to transmit these emotions to the audience through images, but over time has had to change the way of transmitting, to continue to achieve, its aims by using different techniques. One of the techniques is the right combination of camera movements, types of shots and shooting angles. It has shown that if we use some kinds of shots instead of others, the sensation that reaches the audience is different. We also have observed that each director reaches the audience with his own creative techniques, for example Steven Spielberg in the film ‘JAWS’ achieved create suspense with a horizontal camera movement and a low angle shot under the water, simulating a subjective shot of shark , he didn’t show the shark until the end of the film.

It has been proved that the cinema has the capacity of transmitting a lot of things without the need for dialogues, just with images, it can transmit one or more messages to the audience.

Alfred Hitchcock: “Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms” [16]


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