The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.
Point of View (POV) is a shooting technique that shows the perspective of a scene literally from a character or objects position in the setting. That’s just a technical way of saying that it enables you to experience a scene first hand, by putting you in someone else’s shoes. Let’s dig into some examples to get a sense of what POV is and why it’s used.
First off, we’ll start with a classic example, the music video for the Cinnamon Chasers, Luv Deluxe by director Saman Keshavarz. (Fun fact: This video was shortlisted in the 2010 Vimeo Festival and Awards!)
Cinnamon Chasers, Luv Deluxe is shot entirely from the perspective of the protagonist. To do this, a custom made DSLR rig was attached to the main actor’s head. Pretty crazy right? This gives you access to all of the action, emotion, movement, and overall insane drama from the main character’s POV. In a sense, it limits your overall knowledge of the story, since you’re only seeing one side of it, but it also helps you empathize with that character’s experience.
One of the most common POV shots you’ll see in videos and movies is from the perspective of someone driving a car like this:
Again, these types of shots are used to help the audience step into the story and see it from a character’s eyes. If you’re trying to build your character’s story, it can be a useful technique. Now let’s look at some other applications.
In recent years, we’ve seen a visual explosion from the action sports community with the use of helmet mounted POV cameras. It’s now possible to experience everything from skydiving to race car driving from the athlete’s POV, or this hypnotizing perspective from a surfer.
Awesome, right? It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment when you watch from this unique perspective, as we get to ride along with the biker, wrapped up in the action of every jump and landing.
It’s important to note that POV doesn’t strictly apply to the perspective from a person’s head. You can have a POV shot from a foot, shoulder, etc. It doesn’t even have to be a person! Any object with a camera attached to it will give a POV shot. Here’s a great example of object based POV by Chuck Patterson, who attached a camera to a paddle and was able to record sharks circling his surf board off the coast of southern California:
Chuck is providing us with the paddles’ POV and because of that, we’re able to peer into the water and get an eyeful of those huge and (hopefully) friendly shark visitors. Just to illustrate object based POV a bit more, here’s a still image of a mailbox interior’s POV:
Not only can POV provide a unique perspective, it’s also a great way to increase your shot variety, which generally helps to keep your audience engaged. POV is a powerful technique used often by many video creators, both amateur and professional alike, and it’s absolutely worth exploring with your own filming.