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Lens Perspectives – the Field of View

It is a mix of shots that give the editor greatest creative control. Wide shots, close-ups, telephoto and mid-shots. In the assembly of clips below, the camera has been moved approximately one meter closer to the vehicle for each shot. The field-of-view remains roughly the same because the zoom lens is re-positioned to a wider angle to retain a similar field-of-view. 

The framed content of each shot is roughly the same in each take, however it is the change in perspective. While I would never wish for these shots to be cut together it's way the lens behaves in each shot that makes it interesting. This is known as lens perspective and there are great reasons to make them a part of your mix.

Note how the position of the vehicle remains relatively the same but you see more in the background as we get close and wide. Notice too how the proportions of the car are drawn out as the camera moves closer. The final two shots show the difference between telephoto and wide-angle.

Often when you are in the middle of a shoot, there is little time to appreciate the advantages of the different lens sizes. By sizes I mean wide shots, medium and telephoto shots. 

However, it is important to appreciate how lenses and their field-of-view work. It helps if you consider your zoom lens as being equivalent to having a whole bag of fixed focal length lenses – a 10mm, a 16mm, a 25mm or a 200mm or even a 1000mm lens.
Even if you are not intending to edit your own footage, shooting with a mixture of lens “sizes” will make footage viewed straight from the camera much more engaging.

Why different perspectives

In most sequences, there should be a combination of wide, medium and telephoto shots. A sequence made up of little more than wide angle shots taken from similar positions will result a series of jump-cuts which can look quite strange. It’s almost impossible to cut them together to form a engaging sequence.

On the other hand, a series of shots edited from a mix of wide angle, telephoto, tripod and handheld shots work brilliantly. Your sequences have the potential to affect the emotions of your audience if there is little awkwardness in the way different shots are put together in the timeline.

Telephoto: the long end of the zoom lens

At the telephoto end of the zoom, backgrounds appear bigger in dimension and at the same time, seem to draw in closer to the foreground subject. This happily results in a compressed look that works so well with digital video. The optical nature of the telephoto lens is that it takes the foreground and background and draws them together, and it is known as compressing the scene.

Shots look gutsy and the limited dynamic tonal range associated with digital video is minimised, as the amount of over-bright cloudy bright sky in the top of the frame is kept to a minimum. A similar wide angle view would feature lots of sky and if it’s a cracker of a day with a beautiful blue sky, this could be just right.

The impact of the tele lens is strong and at times graphic, and invites the potential to explore the scene with tasteful pans or tilts from one part of the scene to another.

Wide angle and close to the subject

For your audience there is a real sense of being right there, immersed in the scene. The wide angle perspective draws the subjects towards the lens and exaggerates size, almost to comical effect. Look around for something to include in the immediate foreground – a tree, a busy road or a garden feature. This will add depth to the frame and reveal more about the location. A good rule is to always seek out immediate foreground in wide angle shots.

Try an in-camera edit

Here’s an easy way to get fast coverage of a scene. Follow the action on the medium to telephoto end of the zoom range.
at a suitable time while still recording, snap zoom out quickly to a wide shot and reframe (you will edit out the actual zoom later}
by crash-zooming out to a wide shot, you should be able to match the action as only a short interval of time will have elapsed during the re-framing.

This technique works just as well if you choose to start with a wide angle shot and crash zoom out to a matching close-up. You are actually making the edits in camera while you shoot.

It is perfect for the situations where you have little control over what is happening and it keeps the sequence fresh and importantly, editable.
The skill of the cinematographer is to work with these different perspectives in a creative way; to either hide visual distractions over which you have no control, or add some dimension to something that is a little ordinary. 

© 2013 Pieter de Vries ACS