Whenever we start on a new tutorial video I always think back about my time in filmschool. Sometimes I can grasp ideas from my lectures, but more often I realize I haven’t actually learned so much. Sure, filmschool was great and it gave me a good basic knowledge. But more most of what I know today, I learned after college from practice.
Visual storytelling is one of those things I really missed. It was mentioned to us, but never explained. We where suppose to learn that ourselves. Kinda weird knowing I’m spending so much money on an education. But anyways, telling a story through the camera is still one of the most intriguing things for me.
The Story of the Camera
Before placing your camera or choosing a focal length, ask yourself the question ‘what is going on in the scene?’. You want your camera to reflect on the current emotion. Doing so will make your scene a lot stronger. Sometimes, performing a wrong camera movement can lead to your scene losing its power.
The most simple example is probably the the big boss and the scared employee. Both sit in front of each other and the boss is angry at the employee. To make the boss seam more powerful than he already is, we place him higher or film him from a low angle. That way the audience looks up to him.
This is even done in real offices. Have you ever noticed when sitting with a salesman that your chair is way lower than that of the salesman? It’s the oldest trick in the book to make the person on the opposite side of the table seem more powerful, more intelligent and just greater overall.
Now think of the opposite. That big boss now sits lower than the scary employee and we film the boss from a high angle, looking down on him. Does he still look as powerful? He might be, because of his great acting. But the whole atmosphere of the scene is gone, because we’re not showing the strength of the boss on camera.
In comedy, this contrast between status and height of the actors becomes a lot of fun. In the film ‘Employee of the Month’, the big and angry boss is a person of short stature. So even though he acts like and big and powerful person, the audience doesn’t perceive him that way. As for the camera, there is no other way than to film him from a high angle and his employees from a low angle.
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