Filmmaking: Camera Shots, Movements and Emotions

You will have noticed while watching movies that the camera moves almost all the time. In filmmaking, these movements are designed to influence the audience. When you yourself are making a film, you need to know what will happen if you move the camera in a particular way for a particular shot, whether you are able to build the needed emotion with the movement or not. Camera movements have a huge role in conveying emotion.

Camera acts as the audience’s door into the world that the filmmaker is creating. Shot type and camera movement, will influence the audience’s interpretation and appreciation of a film. Audience doesn’t look at the camera movements but the movements’ subconsciously influence them. We don’t need to follow these movements all the time, but we need to learn the basic moves and the effect it can create. Staring with an example: In the below scene, the Sathya is seeing his long lost lover and the shots are like ‘Sathya’s mid shot, long shot of the lover, then Sathya’s close-up, then lover walking to the camera (Sathya)’ – that takes the audience closer to the tone of the scene. Instead what if the following shot after ‘Sathya’s mid shot’ was a ‘close-up of the lover’!

Shalini in Alaipayuthey #Filmmaking
Filmmaking - Plumeria Movies 2
Shalini in Alaipayuthey #Filmmaking
Alaipayuthey - Filmmaking


These are the basic shot types: Extreme close-up, Close-up, Medium shot, and Long shot. These are used according to the need, for eg: Close-up to show tension and Medium shot to show the artists’ facial expressions along with their body language. It is generally less effective than the close-up for showing emotions but is the most common framing in movies. While the Establishing shot is used to show the locale the action is set in. This is the first shot used in majority of Indian movies, especially in the movies prior to 90s. Another shot which you can commonly see in Tamil and Telugu mass hero movies is the ‘Low angle shot’ – A shot looking up at a character, this can make the character look heroic or dominant. This shot is used the same way around the world to make the subject look strong and powerful. Can see such shots in movies like John Wick, and Rajinikanth movies.

Filmmaking - Low Angle shot -It gives us a feeling of authority. Rajinikanth in Kabali
Low Angle Shot


Static shot is literally a fixed, non-moving shot. Ravi Babu’s Avunu is entirely shot with a static camera. Then there is the Locked-Down Shot where the camera is fixed in one position while the action continues off-screen. Psychologically this creates a feeling that something is not correct or uneasy for the character/s. Handheld movement can create a feeling of danger, it makes audience feel very strange and dangerous. POV/Point of view shot is that depicts the point of view of a character so that the audience sees exactly what the characters see. Ie through-the-characters-eyes shot. This is often used in horror and crime movies. Eg.: To show the ‘victim’ through a ghost’s eye or to show the ‘killer’ searching for the ‘victim’ through the POV of the ‘victim’. The best usage of this shot in India can be seen in Ram Gopal Varma’s Deyyam.

Madhavan and Shalini in Alaipayuthey
Madhavan and Shalini in Alaipayuthey
Madhavan and Shalini in Alaipayuthey
Madhavan and Shalini in Alaipayuthey

Here is another example for the interconnected shot of camera-movement with the emotion of the film. (This is the continuation of the shots mentioned earlier in this column) The lovers are meeting after a long time – camera starts from the top, away from the characters – slowly moves closer to the character as the character gets close – camera reaches them when they hold their hands – camera moves even closer when they hold each other.

Anyway how you choose the camera movement is very much dependent on the specific situation of the story and how you want to convey it. The best statement about the movements of the camera is that it should be designed according to the emotion of the characters and the tone of the movie.

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About the Author

PS Arjun
Cinephile. Learning the art of filmmaking. Script Writer. Director.

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