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CAMERA HEIGHT, THE NEGLECTED VARIABLE

The vertical position of the camera, known as "camera height," can have a significant impact on your audience because it helps shape their reaction and interpretation of the unfolding screen story. For example, a low camera angle can make a subject appear dominant or menacing, while a high camera angle can have the opposite effect.

Camera height is an important variable in effective camera placement, yet it is a variable that is frequently neglected by the budding film director.

Too often camera height is determined by the position that is most comfortable for the camera operator or the position that provides an interesting composition. The latter is obviously important, especially in terms of aesthetics, but height should never be arrived at without considering the dramatic and psychological implications of the shot.

Point of View

When designing an objective shot (audience as unseen observer), camera height should be at eye-level with the subject, whether he/she is standing, sitting, or situated in another position.  Many camera operators interpret "eye-level" as meaning their own eye-level and not that of the subject. Watch for this mistake on the set.

When designing a point of view shot, camera height should be at the eye-level of the character from whose point of view we are seeing. Again, this could be from a standing, sitting, or other position. For example, if the character is on a ladder looking down, the camera height should be from approximately that height.

Psychological and Other Implications

The photo above shows how camera height can be used to establish the perceived power or dominance of the subject. Likewise, it can be used to manipulate perceived speed.

For example, the speed of a car making its way through the mountains looks slower from an aerial shot than it does from eye-level. If you drop the camera below eye-level, it will have the opposite effect and the car will appear to go faster than its actual speed.  -

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