Filmmaking 101: Set Sizes & Camera Perspectives

Today we’re going to look at the shot sizes and the coolest camera angles for videos. This will give you more variety in your videos in the future and create more excitement.

In the following post you will learn all the “textbook setting sizes” and get a few additional camera angles, which we like to use the most.

Why different settings and perspectives?

First, let’s ask ourselves why different camera perspectives are so important. There are essentially 4 reasons for this.

Number 1: Complexity: With different camera angles you create more complexity and viewers* can see your scene from different angles. This gives them a better understanding of the situation and allows them to follow the content better.

Number 2: You’ll have it easier afterwards in the cut! If you make sure to film different perspectives when filming your projects, you can build a story on it, have more choice and always have a good take!

Number 3: Emotions: Different camera angles create different emotions. On the one hand you can illustrate the feelings of the actors but also trigger certain emotions in the audience. This effect is often known from horror films, but more on that later.

Number 4: Always the same picture or shot often seems more boring or sad. In most cases, this is not necessarily the goal, but it can also be used consciously if you want to convey these emotions.

Now that we know why you should use different camera angles and settings, let’s jump straight into our top 10 settings and explain when to use them. A little disclaimer first, after the “textbook settings” we’re looking at a few more variations to get even more out of our videos.

Shot size: The super long shot

The super long shot or in English the “wide shot” is often used at the beginning of a scene as an “establishing shot”. Here viewers should get an overall impression of the environment and understand where the scene takes place. In addition, you can also make the main motif appear lost with a super long shot and thus convey emotions such as loneliness. This shot is typically captured on a cine zoom lens, allowing for maximum capture of the surroundings.

Setting size: The long shot

The long shot or in English the “long shot” is also often used for an “establishing shot”. Here, however, one would like to consciously direct a greater focus on the main motif and often even fills almost the entire image height with it. In addition, this setting does not look quite as lost as the super long shot and is best shot with a longer focal length in combination with a greater distance.

Shot Size: The medium long shot

The medium long shot is often used to show the holistic actions of a person. The main motif fills the entire height of the screen from head to toe and you can see all movements in detail. This setting is best achieved with a rather larger distance and a medium focal length.

Shot Size: The American “Cowboy Shot”

The American or in English the “Cowboy-Shot” shows the main subject from the knee up. The old cowboy western films were decisive for the naming. Here they wanted a shot that was as close as possible, but which still shows the cowboys’ revolvers in their holsters. Logically, this setting is used when details in the hip area are to be seen, such as a revolver. So you can think that the use of this setting size is limited. Just like the medium long shot, this shot is filmed with a rather longer distance and a medium focal length.

Setting size: The medium close-up

The medium shot is usually from the waist up and thus shows the entire upper body of a person. So you can follow the actions or the spoken text of this person particularly well and are not too distracted by the environment. We use this setting a lot for interviews with a focal length of about 50mm on a full frame camera. In this way we achieve a comfortable setting, since this setting corresponds to the human eye with a natural distance from the main object.

Setting size: The Nahe

From the medium close-up you can also get a little closer and capture about half of a person’s upper body. This creates the so-called Nahe or in English “Medium-Close-Up-Shot). Here you look the main subject straight in the eye and feel like you are part of the scene because the distance to the subject is unnaturally close.

Setting size: The close-up

The close-up shot is our second favorite setting for interviews or talking-head videos. Here you film from about the shoulder up to the hair and thus fill the entire format. In addition to dialogues, this setting is also suitable for emotional interaction between people. Close-ups tend to be filmed in higher focal lengths between 70 and 100mm.

Shot size: The detail shot

Next, let’s look at the detail shot or the “extreme close-up shot”. This is used to direct the viewer’s focus to a specific detail, such as eyes, mouth or objects. So you can not only create variety in the picture, but also build a story. With detail shots, you should make sure that the focus on the detail is clear, and a key visual should fill the entire screen. Detail shots are also filmed with higher focal lengths between 70 and 100mm.

Over The Shoulder Shot

At this point we are theoretically done with the classic “setting sizes”, but you can get a little more out of videos with camera perspectives and angles, which is why we are now taking a closer look at a few variants.

Another very popular camera perspective is the so-called “over the shoulder shot”, which, as the name suggests, is filmed over a person’s shoulder. This shot can be used to accompany a person in motion or to film a conversation between two people. Depending on the main object, you can switch between wide-angle or telephoto to adjust the setting.

POV Shot

The last shot we look at is the POV, or Point of View shot, where the viewer is allowed to see what is happening through the eyes of the main character. This makes you feel like you are in the action and part of what is happening. This setting is often seen in action films when characters look through binoculars or night vision goggles. In addition, a slight shaking of the camera is often used here to make the picture more authentic.

Tips on setting sizes

So those were our top 10 shots and angles. Anyone who has made it this far will of course get a few helpful tips on how to create emotions. Different camera perspectives can be used to create emotions. As already explained at the beginning, you can, for example, depict a person as lost if they can be seen alone in a super long shot. In addition, you can also use other tricks, such as the height or the orientation of the camera.

For example, if the camera is set significantly lower than your main subject, the person will appear larger, more powerful and stronger. Exactly the opposite is logically the case when you align your camera above eye level. As a result, the filmed person appears smaller, weaker and perhaps overwhelmed with a situation. You can always use this trick if you want to make a person appear particularly strong or weak.

You can also work with the alignment of your camera. As you may have seen in our composition post , we usually always try to align our camera parallel to the horizon or lines in the image. However, you can also deviate from this in order to obtain the so-called “Dutch Angle”. The Duch Angle is often used in movies to show that the situation is scary, weird, or unpredictable. The camera is turned so that it no longer runs parallel to the lines in the picture in order to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. This setting is particularly popular in horror or action films, where the camera is rotated from a few degrees to a completely oblique view.

Variety: You now know different setting sizes and camera perspectives, try incorporating these different sizes into your next video. We often shoot the same scene in different settings in order to be able to access more selection later in the editing process, which often also helps to create a nice story and consistency. You should also be careful not to use the same setting too often in a row, otherwise a scene could quickly become boring.

Avoid axis jumps: If two people are talking to each other in a scene, cameras should always be positioned on one side of the two people. This makes the image appear more logical in the later video, since usually one person is always looking to the left and one to the right. If you were to position a camera on the other side, both people would be looking in the same direction. And as you can imagine, it looks pretty weird. By the way, if you come across this in English, it’s called the 180 Degree Rule.

Watch: The next tip we want to give you is watch! The next time you watch a film, pay attention to which settings and camera perspectives are used, you can often see completely new approaches here and you can pick up one or the other cool shot. 😉

Don’t always follow the textbook: And now very important: you don’t always have to follow the textbook. Especially with the setting sizes, there is constant discussion back and forth as to when a long shot becomes a super long shot and how much variety is really needed in the perspectives. Don’t let that put you off and if in doubt, just see if you like the picture and the overall concept. Sometimes it’s really cool to keep a shot longer or deliberately use a weird framing.

Conclusion: Setting sizes and camera perspectives when filming

In summary, it can be said that there are a variety of setting sizes and camera perspectives that you can freely combine with each other. Of course, you can not only create different emotions with the setting size, but also work with the orientation of your camera. Sometimes it makes sense to break the rules. Just look at Lord of the Rings. Here an axis jump is used more often to show that the character Gollum is talking to his alter ego.

So now I hope that you got a good overview of the setting sizes and camera angles. You now know the basics and know how to use different settings. We wish you a lot of fun trying it out!

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