Before style is developed, grasping the basics of cinematography is critical. This post briefly goes over the tilt shot, this basic yet essential camera movement and the best ways in which to use it. So what is a tilt shot?
Defining the Tilt Shot
What is tilt camera movement?
There are many ways to move the camera, but tilting your camera has to be one of the easiest, and effective techniques you can do.
TILT SHOT DEFINITION
What is a tilt shot?
A tilt shot is shot that uses a cinematographic technique called tilting in which the camera stays fixed but rotates up and down on a vertical plane. Tilting is similar to the motion of an individual raising or lowering their heads. This is different than the panning of a camera which also sits on a fixed but moves left to right. Equipment like a tilt-shift lens enables this vertical camera motion.
WHY USE A TILT SHOT?
- In an establishing shot — brings us to into a location
- Downward tilts observe action over a large area
- Upward tilts can create psychological impression of inferiority or weakness in a character
You can achieve a tilt shot with any number of camera rigs. From a tripod to a dolly to a crane and even a drone. By combining the tilt shot with the different camera mechanisms, you can change the dynamic of the shot. Here's a video breakdown of the various types of camera rigs, how they work, and how they add to the "feel" and look of a shot.
The tilt shot is just one of many types of camera movements in film. Here's a complete breakdown of each type along with their storytelling values and how they have contributed to some iconic moments in cinema history.
Tilting is a little less common than panning but they are used fairly regularly for creative and practical purposes.
Here is a quick example.
Now that we've defined it, let's see how to implement the shot.
Why the Tilt Shot?
Using the tilt shot
You can learn to use a tilt shift lens but these lenses aren’t needed. As long as the camera is mounted on a tripod or handheld, simply angle it up or down.
How can you use the tilt in your own filmmaking?
These shots are more dramatic than your standard straight-angle shot. This kind of up and down movement shifts the audience’s attention from one area to another, vertically extending the range of the visual scope. This framing works well for shooting establishing shots.
They Establish Scenes
If we start with a character and tilt up, often our location is established. Conversely, if we begin by tilting the camera down, we can gradually reveal the location. You can use them to reveal much more than character and geography, depending on what your narrative demands. This is often useful in comedy, or even horror.
Tilt Movement Affects Psychology and Physical Space
Tilting the camera down from the perspective of one character to another visually indicates superiority from the higher angle point of view. It’s a great tool to show power vs. vulnerability in the film.
This works with physical spaces as well.
If the objective is to show how massive a building is, an upward til shot lends itself to awe and superiority.Also, a downward tilt can have the same effect if it’s meant to reveal something epic. See the tilt from Star Wars.
Tilt is easy enough to do, but there's also some specific equipment that yields more unique results. See our next post.
Explore different camera movements
We've covered the tilt shot but there are many other camera movements to discuss. As you amass your camera movement repertoire, you will be able to amplify your visual storytelling exponentially. You're already on your way but the only question is which camera movement will you dive into next?