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If you're new to cinematography, you might wonder what I mean when I talk about a point-of-view shot.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the point-of-view shot and how it can be used to your advantage.
If you want to learn more about making films in general, you can head over to our article on filmmaking.
What is a point of view shot?
A point of view (POV) shot is a camera angle used to shoot from the viewpoint of a specific character. It is essentially a way to let your audience look through a character's eyes.
A point-of-view shot is also called a first-person shot or subjective camera.
Gives the perspective of the character
The POV shot is used to engage the audience and give them a better idea of the perspective of a character. However, it also removes the audience as the all-seeing eye and puts them on the same level as the character.
This allows them to better relate to the character and empathize with what they're going through.
So you can use a POV shot to convey personal information about a character and their feelings that you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. It can even make the audience experience the same emotions that the characters are experiencing.
Can withholde information from the audience
On the other hand, a point-of-view shot is also a way for the director to withhold information from the audience. Information that they otherwise would've gotten with different camera angles.
Recently, you've seen POV shots on sites like TikTok and Instagram. Here people use their phones to film from a person's POV. It's often used to create either comedy or satire videos.
Point of view shot characteristics
- Cinematographer often uses a handheld camera to apply a more realistic look
- It can be supplemented with an inner dialogue of the character.
Point of view shot uses
- It shows the experiences of the character
- Shows the emotions of the character
- It makes the audience feel like a part of the story
- It makes the audience better relate to the characters
- It can be used to show the reaction of other people and add mystery
How to shoot POV
So how do you shoot in POV? Well, it all depends on how you want to approach it.
Use a handheld camera technique
The most common POV shots are filmed with a handheld character to emulate realistic movement for the character.
Point of view shots are prevalent in horror movies or if a director wants to create a creepy atmosphere.
One of the most common ways it's used is when the killer is watching the characters.
The camera is pointed at one of the victims and gives the sense of someone watching them. It could be filmed from outside a window looking in or behind trees in the woods.
You also switch it around and use a handheld camera from the victim's point of view. You can film them peeking around corners in a house or film them running and looking back. This will create a sense of dread or anxiety in the audience, as they feel like they're the ones investigating or being chased by the killer.
Place the camera from the perspective of the object
You can also use POV shots from the perspective of inanimate objects. So if it's a beer can in a fridge, you would replace the beer can with a camera and have the character pull it out.
You can then add another shot that shows the character pulling out an actual beer can to further add to the illusion. You can use this shot to create some brief or longer-lasting mystery about the object that the character is handling.
3 point of view shot examples
There are many movies and TV shows utilizing the point of view shots. We've found three of the best examples of point-of-view shots in films.
1. The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project is a horror film that was released in 1999. They created the movie on a budget of around $500,000, but it grossed almost $250 million.
It is one of the most successful indie films of all time, and it made back its budget many times.
The Blair Witch Project is shot using a found-footage technique, where the entire movie is filmed from a handheld camera perspective.
The movie follows a crew of three people who wants to create a documentary about the local legend of the Blair witch. However, things do not go as planned, and the crew quickly finds out that they're not alone in the forest.
The film is shot how the fictional documentary's cameraman would have shot a documentary. It's full of different types of shots from the point of view of the cameraman and the crew. This creates an eerie atmosphere and makes the audience feel like they're a part of the crew, like they're right there in the forest with them.
It allowed the audience to feel the anxiety, fear, and other emotions that the characters went through. A lot of the movie was improvised, which only adds to the authentic feeling of the film.
2. The King's Speech
The King's Speech is a historical drama released in 2010, starring Colin Firth as King George VI. The film is based on actual events and focuses on the story of future King George VI dealing with a terrible stuttering condition.
The film received twelve academy award nominations, winning four.
The POV shot is used several times in the film. One of the best examples is the starting shot, where we see the point of view of hesitant King George VI walking up a flight of stairs. As he is up, he enters a stage with thousands of people that immediately turn towards him to look at him.
This creates a sense of stage fright that we, as an audience, immediately understand and may even feel. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and we immediately begin empathizing with the main character.
3. Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 war film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film was nominated for 11 academy awards and won five, including best cinematography. It's an incredibly successful film and one of the most famous war films.
The cinematographer in Saving Private Ryan uses point-of-view shots several times throughout the movie for different effects.
At the movie's beginning, we see the Americans in their Omaha Beach invasion in world war 2. Here the camera uses point-of-view shots from the main character, mixed with shots of his facial reaction to what he is seeing.
What he is seeing, and what the audience sees, is many of his comrades violently getting killed while attempting to advance up the beach. This gives the audience an understanding of the character's shock at the situation and puts you right in there in one of the most famous invasions of WW2.
The POV shot is also used later in the film to emulate the point of view of a sniper.
Without giving away any spoilers, we see the point of view of a sniper and see precisely what he sees. This shows that the sniper is in complete control of the situation and is a precursor of the horror.
Explore 50+ camera shots and angles
Now that you're an expert in point-of-view shots, you might be thinking, what's next?
You can head right into learning about different types of camera shots and angles. This article will learn over 50 different camera angles and shots.
What is a point of view shot?
A point of view (POV) shot is a camera angle used to shoot from the viewpoint of a specific character.
Why is a point-of-view shot used?
A point-of-view shot is used to show the experiences of the character & show the emotions of the character.
What is a point of view shot in photography
A point of view shot is used to take pictures from the photographer's viewpoint.