In the earlier installments of how to analyze a movie like a boss, we discussed film language, how meaning is created in film through the use of signs, codes and conventions and most recently, we covered mise-en-scène and editing.

Today, we’re going to discuss the camera and how it too can create meaning and how important it is to know about the way the camera is used to analyse a movie. First,  we’ll discuss the different kinds of shot types, then the camera angles and finally, camera movement.

Shot Types

A shot is one single take. It can be used to set the scene or the mood, or place the spectator in the scene.

First, there is the establishing shot. This is a long shot that helps  to set the scene. It establishes the location of the scene and gives the audience an idea of where they are in the narrative.

The establishing shot is frequently followed by a mid shot, to zoom in on the focus of the scene. A mid shot is usually considered to be a view of a full-length human, although in some styles, like in European film, a shot of a person from the waist  up is considered a mid-shot, whereas this type of shot is, in other styles, often already considered to be a close-up. So in that case, a close-up can range from a shot of a person from the knees up, from the waist up, or merely the face.

source: Artisan Entertainment

source: Artisan Entertainment

Finally, there is the subjective point-of-view (POV) shot, an eye-line shot where the spectator sees what the characters sees, which helps give the audience the feeling they are part of the scene themselves.

Camera Angles

Camera angles can greatly help set the tone of the movie, and signify meaning nearly always. A great example is when the angle is a subjective POV shot with a high angle, suggesting that the person that’s the subject is superior to the one viewed from up high, and a low angle shot can signify weakness.

You’ll often see this in movies where ranks are important, for instance, when an emperor or king sits high up his throne and the POV high angle shows him looking down over his subjects.

Camera Movement

Finally, camera movement. Camera movement too is very important in the creation of meaning. For instance, a zoom into a close-up of someone’s face can suggest a certain emotion or emphasize on it.

Panning across a field of war can suggest endless chaos, just like a POV handheld camera shot creates tension and increases involvement by adding to the feeling of the spectator being part of the action. Using a steadycam can help prevent a handheld camera from giving too shaky shots. However, some filmmakers prefer the shaky shots instead.

source: Artisan Entertainment

source: Artisan Entertainment

Lastly, the following shot tracks or pans the the subject to keep him or her in shot – often, in this case, the camera is attached on rails or on a wheeled platform, a “dolly”.


Requiem of a Dream (2000) is a great example of a movie in which shot types, camera angles and camera movement are used significantly to create meaning, involve the audience, to display and evoke emotion.

Watch the four minute trailer below and consider all we discussed above.

An example of a significant shot is around 1:10, where we see the television set, shot from below, giving us the sense that it’s a powerful thing – and it is, to the mother whose whole life is about that television.

So tell me, what else do you see in this trailer, regarding the camera? How does its placement and use create meaning?

On a random note, I saw Requiem of a Dream when I was very young, and it probably destroyed any appeal drugs could ever have to me. Great movie to show your kids to scare ‘em. And isn’t it still an amazing soundtrack? It still gives me a dry throat.


About The Author

Editor in Chief

Manon is a 24 year old Dutchie located in Perth, Australia and is passionate about film and writing. She is a Global Criminology MA - her thesis discussed developments in law enforcement and punishment with the use of dystopian science fiction films. She enjoyed this so much she is continuing the critical discussion of themes of movies here on The Movie Scrutineer! She also contributes articles frequently to