How to Read a Movie

Roger Ebert was a film critic who taught a film class in the University of Chicago Fine Arts Program.  From his article, How To Read A Movie, he explains the different meanings behind different angle shots camera men use in today’s movies and TV shows.

I like watching movies and TV shows, but never got into why scenes were shot the way they were shot.  When I first read the article, I was a little bored with the content until I came across the different meanings of the different angle shots.  I was hooked immediately.  I was amazed at what I had just read.  None of it would have crossed my mind while watching a movie or a TV show but now I feel like I will look out for it in the future.

Ebert said in a film or show, a shot with diagonal angles seem to “move” to make the background become more dominant than the foreground.  Tilt shots gives the illusion that the world is out of balance.  Within tilt shots, there are right tilts and left tilts.  Right tilts implies that the character is looking towards the future whereas left tilts implies that the character is sad or helpless.  Ebert also says that if the camera angle is above the character’s eye line, it reduces them whereas if the camera is below the eye line, it enhances him.  To me, that makes sense.  Looking from a bird’s eye view, the character would seem smaller than if the camera were pointed up.  It might sound difficult, but applying it in the right way where the audience is captivated, is the end goal and that’s all that matters.

I think Ebert’s methods worked because the goal is to draw the audience into the show or movie.  His definition for the different types of angles show how detailed he was in analyzing film.  I think his methods are currently used by other directors in the entertainment industry.  For example, the show Pretty Little Liars is full of suspense and the camera angles, as well as the music, gives the audience a sense of uneasiness while watching the show.

In addition to reading the article, I watched three of the ten suggested videos; Top 20 Cinematic Techniques, Camera Angles and Techniques, and Examples of Editing Techniques.  From these videos, I’ve learned even more about different camera angles and how they are shot.  From the Top 20 Cinematic Techniques, there were scenes from 20 movies that showed 20 different types of camera angles that made the movie what it was.  In the Camera Angles and Techniques video, it also showed different types of camera angles and tricks that makes it easier to film.  As an example, the video showed a woman climbing a brick wall.  Instead of actually putting the actor’s life in danger, the camera was actually on the ground and she pretended to climb the “wall.”  In the video, Examples of Editing Techniques, it showed clips from movies and homemade videos giving examples of the different types of editing techniques used the entertainment industry.  For example, the video showed jump cut, montage, wipe transition, and much more.


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