In close-ups, the subject’s face fills the frame. Italian director Sergio Leone became famous in the 1960s for extreme close-ups in his “spaghetti westerns.” Known now as Italian shots, these filled the frame with just the eyes or mouth of the subject, heightening the tension in the moments preceding violence.
Close-up shots allow for intense expression of emotion. “The closer you get, the more the viewer is going to identify with the character,” says writer and filmmaker David Andrew Stoler. “If you really want them to feel something in an extreme way, then you should get super close.”
One classic camera move is to slowly push closer to an actor during a scene. “If you want the viewer to empathize with or understand the depth of a character, you can slowly push in on that character — make them bigger in the frame,” Stoler says. “That aligns the viewer with that character.”
By contrast, a push-out highlights a character’s isolation. “You’re increasing the world around them and the distance between the viewer and the subject,” Stoler says. These types of moving shots usually require a dolly, jib, or Steadicam.
These close-up shots capture small details like a subject’s hands or feet. If a character looks at a text on their phone, the director might want to capture a close-up of the phone screen. The cutaway, the opposite of the cut-in, jumps from the subject to something else, like from the startled expression on an actor’s face to a barking dog or from a ball crossing the goal line to fans cheering in the stands. Gathering shots like these can be useful for editing together multiple takes of the same scene.
In a point-of-view or POV shot, the camera is metaphorically inside the subject’s head, seeing the world through their eyes. Representing the perspective of a character, the camera can move in every way the subject can move. These shots can be intense — and potentially nauseating — for the audience (think of the POV captured by GoPro-mounted helmets). But they can also make for impactful storytelling as they capture the immediacy of lived experiences. POV shots can become useful when creating sequence shots.
Dutch angle shots.
In a Dutch angle shot, the filmmaker sets up the camera so that it tilts diagonally, giving the entire scene a disorienting, off-kilter look that suggests that something has gone wrong. Director Terry Gilliam makes frequent use of Dutch angles in his darkly witty 1990s films The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to convey his characters’ unbalanced mental states.