High-angle shot

Filmmaker's Dictionary Jan 29, 2021

What is a high-angle shot?

A high angle shot is a camera angle where the camera looks down on the subject from above their eye level.

This elevated perspective can range from barely above the eye line, to a bird’s eye view. High-angle shots can have a great effect on how the audience perceives a scene, the mood, and the narrative.

The emotional impact of the high-angle shot

In general, camera angles are perfect tools for implying status. Characters shot from a high-angle are weak, vulnerable, or inferior, as opposed to the low-angle shot, which signifies dominance and power.

This psychological, character-driven angle is probably the most powerful association that the shot invokes. It’s perfect for expressing vulnerability and sadness in a moment of loss... or showing the heroic main character having no chance against this new, all-powerful enemy. This is used well in Marvel’s action movies, like The Avengers’ final fight scene, where the team is visually dwarfed as new enemies emerge.

It can also be used for surveillance-like shots, which have a sense of secrecy or voyeurism to them.

It’s also useful for providing more information from a narrative perspective. A high angle shot can have a wider view of the space, showing off a lot of action at once, and adding context.

It can also establish a scale of a crowd, as often shown in the Lord of Rings trilogy. It provides information that otherwise wouldn’t fit into one shot.

A well-used extreme high-angle shot can also elicit tension or fear from the viewer, based on a fear of heights. Unlike the eye-level shot, this view is an unnatural, unfamiliar way of looking at a scene in everyday life. This can create stress, fear, or even terror.

How to shoot a high-angle shot

High-angle shots are shot with a wide range of equipment, such as cranes, camera sticks, or drones.

They can also be taken from an elevated standpoint if the location allows it. Ready to take your own high-angle?

Check out this guide from Premiumbeat on how to frame the perfect high-angle shot.

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