Point of view shot

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An example of an explicit POV shot from the public domain horror film The Driller Killer, putting the audience into the perspective of the protagonist playing pinball with the top shot coming five seconds before the below shot.

A point of view shot (also known as POV shot or a subjective camera) is a short film scene that shows what a character (the subject) is looking at (represented through the camera). It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something, and a shot showing the character's reaction (see shot reverse shot). The technique of POV is one of the foundations of film editing.

A POV shot need not be the strict point-of-view of an actual single character in a film. Sometimes the point-of-view shot is taken over the shoulder of the character (third person), who remains visible on the screen. Sometimes a POV shot is "shared" ("dual" or "triple"), i.e. it represents the joint POV of two (or more) characters.

Point-of-view, or simply p.o.v., camera angles record the scene from a particular player's viewpoint. The point-of-view is an objective angle, but since it falls between the objective and subjective angle, it should be placed in a separate category and given special consideration. A point-of-view shot is as close as an objective shot can approach a subjective shot—and still remain objective. The camera is positioned at the side of a subjective player—whose viewpoint is being depicted—so that the audience is given the impression they are standing cheek-to-cheek with the off-screen player. The viewer does not see the event through the player's eyes, as in a subjective shot in which the camera trades places with the screen player. He sees the event from the player's viewpoint, as if standing alongside him. Thus, the camera angle remains objective, since it is an unseen observer not involved in the action."

—Joseph V. Mascelli, The Five C's of Cinematography[1][page needed]

A POV shot need not be established by strictly visual means. The manipulation of diegetic sounds can be used to emphasize a particular character's POV.

It makes little sense to say that a shot is "inherently" POV; it is the editing of the POV shot within a sequence of shots that determines POV. Nor can the establishment of a POV shot be isolated from other elements of filmmakingmise en scene, acting, camera placement, editing, and special effects can all contribute to the establishment of POV.

With some POV shots when an animal is the chosen character, the shot will look distorted or black and white.

Leading actor POV[edit]

When the leading actor is the subject of the POV it is known as the subjective viewpoint. The audience sees events through the leading actor's eyes, as if they were experiencing the events themselves. Some films are partially or totally shot using this technique.


POV footage has existed since the first cameras were mounted in early airplanes[2] and cars, anywhere a film’s creator intended to take viewers inside the action with the psychological purpose of giving viewers a feel of "What he or she is going through", he or she being a participant in the subject matter. Cameras were increasingly introduced into more difficult experiences.

Dick Barrymore, an early action filmmaker akin to Warren Miller,[3] experimented with film cameras and counter weights mounted to a helmet.[page needed] Barrymore could ski unencumbered while capturing footage of scenery and other skiers. Though the unit was heavy relative to its manner of use, it was considered hands-free, and worked.

Numerous companies have developed successful POV designs, from laparoscopic video equipment used inside the body during medical procedures, to high tech film and digital cameras mounted to jets and employed during flight. On professional levels, the equipment is well defined, expensive, and requires intensive training and support.

However the race for hands-free POV cameras for use on a consumer level has always faced problems. The technology has had issues with usability, combining lenses with microphones with batteries with recording units; all connected using spidery cables, which proved cumbersome in use when compared to the quality of the end content.

Notable examples[edit]

In making 1927's Napoléon, director Abel Gance wrapped a camera and much of the lens in sponge padding so that it could be punched by other actors to portray the leading character's point of view during a fist fight, part of a larger snowball fight between schoolboys including young Napoleon. Gance wrote in the technical scenario that the camera "defends itself as if it were Bonaparte himself. It is in the fortress and fights back. It clambers on the wall of snow and jumps down, as if it were human. A punch in the lens. Arms at the side of the camera as if the camera itself had arms. Camera K falls on the ground, struggles, gets up." In the scenario, "Camera K" refers to Gance's main photographer, Jules Kruger, who wore the camera mounted to a breastplate strapped to his chest for these shots.[4]

In 1931, Rouben Mamoulian used the technique in his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Everything is seen through Jekyll's eyes, as he leaves his house to go to the medical lecture. Then, as he begins to speak, Jekyll is seen for the first time. When Jekyll first transforms himself into Hyde, Mamoulian once again uses the subjective camera to record his agonized reaction to his own drugged drink.

Film, directed by Alan Schneider, written by Samuel Beckett, and starring Buster Keaton, also uses POV extensively, switching between the main character's point of view and the view of the camera as a way to illustrate Berkeley's quote "to be is to be perceived and to perceive". Interestingly, Film is also said to refer to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In the film noir Dark Passage, the protagonist has plastic surgery, and when his bandages are removed, he is revealed to be Humphrey Bogart. But until that moment, everything is seen through his eyes and the viewer has no idea what he looks like.

POV shots were used extensively by Alfred Hitchock for various narrative effects.[5]

In another film noir, Lady in the Lake, directed by and starring Robert Montgomery as Raymond Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe, the entire film is shot from a subjective viewpoint, and Montgomery's face is seen only when he looks in a mirror. The film was not a critical or popular success.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly uses the POV shot with a tilt shift focus to imitate the lead protagonist loss of sight in one eye.

The Plainclothesman, a moderately popular crime series aired on the DuMont Television Network from 1949 to 1954, used the technique. According to David Weinstein's book The Forgotten Network, the show was even used in police training in some cities.

Halloween begins with an extended POV sequence, showing the killer Michael Myers' perspective. Several more POV shots are used throughout the rest of the film to represent the killer's view, and this type of shot has since become a staple of horror films.

Another example of a POV shot is in the movie Doom, which contains a fairly long POV shot which resembles a head-up display in a first-person shooter video game, with the viewer watching through a character who is venturing through hallways shooting and killing aliens.

The British sitcom Peep Show is shown entirely through the viewpoints of the characters and lets the audience hear the two lead characters' thoughts.

In Gaspar Noé's 2010 film Enter the Void the beginning of the movie is shot in first-person.

Franck Khalfoun's 2012 remake of Maniac is shot almost entirely in first-person.

In the film The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972), POV is used extensively, especially during the opening scene when Don Corleone is listening to requests from wedding guests.

Also in the film The Blair Witch Project, POV shot is used very often, when the main characters sees shadows mostly.

The 2013 film Gravity contains several POV shots from the perspective of the protagonist, showing the inside of an astronaut's helmet.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mascelli, Joseph V. (1965). The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques Simplified. Hollywood, Calif.: Cine/Grafic Publications. ISBN 9780960024001. OCLC 566601. 
  2. ^ McClain, Stan. "History of Hollywood's Aerial Cinematography". cinematography.com. Archived from the original on 14 June 2002. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Quigley, Michelle (2000). "Doing It All and Breaking Even". MountainZone.com. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Brownlow, Kevin (1983). Napoleon: Abel Gance's Classic Film (1st ed.). New York: Knopf. pp. 56–57, 76. ISBN 9780394533940. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Sallitt, Daniel. "Point of View and "Intrarealism" in Hitchcock". Retrieved 12 March 2014.