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This shot allows the audience to ponder main character, Jack Torrance’s mind. The intense focus on character and the zoom to close-up on his face guides the viewer to consider the character’s psychology.
In classical Hollywood, filmmaking crews used to mount actual tracks on the ceiling or the floor, thus ensuring that the camera would move in a very smooth and precise fashion (hence the term tracking shot). More often cameras are mounted on wheels or dollies, thus enabling them to move freely in a variety of directions: forward, and backward, sideward, diagonally, or around in a circle. The dolly shot is named for the device that creates it, the camera dolly--a wheeled camera support that can be rolled left and right or forward and backward.
NOTE: Tracking shots and crane shots are often used in scenes of battle. For a more common tracking shot: http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/jbutler/clips/greysanatomy20061005qq31_33qqdollyshot.mp4/view
The dolly shot starts at about :15
The famous shot is at about 48
Hitchcock apparently got the idea for this effect when he fainted at a party.
Zoom in track out
Track in zoom out
Changing the size of the diaphragm (“stopping down”) (“Stopping Down”: narrowing the aperture and thus increasing the depth of field. )effectively changes the diameter of the lens, also changes the the depth of field: the smaller the diameter of the lens opening, the greater the precision of the focus. The result is that the more light there is available, the greater the depth of field.
Usually done quickly – often used to increase suspense
Introduction to Film and Media Studies: THE SHOT
INTRODUCTION TO FILM AND MEDIA STUDIES
THE CAMERA AND THE SHOT
WIDE ANGLE LENS
The WIDE ANGLE LENS photographs a wide angle of view. A photographer who finds himself
in a cramped location might use this lens in order to photograph as much of the subject as
possible. However, the wide angle lens has the added effect of greatly emphasizing our
perception of depth and often distorting linear perception (Monaco 89). A wide angle lens has a
very deep depth of field (distance between nearest and farthest objects that appear in the scene).
Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965): Wide-Angle Distortion
WIDE ANGLE SHOT
The following two shots are from Raising Arizona, directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen in 1987.
The FISH-EYE LENS is an extremely wide angle lens, which photographs an angle of
view approaching 180 degrees, with corresponding distortion of both linear and depth
perception (Monaco 89). FISH-EYE shots vary in terms of purpose/effect, but they are
often used to create an atmosphere of chaos or establish a sense of fear.
Still from Foo Fighters’ video for “Monkey Wrench”- directed by Dave Grohl, 1997
(AKA LONG LENS)
The TELEPHOTO LENS acts like a telescope to magnify distant objects. This lens has a useful effect of
suppressing depth perception. It has a relatively narrow angle of view and a rather shallow depth of
field (Monaco 90). Telephoto lenses add a distancing effect to diminish differences in size of characters
closer and farther. The technique is characteristic of contemporary Japanese films like Kiseki (I Wish)
by Kore-eda Hirokazu (2011), pictured below.
Telephoto lenses are also ideal for tight shots and narrowing depth of field. This selective
focus in The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols) keeps the viewer’s attention on Ben
THE SHOT: TELEPHOTO
An image shot with an extremely long lens/telephoto lens is called a TELEPHOTO SHOT.
The effect of using a long lens/telephoto lens is to compress the apparent depth of an
image, so that elements that are relatively close or far away from the camera seem to lie at
approximately the same distance. In this first shot (with a standard lens) from Payback
(Brian Helgeland, 1999), we can clearly see there is a considerable distance between the
fallen body and the red car (“Cinematagrophy”).
THE SHOT: TELEPHOTO
Yet, when a telephoto lens is used for a close-up of Mel Gibson, his face looks like it is
close to the car. Here a telephoto lens creates a shallow space, which combines with
extreme canted/tilted framing to suggest the physical and psychological disarray of a man
who has been betrayed, shot, and left for dead (“Cinematography”).
The ZOOM LENS has a variable focal length ranging from wide angle to telephoto, which
allows a photographer to change focal lengths quickly between shots, and change focal
lengths during a shot (Monaco 90).
In a shot with use of the ZOOM LENS, the viewer seems to move toward or away from the subject
being filmed, while the quality of the image changes from that of a shorter to a longer lens, or vice
versa. Zooms are commonly used at the beginning of a scene, or even a film, to introduce an object or
character by focusing on it (“Cinematography”). In the ZOOM, since the camera does not move, the
relationships among objects in different planes remain the same; there is no sense of entering into the
scene; our perspective remains constant, even if the image is enlarged (Monaco 229). Depending on the
subject matter, zooms are often used to create mood and develop characterization, as in this clip from
Kubrick’s The Shining.
Camera movement is an effective artistic tool in filmmaking. Movement
through space on film can be extraordinarily graceful. And, by its
movement alone, a camera reveals much more than simply the space
through which it moves. It can express emotions.
The basic ways cinematographers move their cameras are (1) Steadicam
(2) Dolly (3) Crane (4) Handheld
There are also a couple of basic movement techniques (1) tilt (2) pan
Steadicam is a brand of camera stabilizer mount that mechanically isolates it from the operator’s movement. It
allows for a smooth shot, even when moving quickly over an uneven surface. The Steadicam was introduced in
The jogging sequence in Rocky is a very famous Steadicam shot.
TILT: Moving the camera lens up or down while keeping its
horizontal axis constant. Nod your head up and down – this is
Pan: Moving the camera lens to one side or another. Look to your
left and then your right – that’s panning.
The simplest way of moving a camera is to place it on a moving object, such as a car or train or a ship.
That is called a MOVING SHOT. The camera can also be placed on its own mobile device, which is
called a DOLLY. When the camera moves parallel to the ground, it’s called a TRACKING SHOT. In
tracking shots, the camera follows the action, the characters. In a TRACKING DOLLY SHOT, the
camera follows the action/characters on a physical dolly (Sikov 26). In the TRACKING or DOLLY
SHOT, the camera as a whole changes position, traveling in any direction along the ground – forward,
backward, diagonally, in circles, or from side-to-side (Bordwell 196).
TRACKING SHOT EXAMPLE
This is a long take TRACKING SHOT from the dystopian movie Children of Men, directed by Alfonso
Cuarón in 2006. The camera operator pans the camera to follow the actors and the action in the scene.
TRACKING SHOT EXAMPLE
This is a famous long take TRACKING SHOT from Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob film
THE DOUBLE DOLLY SHOT
Spike Lee, legendary and controversial director, created the DOUBLE DOLLY SHOT. For Lee’s
DOUBLE DOLLY SHOT, sometimes called the FLOATING DOLLY SHOT, he sets up a dolly for the
camera, then puts the actor on a different dolly, and moves the camera and the actor at the same time.
Essentially, the actor is standing on a small board that is mounted to a track, and the board is then
pushed forward, as the camera is pushed away. This shot provides, for a moment, a dream-like feel. The
central character is seemingly floating in mid-air, typically staring directly into the camera. The
DOUBLE DOLLY SHOT is Spike Lee’s iconic signature shot (“Breaking Down the Spike Lee Double
SPIKE LEE’S DOUBLE DOLLY SHOT
A montage of DOUBLE DOLLY shots from various Spike Lee Joints.
TRACKING SHOTS are also made by the use of cranes. When the camera moves up and down through
space, it’s called a CRANE SHOT. For a CRANE SHOT, the camera is mounted on a kind of cherry-picker,
which enables it to rise up very high in the air – to ascend from ground level into the sky or
descend from the sky to ground level.
Here is a famous example of a tracking shot from Orson Welles’s
film Touch of Evil.
CRANE SHOT EXAMPLE
This is a CRANE/TRACKING SHOT from David Fincher’s 2002 film Panic Room.
TRACK-AND-ZOOM SHOT/DOLLY-ZOOM SHOT
The TRACK-AND-ZOOM SHOT, also known as the DOLLY-ZOOM SHOT is a shot in
which the foreground elements stay the same size while the background elements grow or
shrink. The camera operator simultaneously uses a dolly or track and a zoom lens. The
most famous TRACK-AND-ZOOM SHOT/DOLLY-ZOOM SHOT is the tower shot from
Vertigo (1958). This is the first implementation of the technique. It is said that director
Alfred Hitchcock came up with the idea for the shot after fainting at a party, and wanted to
recreate the feeling/look of that experience. In this shot from Vertigo, Hitchcock used
carefully controlled zoom combined with a track/dolly and models. Hitchcock laid the
model stairwell on its side. The camera with zoom lens was mounted on a track looking
“down” the stairwell. The shot began with the camera at the far end of the track and the
zoom lens set at the moderate telephoto focal length. As the camera tracked in toward the
stairwell, the zoom was adjusted backwards, eventually winding up at a wide-angle
setting. The track and zoom were carefully coordinated so that the frame of the image
appeared not to change. As the track moved in on the center of the object, the zoom moved
out to correct for the narrowing field. The effect relayed on the screen was that the shot
began with normal depth perception, which then became quickly exaggerated, mimicking
the psychological effect of vertigo. The shot cost $19,000.00 for about two seconds of film
time. (Monaco 91)
TRACK AND ZOOM/DOLLY-ZOOM
Stephen Spielberg used a similar combined TRACK-AND-ZOOM shot in Jaws (1975) to
add to the sense of apprehension (Monaco 90). This sudden distortion of perspective
isolates and zeroes in on Brody. His worst fears become real. He should have closed the
DOLLY- ZOOM SHOT
What is so effective about the DOLLY-ZOOM SHOT (which is often called the
VERTIGO EFFECT) is PERSPECTIVE DISTORTION. The perspective changes
based on the relative position of the camera to the subject. In a basic zoom-in
shot, the shot just magnifies the image, while in the dolly-in shot the surrounding
objects are affected by the changing perspective distortion caused by the camera
movement. The camera operator increases the focal length to zoom in while
simultaneously dollying the camera out or vice versa. The zoom keeps the frame
crop the same so the foreground object stays roughly the same size. This isolates
the effect of the perspective distortion. The camera operator needs to try to
match the speed of the zoom with the speed of the dolly for the effect to work.
It’s a technically difficult shot, but it has become commonplace in modern film.
DEPTH OF FIELD AND FOCUS
All movie viewers are well aware that a scene can show some things in focus and let others get fuzzy.
That effect is due to the lens’s focal length. Every lens has a specific DEPTH OF FIELD: a range of
distances within which objects can be photographed in sharp focus, given a certain exposure setting.
Outside the zone of sharp focus, either closer to the lens or farther away, objects will fall off and remain
fuzzy. Depth of Field controls perspective relations by determining which planes will be in focus.
Typically, a director chooses SHALLOW FOCUS (sometimes called SELECTIVE FOCUS)–
choosing a focus on only one plane and letting the other planes blur (Bordwell 174), as in the example
below from Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan. The technique is used to focus viewers’
attention on one aspect of the scene.
SHALLOW FOCUS suggests psychological introspection, since a character appears as
oblivious to the world around her/him. It is therefore commonly employed in genres such
as the melodrama, where the actions and thoughts of an individual prevail over everything
else (“Cinematography”), as in this shot from the HBO series Game of Thrones.
In Hollywood in the 1940’s filmmakers began using lenses of shorter focal length to yield a greater DEPTH OF FIELD.
This practice came to be called DEEP FOCUS (Bordwell 174). This style of photography strives for sharp focus over the
whole range of action. DEEP FOCUS is generally closely associated with theories of realism in film. DEEP FOCUS
involves staging an event on film such that significant elements occupy widely separated planes in the image. It requires
that elements at very different depths of the image both be in focus. In these two shots from Touch of Evil (Orson Welles,
1958) and Besieged (L'Assedio, Bernardo Bertolucci,1998) all of the different planes of the image are given equal
importance through DEEP FOCUS, not only to the characters (like the man peeking at the window in the first image),
but also to the spaces (Shanduray's basement room in the second) (“Cinematography”).
RACKING FOCUS/RACK FOCUS/PULLING FOCUS refers to the practice of changing the focus of a
lens such that an element in one plane of the image goes out of focus and an element at another plane in
the image comes into focus. This technique is an overt way of steering audience attention through the
scene, as well as of linking two spaces or objects. The director changes focus during a shot to direct the
viewer to shift attention from one subject to another (“Cinematography”). For instance in this scene
from Richard Linklater’s 1993 film Dr. Finlay.
In one sense, cinema is an art of selection. The edges of the image create a "frame" that includes or
excludes aspects of what occurs in front of the camera. The expressive qualities of framing include the
angle of the camera to the object, the aspect ratio of the projected image, the relationship between
camera and object, and the association of camera with character. In Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun
Zankoku Monogatari, Oshima Nagisa, 1960) the radical decentering of the character in relation to the
frame marks her failed struggle to find a place in her world. (“Framing”)
FIXED CAMERA FRAME
Fixed Camera Frame: When the camera and the focus of the camera
do not move.
Symmetrical Framing: Shots that are centered to have perfect
Many films are shot with a camera that appears to be at approximately the same height as its subject.
However, it is possible to film from a position that is significantly lower or higher than the dominant
element of the shot. In that case, the image is described as low angle or high angle respectively. Angle
of framing can be used to indicate the relation between a character and the camera's point of view. Or
can simply be used to create striking visual compositions. (“Framing”)
This HIGH ANGLE SHOT from the 2006 film Matilda, directed by Danny DeVito , presents the girl as
weak and scared. High angle shots are sometimes called “Bird’s-Eye View Shots.”
Camera angle is often used to suggest either vulnerability or power. In The Color of Paradise (Rang-e
Khoda,1999) the father, who rules absolute over his family, is often portrayed from a low angle
(sometimes called “Worm’s-Eye View”), therefore aggrandizing his figure. On the other hand, his blind
son Mohammad and his elderly grandmother are often shot from a high angle, emphasizing their
dependence and smallness.
These interpretations are not exclusive, however. The relation between
camera and subject depends on context and is not definitive. The father
in this film is so busy smiling at his fiancé that he falls off his horse,
suggesting that his view of himself as powerful and dominant is
inaccurate. Additionally, Mohammed and Granny, seen from above, may
also indicate that God is watching over them, and keeping them under
protection. It is the responsibility of the viewer to find meaning.
NOTE: There is also what we call an EYE-LEVEL SHOT. It is exactly
as it sounds, a shot taken from the director’s eye-level.
An ESTABLISHING SHOT introduces a new location – a church, a
city street, a rooftop, a hospital room –from a vantage point that
allows the audience to see all the relevant characters in the filmic
A Master Shot is an entire dramatized scene, from start to finish,
from an angle that keeps all the characters in view. Usually the
master shot is shot first and then additional shots are shot and added
The distance between subject and camera is very significant in
“reading” a shot. Because people instinctively process visuals, and
unconsciously identify with the lens, it is important to understand
how directors establish meaning through depth. The type of shot
dictates the amount of background information included, the
amount of specific subject-related information is included, the size
or portion of the human figure in the shot, the implied significance
of the subject, the psychological subject information and the
physical subject information.
Close-Up Shot – a shot that tightly frames a person or object. Close-ups
are one of the standard shots used regularly. Close-ups display
detail, but do not include the broader scene. Moving in to a close-up
or away from a close-up is a common type of zooming. Extreme
close-up shots are ones that zoom in to even greater detail.
Here is a famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho that
emphasizes the close-up shot.
NOTE: The close-up is pure subject. The subject dominates the
frame and takes on monumental significance. Close-ups are typically
used to punctuate important dramatic moments. The Extreme close
up reveals the subject in greater detail and strengthens its
importance. The subject is presented with great implied significance.
The audience knows it is important. Expectation is employed here to
create suspense and/ or symbolic value.
Medium Shot: A camera angle shot from a medium distance. The
distinction between depth of shots is fuzzy. Typically, however, a
partial view of the subject that is not very close (ex: from the waist
or knees up of a person) is considered a medium shot. Here are some
DEPTH: MEDIUM SHOT
A shot from the knees up is often referred to as a MEDIUM LONG
SHOT or an AMERICAN SHOT. A shot from the waist up is
typically referred to as a MEDIUM SHOT. It leaves just enough
room in the frame for two or three characters. Now the subject is
getting big enough in the frame to reduce background to the point of
insignificance – increasingly subtle psychological information on the
dominant subject is presented. These shots are often used to convey
interaction between characters and as an editing bridge between a
long shot and a close-up.
DEPTH: FULL SHOT
The FULL SHOT frames the human subject from head to toe. The
background is reduced a bit; the subject conveys more physical and
psychological detail, and is large enough to dominate the frame and
thus take on significance. A scene will typically cut to a full shot at
moments when physical action is featured – such as fights,
embraces, and physical comedy.
DEPTH: THE LONG SHOT
The Long Shot (sometimes referred to as a wide shot): A shot that
typically shows the entire object or person being filmed.
DEPTH: LONG SHOT
A LONG SHOT is a who, what, and where shot. It is often the
establishing shot – at the beginning or end of a scene. It balances
specific subject information with general/background information.
It is handy for establishing who is in a scene, where everybody is in
relation to everybody else, where the action is taking place, and what
is going on in the situation. The subjects are large enough in the
frame to read in physiological and minor psychological detail.
EXTREME LONG SHOT
EXTREME LONG or EXTREME WIDE SHOT: A long shot that is
taken from far away – one that shows more than just the main
subjects – there is a wide expanse of subject matter in the shot.
These shots often emphasize setting.
EXTREME LONG SHOT
The EXTREME LONG SHOT is dominated by background
information; specific subject information typically takes up very
little screen space in this shot; often, there is a subject in it, but that
subject is too far away or small to recognize without context.
Usually, characters are too small to be important. Often, characters
are dwarfed by their environment. General locales as opposed to
specific information are emphasized. There is often large scale
action in which masses of figures function as a sort of collective
Point of View Shot (also known as POV Shot or Subjective
Camera): These shots show what a character is looking at
(represented through the camera).
Corrigan, Timothy and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction. Third
Edition. Boston: Bedfort/St. Martin’s. 2012. Print.
Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction.
Tenth Edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2013.
Monaco, James. How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, and Beyond.
Fourth Edition. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2009.
Sikov, Ed. Film Studies: An Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press.
“Cinematography.” Yale Classes Film Analysis. Yale University Film Studies
Program. 29 August 2002. Web. 14 July 2014.
“Framing.” Yale Classes Film Analysis. Yale University Film Studies Program. 29 August 2002.
Web. 14 July 2014.