When 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.

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Point of view (POV) shot definition

A point of view shot is a film angle that shows what a character is looking at in the first person. It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something, and a shot showing the character's reaction. 

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Uses: The point of view shot allows a director to shed light on a new perspective or highlight the important emotions of the world.

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 the camera angle has been used in film and television. John Carpenter uses the point of view shot to put us in the Killer’s mindset for Halloween.

Point of View Shot - Camera Angle and Movement - Halloween

Carpenter, revolutionary of the POV Shot. Halloween (1978).

The point of view shot can carry any emotion the director needs. 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 the movie.

Point of View Shot in Film - Header - StudioBinder

Tarantino presents the “Helpless” point of view shot. Kill Bill

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.

Point of View Shot - Camera Angle and Movement - Rear Window

One of the greatest point of view shots of all time. Rear Window (1954).

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?

Point of View Shot - Camera Angle and Movement - Walking Dead

Even TV gets in on the point of view shot. 

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 story.  

 

How to shot list a 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.

Introducing Shot List Template and Storyboard Template Builder - Add New Shot

Add your point of view shots and storyboards to your shot list.

Specific camera movements and placement matter too. Will you go handheld or can this be done on sticks? Whose POV shot is it, and will we be eye level or closer to the ground?  

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.

Introducing Shot List Template and Storyboard Template Builder - Create New Shot

Your signature point of view shot is only a click away.

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?  

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.

Spielberg, master of the POV Shot Definition.

In E.T., Spielberg has a niche homage to Carpenter's Halloween shot but with a much more congenial spin on the POV.

Point of View Shot - Camera Angle and Movement - ET

Hard not to appreciate the fun Spielberg had with this point of view shot.

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.

Point of View Shot - Camera Angle and Movement - King's Speech

Nothing more traumatic than staring down thousands from a point of view shot.  

We'll leave you with another shot of a crowd where the focus is all on who’s walking in the door. This shot from Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging gives us all the teenage anxiety our hearts can muster.  

What about entire movies that use point of view shot to entertain us?

Point of view shot movies

While POV Shots certainly existed since the dawn of cinema, 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.

Point of view shot trailer. 

But soon, point of view shot movies became cheap and interesting way to deliver a twist on the theatrical experience. In 2008, Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard brought us the massive hit, Cloverfield.

A massive scope with the point of view film. 

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.  

This point of view film is a trip.

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.

This point of view film is a trip.

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.  

A definitive POV Film.

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.

Up next: Visual Filmmaking Techniques!

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!

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