Project 2: Subjective & objective

‘Subjective and objective’

Brief: Produce a short film based on both a subjective point-of-view and an objective view.

The aim of this project film was to put into practice what I had learnt about framing and camera angle, by making two shots, one subjective and the other objective, and combining them into a finished film.

I began by looking for examples of subjective pov shots in films and discovered that it has been used since the early days of cinema. One notable example is the film noir Lady in the Lake (1947).

Fig. 1. Lady in the Lake (1947)

Shot entirely from the first person perspective of the main protagonist, private detective Philip Marlowe, who is hired by a wealthy businessman to find his estranged wife. Using the subjective pov to represent the main protagonist’s perspective in this way, the film breaks with the convention of the ‘fourth wall’ in allowing the audience to assume the role of the protagonist, seeing the action through his eyes. The viewer only catches glimpses of him in reflections and mirrors. All the other characters talk directly to the camera.

Hitchcock uses subjective pov to great effect in Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958).

Fig. 2. Rear Window (1954)

The subjective pov shots in Rear Window enhance the voyeuristic nature of the film. Confined to a wheelchair due to a broken leg, photographer Jeff Jeffries watches his neighbours through his camera. This is the view through which he observes and interprets events throughout the film. It is also a view that feeds into the main protagonist’s paranoia. A subjective pov is also used from the perspective of Thorwald, the suspect, towards the end of the film, when he is repeatedly blinded by Jeffries’ flash bulbs in the darkened apartment.

Fig. 3. Vertigo (1958)

Hitchcock also uses subjective pov in Vertigo to represent the main protagonist, Scottie Ferguson’s, fear of heights in the scene in the Mission San Juan Bautista, when he stops on the tower steps and sees Madeleine fall to her death.

Subjective pov is used to shocking effect in the long opening shot of Halloween (1978).

Fig. 4. Halloween (1978)

Handheld subjective pov shots from the perspective of the protagonist are used in the opening scene of Halloween. This helps to portray the character’s deranged state of mind. The viewer is seeing the action through the killer’s eyes, watching through the window, going into the house, getting the knife, going upstairs and killing the girl. It also helps to conceal the character’s identity in the opening scene and raise tension whenever we encounter the subjective pov later in the film.

A similar approach is adopted in The Teminator (1984), in which the viewer sees through the eyes of a cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor.

Fig. 5. The Terminator (1984)

Several scenes in The Terminator are shot with an optical pov that resembles a HUD with a transparent data display. Seen from the perspective of the assassin, the viewer is reminded of the mechanical nature of the cyborg and its lack of humanity.

Looking at examples of subjective pov like these was helpful in showing how it can be used to good effect within a scene. Particularly, when used alongside objective views, how it can be used to generate suspense and raise tension at key moments within a film.

Before shooting this sequence, I spent some time visualising the subjective pov shot and preparing a storyboard outlining the subjective and objective shot sizes and what should be in the frame. As I was going to film this project in our house, I sketched the storyboard with this setting in mind.

I began by filming the subjective pov shots first, as I knew that would probably be the most demanding of the two views to capture and because it would be easier to retrace my steps for the objective view shots. As I was using camera handheld to capture the subjective pov shots, I decided to use a wide-angle lens as it would enable me to get wide general shots of the various rooms and move in closer on objects to give the viewer the impression of seeing through the eyes of the main character.

Once I had captured the subjective pov shots, I then filmed the objective views within the hall, kitchen, bedroom and lounge. For each of these shots the camera was mounted on a tripod. Again, I decided to use a wide-angle lens in order to catch the action as the character searches for the missing key.

When I began filming the subjective pov shot, it soon became apparent that using a camera as large as a Sony PXW-FS7 was going to be difficult. Trying to handhold the camera while attempting to capture the impression I was shooting through the eyes of the main protagonist, moving within the confined space of the house, changing levels (standing, bending down, kneeling), going in for close ups and keeping the camera steady, all while trying to keep the shot in focus, was physically demanding.

I also realised I would have problems with high contrast, due to the amount of sunlight coming in through the windows. This was most problematic when moving the camera past a window, as it would burn out. This was particularly a problem in the final shot when opening the front door. There were also problems maintaining focus while walking along the hall, due to the shallow depth of field. Even after several attempts at filming this pov shot, I was unable to follow the focus while walking forward. In the end, I decided to stand at my end position at the door, set the focus, retrace my steps to my start position and then walk the length of the hall knowing at least the shot would end in focus as my had reaches for the door latch. A poor compromise, but at least the shot finishes in focus.

I not entirely satisfied with the end result and don’t feel as though I have achieved as much as I had initially hoped with this project film. The film feels too loose and sloppy. This was my first attempt at using my FS7 handheld in this way. Not an easy approach to adopt with this camera, due to its size and weight. In retrospect, it may have been better to shoot with the camera shoulder mounted. It would be interesting to carry out another exercise in shooting subjective pov using both methods, handheld and shoulder mounted, to see what the effect on framing, angle and movement looks like in both cases.

I did, however, find this project very enlightening. It has shown me that used sparingly and in the right places, the subjective pov shot can add considerably to a film. It can alter the meaning of a scene by changing the viewer’s relationship to the characters on screen, particularly the character through whose eyes they are ‘seeing’. It can also affect a scene by creating suspense or raising tension, which in turn affects the mood.

I would like to try making another short film combining both a subjective point-of-view and an objective view in this way again. Though, in light of my reading about and looking at the work of filmmakers such as Jonas Mekas and Doug Atiken, I would like to make something that is more visually creative.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Lady in the Lake (1947) [CriticalCommons website] At: (Accessed on: 25 April 2017)

Figure 2. Rear Window (1954) [Taste of Cinema website] At: (Accessed on: 25 April 2017)

Figure 3. Vertigo (1958) [Film-grab website] At: (Accessed on: 25 April 2017)

Figure 4. Halloween (1978) [Film-grab website] At: (Accessed on: 25 April 2017)

Figure 5. The Terminator (1984) [Taste of Cinema website] At: (Accessed on: 25 April 2017)

Reading: How to Frame a Medium Shot

The Medium Shot

The medium shot is one the standard camera angles used to frame a character. The shot between a close-up and a long shot.

A medium shot frames a character from the waist up – a personal shot; frames character so it appears that the viewer is in a conversation with them (i.e. like a real-life conversation, you are standing or sitting opposite someone, you notice their attributes from the chest up).

A relatable angle that everyone is used to. On camera, a medium shot directs the viewer’s attention to a character.

Roger Deakins frames medium shots above the waist, closer to the belly – a better composition – avoids framing around actor’s joints.

To properly frame a medium shot – pay attention to all the surroundings and light in the scene; the medium shot should show off the scenery as much as the character; pay attention to the little background details


The Medium Long Shot

  • A medium long shot frames the subject from the knees up.
  • The focus is often on the location rather than the character.
  • Avoid framing the joints – frame just below the knees.
  • A three-quarters shot – frames three-quarters of the character.
  • Typically used as an establishing shot – shows character in relation to their surroundings.

The Medium Close-up

  • A medium close-up frames a character from the middle of their chest up
  • Where the close-up shot focuses on just the face, the medium close-up includes a character’s shoulders – sometimes called a head and shoulders shot.
  • The emphasis in on the character’s facial expressions – but their body language should complement the overall composition.
  • The background is not the focus of the shot – tends to be literally out of focus.
  • The perfect reaction shot – gives a great range of emotion.
  • Can be very intimate.
  • Avoid the joints.
  • Check the costume’s framing as well.
  • The medium close-up can also frame on a group of characters – each character framed from just below the chest – great for capturing multiple reactions simultaneously.

Key points for me

A very effective standard camera angle, the Medium Shot provides a way of getting the viewer to feel as though they are in close proximity to a character. Ranging from using the MLS to establish a character within their location, to the more intimate MCU, emphasising the facial expressions and body language. In all cases, keep an eye on where the actor’s joints are within the frame and watch the backgrounds closely to be sure the little details are all correct.


Maher, M. (2015) ‘How to Frame a Medium Shot Like a Master Cinematographer’ At: (Accessed on 25 April 2017)

Reading: Framing – The Building Blocks of a Scene

The Frame

Setting the frame – a series of choices that determines what the viewer sees and does not see.

First choice – camera placement in relation to the scene.

Further choices – field of vision; movement.

These work together to influence how the viewer perceives the shot

  • content of the scene
  • emotional undercurrent
  • subtext to action and dialogue

Further reading – ‘Framing’ in Film Art, pages 177-209


Static Frame

Proscenium – the viewer is a third person observer.

This is especially true if everything about the frame is normal: normal level, normal lens, no movement, etc.

It can be a useful tool; carries its own implications of POV and world view.

For example: Barry Lyndon (1975) dir. Stanley Kubrick – each scene is played out within a fixed frame. Fixed, well-composed, balanced frames that reflect the static hierarchical society in which everyone has their place in a society governed by rules. The actors move within this frame without being able to alter it. The static frame reflects the world in which they live; implies a lack of mobility.

Another example is Strange Than Paradise (1983) dir. Jim Jarmusch.


The Building Blocks of a Scene



  • Informational inserts – give viewer some essential information the need to know (e.g. clock on wall, file pulled from drawer).
  • Emphasis inserts – usually connected to the main action, but not essential to see it (e.g coffee cup jolts as hand pounds table; window rattles in wind).
  • Atmosphere inserts – the little touches that contribute to the mood, pace or tone of the scene; add symbolism or visual allegory; used for stylised filmmaking; must be used with caution.

Connecting shots

  • Shows both characters in one shot – often in the form of over-the-shoulder or wide shot.
  • Make scene feel more complete and whole – rather than simply using POVs and reaction shots.
  • Connecting shots tie things together in a way that clarifies and emphasises the physical.
  • Good shooting – visual elements reinforce the narrative elements.


  • any type of shot, master or coverage, where you are starting in the middle of a scene.
  • shots filmed in order to make a good edit.

Transitional shots

  • not parts of a scene themselves, but instead serve to connect two scenes together.
  • some are simple cutaways (e.g. a scene ends, cut to shot of sunset, cut to next scene).
  • a visual code


Key points for me

Framing is key. There is nothing random about framing shots. It requires careful thought and considerable understanding to build a scene visually. Applying the grammar of film requires a knowledge of the various shot types and how to apply them within a scene.


Brown, B. (2012) Cinematography: Theory and Practice 2nd edition New York: Focal Press

Film Art

Reading: Cinematography – Writing with Motion

Cinematography: Writing with Motion

Cinematography – Greek root meaning writing with motion.

Cinematography is ‘the process of taking ideas, words, actions, emotional subtext, tone, and all other forms of non verbal communication and rendering them in visual terms’ (Blain, 2012, p.2) – the process of adding layers of meaning and subtext to the context of a film.

Building a visual world – create a visual world for characters to inhabit; the visual world is important to how the viewer will perceive the story, ‘how they will understand the characters and their motivations’.

The cinematographer should ask:

  • How do we communicate the story through visual means?
  • What are the essential elements we work with and manipulate to create this visual world?
  • If cinema is a language, then we must as what is the structure of that language?
  • What is the vocabulary, what are the rules of grammar, the structure of this cinematic language?
  • What are the tools, the essential techniques, methods and elements that we can use to tell our story visually?

The Conceptual Tools of Cinematography:

  • The Frame – direct audience attention; convey story through choice of frame size; composition, rhythm, perspective.
  • The Lens – various lenses render images in different ways; ‘Every lens has a personality – a flavour and an inflection it adds to the image’ (e.g. contrast, sharpness, focal length).
  • Light and Colour – powerful visual tools; special power within the art of film; touch people at an emotional level.
  • Texture – manipulating the image adds visual texture; by changing colour and contrast, desaturating colour, adding filters, fog and smoke, rain, or digital manipulation.
  • Movement – film is one of few art forms that employ motion and time; dynamic motion serves the storytelling process.
  • Establishing – the camera reveals or conceals information; the visual equivalent of exposition – conveying important information or background to the viewer; accomplished by the choice of frame and lens; can also be achieved with lighting that reveals or conceals certain details in the scene.
  • POV – the camera becomes the perception of the viewer; make the viewer more involved in the story; the viewer inhabits the character’s mind and experiences.

Visual Subtext and Visual Metaphor:

  • Cinematography extends far beyond simple ‘photography’.
  • It is about adding visual subtext to the scenes.
  • Also about adding visual metaphor.


The key points for me

Cinematography is more than simple ‘photography’, it is the art of communicating a story visually, building a visual world with added layers of meaning and subtext. In order to achieve this, the cinematographer employs a range of conceptual tools.


Brown, B. (2012) Cinematography: Theory and Practice New York: Focal Press

Camera Angles: Atmosphere & Meaning

Camera angles are an important component of storytelling in the moving image. They are used primarily to:

  1. create atmosphere
  2. alter the meaning of a scene or shot

The choice of camera angle can affect a scene or shot in five ways:

Viewpoint – by indicating a specific POV

Relationship – by changing the viewer’s relationship with the character

Status – by indicating the status of the character

Suspense – by creating suspense, tension or expectation

Mood – by creating a particular feeling or mood


For example, in these two shots from Witness (1985), the camera angle is integral to  the storytelling.


In the first image, a high angle shot looking down from a statue in the ceiling of Grand Central Station, uses the height of the building to show the character as a small, insignificant figure. In this way, the viewer sees the young Amish boy Joseph Lapp as a fish-out-of-water in the unfamiliar surroundings of the city. It also infuses the scene with an edge of hostility. Foreshadowing what is to come.

In the second image, taken from later in the film, a low angle shot of a car slowly edging into view on the crest of a hill is used to help give a sense of foreboding. Although no characters are visible in the shot, we know that whoever is inside the car is a threat to John Buck and the Amish family.


Low Angle


Images: Die Hard (1989), Shutter Island (2010), Terminator (1984)

Framed below the subject’s eye line, the Low Angle shot is used to create a sense of threat from within the scene, possibly from the character within the shot.


High Angle


Images: North By Northwest (1959), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010), The Shawshank Redemption (1995)

Framed above the subject’s eye line, the High Angle shot is used to create a sense of weakness, in which the character within the shot seems less significant or powerful, or in which there is an implied threat from a greater force.


Canted Frame


Images: The Third Man (1949), Twelve Monkeys (1995), 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

Used for dramatic effect, the Canted Frame (or Dutch Tilt) is used to help create a sense of unease, disorientation, intoxication or madness within a scene or shot. Canted Frames range from slight tilts (5°) to extreme tilts (90°).


Overhead Shot

Images: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2012)

The Overhead Shot can be used to make the subject harder to identify or empathise with, and to emphasise emotional distance within the scene.


The camera angle is an important element within the design of a shot. It can draw the viewer’s eye into the frame in a particular way, giving subliminal clues about a character’s status, building suspense within a scene or creating a sense of expectation. It also helps to manipulate the viewer’s emotions as they watch the moving image by influencing the mood or atmosphere within the scene. A slight tilt upwards, downwards or sideways can greatly influence the way in which the story is told.

However, camera angle does not work in isolation from everything else within the frame. One thing I’ve discovered from this exercise is that camera angle and lighting are very closely tied together in the creation of atmosphere and meaning within a scene.


Die Hard (1989) Directed by John McTiernan

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2012) Directed by Michel Gondry

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) Directed by David Yates

North by Northwest (1959) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The Shawshank Redemption (1995) Directed by Frank Darabont

Shutter Island (2010) Directed by Martin Scorsese

The Terminator (1984) Directed by James Cameron

The Third Man (1949) Directed by Carol Reed

Twelve Monkeys (1995) Directed by Terry Gilliam

Witness (1985) Directed by David Lean

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Directed by Stanley Kubrik