hen you’re working on a movie or TV show, it can be hard to plant the audience inside the character’s point of view. Today we’re going to go over the POV, or point of view shot. We’ll define it, see it in action, and talk about why it belongs on your shot list.
Point of view (POV) shot definition
What is a Point of View (POV) Shot?
A point of view shot is a film angle that shows what a character is looking at in the first person. In other words, the camera acts as the eyes of a character and the audience sees what they see. It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something, and a shot showing the character's reaction.
Characteristics and Uses of a POV Shot:
- Often shot with a hand-held camera to accentuate the subjective perspective.
- The POV shot became a staple of the slasher sub-genre as the "killer POV," made popular by John Carpenter's Halloween.
- It also allows other characters to break the 4th wall by looking directly into the camera — more like bending the 4th wall.
The POV shot is just one of many camera framing options. For a quick refresher on what those would be, we broke down the most common shot frames and how they work.
Point of View Shots: Creative Examples
How to use a POV shot?
There are lots of unique ways to use the POV shot in your own work. Let’s see a variety of ways these types of camera angles have been used in film and television. John Carpenter uses the point of view shot to put us in the killer’s mindset for Halloween.
The point of view shot can carry any emotion the director needs. Quentin Tarantino uses the point of view shot in Kill Bill to show us the faces of the people the Bride will be chasing down over the course of both movies.
In Rear Window, Hitchcock uses Jimmy Stewart’s POV shot to introduce his love interest. This reveal of Grace Kelly’s face woos the audience but also sets up our expectations for her character. She’s a high society woman who he doesn’t think can break out of her caretaker shell. We meet her in his POV as he wakes up from a nap.
The rest of the movie works to subvert this POV shot. Who can forget when The Walking Dead slipped into point of view shots for their season finale to tease which characters died?
It was a clever subversion of the trope, literally putting the audience into the scene to be killed. And frustrating millions.Let’s take a look at how you can shot list your POV shot for your next project.
Shot Listing POINT OF VIEW SHOTS
How to shot list point of view shots?
So, you’ve set up a scenario where you want to show a character’s point of view? What do you do now? You need to put it in a shot list so your DP can anticipate and prep.
You want to capture all these crucial details in your shot list. With StudioBinder, these details are already listed as options, so you only need to check their boxes. This allows you to create creative combinations that make your movie come to life.
Collaboration is fast and efficient. Send your shot list to the DP with the click of a button. The best part? We let you start shot listing for free. This gives you more time to think about the intangibles. For example, what can you learn from some of the most famous point of view shot examples?
Examples of POV SHOTS
Effective point of view shot examples
Let’s look at a famous POV shot in film. This clip from Saving Private Ryan masterfully shows Tom Hanks’ character’s POV as he enters Omaha Beach. We dig in on the destruction and inhumanity through his eyes, with constant check-backs to get his reaction shots as well.
What about this shot from The King’s Speech? Tom Hooper puts us right into the action. He uses the POV to accentuate the actual fear of public speaking and give us a glimpse into what the world looks like from the eyes of the aristocracy.
As we've discussed, there are numerous applications for the point of view shot. Through the eyes of a victim, a killer, or any character in which the audience would benefit from seeing through their eyes. Isolated POV shots here and there are quite commonplace but what about entire movies that use the point of view shot to entertain us?
1st Person POV Movies
Point of view shot movies
You've probably seen your fair share of POV shot movies from the last two decades but there's actually a film from 1947 called The Lady in the Lake. It's a Film Noir in which we inhabit the perspective of the private eye — Raymond Chandler's go-to P.I., Phillip Marlowe. It's not the best Film Noir ever made but, as the trailer declares, it was a revolutionary technique all those years ago.
While POV shots have existed for decades, the rise of digital filmmaking allowed directors and writers the opportunities to brainstorm new uses for point of view shots. It started small, with the breakout hit, The Blair Witch Project.
After that, point of view shot movies (aka "found footage") became the style du jour and an interesting way to deliver a twist on the theatrical experience. In 2008, Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard brought us the massive hit called Cloverfield that combined the point of view shot movie and the monster flick.
It was a creative take on the POV shot, but this time it lasted the whole film. What’s fun about Cloverfield is that it uses the camcorder to bring us into people’s point of view, but still manages to cheat every possible camera angle by framing them as POV shots.
The POV phenomenon also spread to Europe, where Gaspar Noe did an entire art film called Enter The Void in the point of view perspective to accentuate drug use.
It’s an absolutely insane trip. And it’s hard to forget The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. This film was nominated for four Academy Awards and took on “locked in” syndrome through the POV shot.
STX released Hardcore Henry as a riff on the action film. It’s a great first-person point of view, film example. The movie sought to take audiences into the actual center of an action movie.
This action film took the entire idea of “First Person” to the next level. It definitely took the POV shot to the next level and exploited the frame as an interesting gimmick to build hype around the title.
Filmmaking Techniques Masterclass
Think you’ve got the POV shot in the can? We’ve got lots of stuff for you to use on your next project. Strap in, because we want to pack four years of film school into only a few videos. Learn from the masters about tone, production design, and more!