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
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. -Lou LaVolpe