The Four Best Reasons to Use POV Shots

Point of view shots, also called
subjective camera or first-person camera, let the director show us what a
character or object is looking at. Most often we get a shot of a character
looking at something followed by a shot showing the character’s reaction. The
technique is widely used much more than we even register. In fact Jean-Luc Godard
called it the most natural cut in cinema So what makes a POV shot powerful rather
than simply informative? And which characters and genres can benefit from
the use of subjective camera? To answer these questions let’s look at some
iconic scenes that include POV shots. Four types of point of view shots are
especially useful and powerful — not your average POVs like in science fiction
in action movies, POVs distorted by drugs or illness, POVs of monsters
pursuing victims and POVs of inanimate objects which see everything but are
helpless to change the narrative. So let’s see how point of view shots get
all of this done. One of the most noteworthy early uses of POV shots in
cinema was in an action scene: a snowball fight in Able Gance’s 1927 film Napoleon. Moving forward point of view shots have continued to be a highly useful tool in action scenes thanks to their obvious power for
immersing the viewer in the action. In the Amazing Spiderman we see Peter
Parker learning to be spider-man both from the third-person and first-person
perspective. The latter is giving us the exhilarating
thrill of living in a super human skin But point of view shots are useful for
less aspirational characters as well. In The Terminator, many of Arnold
Schwarzenegger scenes are filmed from the optical point of view of his t800
cyborg vision. This perspective reminds us of the mechanical nature of the
central character and reinforces his lack of humanity and inability to feel
empathy for his victims. Similarly in the 1987 movie Predator, optical POV was used
again to show the heat vision the alien predator uses to locate its victims. The
POV shots allow the director to show rather than tell us about their
technologically enhanced vision. However a little first-person camera goes a long
way. 2015’s Hardcore Henry was shot exclusively from Henry’s point of view
making it feel more like a first-person shooter game than a movie. The non-stop
first-person action feels like a 90-minute roller coaster ride – fun at
first, but after a while tiring and nauseating. [Well at least we know you’re not death.] Spiderman, Hardcore Henry, The Terminator and Predator have
perspectives that are dramatically far removed from an average human point of
view. In fact especially in the case of the latter two we have so little in
common with these characters that we can’t get an intuitive grasp of their
nature from external observation alone. Any character in an altered state of
consciousness can be an interesting candidate for POV shots as well. In Danny
Boyle’s cult movie Trainspotting the protagonist Mark Renton escapes a
treatment facility and immediately overdoses on heroin at his dealer’s house.
As we experience the high through Mark’s eyes we see ourselves falling away into
the carpet he’s lying on. Lou Reed’s lyrics and the soundtrack
seemed to speak to Mark’s feeling protected and comforted by heroine. By
juxtaposing Mark’s view with external shots of his limp body being dragged to
a taxi for the hospital the director shows us the chasm
separating Mark’s own perception of his drug use from our objective observation
of his addiction. In Enter the Void director Gaspar Noe also uses first
person camera to show the protagonist Oscar’s drug use and hallucinations. But
Oscars altered consciousness goes beyond drugs to death itself. After Oscar’s shot
we follow his soul on an out-of-body experience as it flies above the Tokyo
streets and beyond. An example of first-person perspective affected by
physical illness can be found in the Diving Bell and The Butterfly, an
autobiographical film about locked-in syndrome. The protagonist Jean Dominique
is a man with full mental capacity trapped inside a completely paralysed
body. Through the extreme
close-ups of his doctor’s face, the muffled voices, and the sounds of his own
breathing, we gain a glimpse into the extreme claustrophobia the hero is
experiencing. Here we also see how subjective sound can strengthen the
effect of a visual POV shot. As Jean Dominique begins to realize that he
can’t even tell his doctor his consciousness is intact, shots from his
perspective seem to trap us with him in a Kafka-esque waking nightmare. While they can provide unique perspectives and insights about characters, POV shots can
also hide things from the audience. Most importantly they can hide through whose
eyes we’re observing the scene. This is the origin of Steven Spielberg’s iconic
POV shots in Jaws. The mechanical prop shark Spielberg had to work with were so
unconvincing that he couldn’t afford to show them up close, he conceived a clever
series of underwater shots that represented the shark’s eye view as it
circles to attack, which allowed him to keep the scene suspenseful without
actually showing the shark. Counter-intuitively, watching the attack
through the shark’s eyes proved to be more horrifying than actually seeing the
shark itself. So necessity brought about some of the most chilling shots in
history. Similarly in the opening shot of Halloween we observe the scene through
the eyes of an anonymous intruder. Adding an element of the unknown to a scene a
pursuit by filming from the point of view of the attacker magnifies the
horror we feel while allowing the scene to stay dynamic. At the end of the scene, we realize that the intruder is Michael Myers, but as a child this revelation adds
a final jarring shock to the scene. And this technique of giving the point of view of
the attacker has become a staple of the horror genre, confusing our loyalties as
we’re welcome to identify with the hostile gaze, while also scaring us
because we can’t see who this villain is. Another example of hiding information
from the audience, though not in a horror or pursuit genre, is the noir Dark
Passage starring Humphrey Bogart. Despite having Bogart’s superbly marketable face
to work with, the director Delmar Dave shoots the first 37 minutes from
Bogart’s character’s point of view, frustrating the audience’s desire to see
the familiar and beloved actor. In that time we see a picture of our character,
but played by a different actor, pre- plastic surgery. And the first time
Dave’s cuts out of POV we see Bogart covered in bandages. Making us wait for
the pleasure of seeing Bogart is a touch of humor as well as daring. Meanwhile the
point of view shots put us in an immersive mystery. Right away we hear the
escaped convict’s clothes described [Where’d you get them pants?] [Flash. We interrupt this
program to warn all listeners in the North Bay Area be on lookout for a convict who
escaped from San Quentin 15 minutes ago last seen wearing gray prison trousers
black shoes.] And we look down at our own clothing unable to really see ourselves.
That is him. So we’re placed in a confusing and disorienting situation
wondering who we are — if we’re a good or a bad guy. And piecing together this
puzzle of identity. Finally the fourth type of standout POV shot that we’ll
discuss is the inanimate POV meaning any scene shot from the perspective of an
object or immobilized person. Tarantino’s trademark trunk shots are a
perfect example of this category. The sudden blast of light and the
unnaturally large figures of the captors looming above, convey a feeling of
complete unnatural powerlessness. The same feeling is conveyed in The Diving
Bell and The Butterfly through shots from the paralyzed hero’s perspective
showing that POV shots can operate on multiple levels. Breaking Bad and its
successor, Better Call Saul, also feature numerous inanimate POV shots, with cameras
affixed to what feels like every single object on set including a frying pan,
dryer, shovel, and a Roomba vacuum. One function of these shots is to spy on
heroes when they’re doing something illicit, with mute objects their only
witnesses. So we see multiple shots of Walt hiding money in the air vent.
But these inanimate POV shots are also connected to the show’s driving
principle. As film critic Todd Vanderwerff points out, Walter’s choice to
cook meth in the first episode is the catalyst of an unbreakable chain of
events, which will unfold no matter what like a chemical reaction. The narrative
arc in prequel, Better Call Saul, feels even more inevitable since we already
know how Saul and Mike end up in Breaking Bad. As we see the characters
struggle to become masters of their own fates, we the viewers are painfully aware
of how futile their efforts are. This feeling of petrified powerlessness is
echoed in the numerous inanimate POV shots, which make the viewer feel like a
mute witness, a fly on the wall, watching something akin to a Greek tragedy play
out. POV on its own can become gimmicky. Working with only one perspective can
limit the visual and narrative richness of a story. So, often it’s most powerful in
conjunction with other techniques. Say, with cuts away from first person, in
dialogue scenes, or reserved only for key moments. The shot tends to be
most effective when it feels natural or we barely notice we’re shifting into the
characters inner mind. But visualizing perspective in unusual ways can be a
riveting innovative use of film form and the more removed the point of view is
from our own the more fascinating it is. Movies allow us windows into different
perspectives and experiences so there’s no more fundamental cinematic pleasure
than seeing through someone else’s eyes

40 comments on “The Four Best Reasons to Use POV Shots”

  1. Richard Rojas says:


  2. Carlos Almonte says:


  3. take me, sailor boy says:

    I don't know how i found this channel, but i'm very thankful.

  4. Walshie says:

    Great video!

  5. 하늘 says:

    Just found this channel last week- I've been binge watching all your videos. I hope you continue to steadily grow! Great video as always 🙂

  6. valibe94 says:

    This channel is stellar qualitywise

  7. InvisibleMan95 says:

    I mean who doesn't like POVs.

  8. Mustafa javed says:

    Great content.
    Do more of these for other type of shots also.

  9. Isabella Bornberg says:

    Really interesting!!!

  10. Ángel Samaniego says:

    What about David Lynch's POV to create suspense?

  11. Kenny La says:

    video about POV without including Peter North ?

  12. NoEMogjii Oh&c says:

    i like a touch of this …there are things games do detter see the opening to phantom pain….

    annnd i find thru the outlast series and of it<found footage is much more at home

  13. Chakradhar RL says:

    Very simple and informative. Can you please elaborate on other shots too?

  14. MaltLiquorMullet says:

    Good channel, good comment section…so rare.

  15. Mattteus says:

    i knew Dark Passage was going to be on this! I love that film!

  16. Thicc Boss 47 says:

    why do you hire a voice actress?

    afraid of your own voice?

  17. sophie krop says:

    Love these vids

  18. the dude says:

    great video and content .. love your videos..

  19. Carl Brink says:

    Wow! That was a really great video

  20. Rotter Red says:

    A day late, but good stuff. I will add that, though I haven't seen Hardcore Henry, I have seen Noe's work and even then, both with Irreversible and Enter the Void, there were times when I just wanted to shut the thing off. For me, Irreversible is more problematic in this regard because it begins with that spinning POV before settling on a more straightforward one (once I finished both movies, I was glad I'd watched them). As much as I like films that are frequently static, as with Tsai Ming-Liang or Bela Tarr, I was hesitant about watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly because I thought: Damn, two hours of looking at Mathieu Amalric! But, it was exquisite, a fantastic film. One movie that deserves mention in this is The Lady in the Lake, directed by Robert Montgomery. The entire movie is done from the POV of the main character, Phillip Marlowe as played by Montgomery. I thought it was a gutsy move on Montgomery's part and though most people hated it, I thought it was good.

  21. The Burning Butterfly says:

    Mmmm… this channel is just always so good

  22. Victor Coelho says:

    I wish you guys had talked about the closet scene in Blue Velvet. still a great video, though!

  23. KON says:

    Love the channel and the narrator's voice 🙂

  24. mr000brightside says:

    What's that movie at @5:52 on the top right?

  25. Potato says:

    one of the best POV shots that I've seen is from Memories of Murder when the you see from the killer's POV hiding in the tree and you are made to choose the killer's next target. That was genius

  26. ImaginaryChannel says:

    I really expected to see a mention of a shot of Being John Malkovich

  27. Chris Egbuonu says:

    at 5:55
    please what are the names of the 3 other horror movies besides "it follows"?

  28. spongebob03 says:

    I loved that use of POV in Don't Breathe. It had the felling of a Resident Evil game at times. Like how the POV shot would show the characters focusing on objects around the house that came in handy in their current situations. And, also, some objects the POV shot focused on, would come of use later. It felt like old school Resident Evil.

  29. Rome Blanchard says:

    ASOIF is one of the best example of written POV

  30. Brandon Letkeman says:

    Not sure the harsh criticism of Hardcore Henry was warranted or overly relevant. The biggest reason to watch it is because of how it is shot and it more than delivers on the expectation it sets up. Obviously you can't and shouldn't consider it a film in the same context as the rest of the material covered in this video as it goes out of its way to explore the possibilities of a very unique perspective and set of restrictions and focuses most heavily on taking seriously the audience expectation that comes along with it in order to provide as a wild and bizarre an experience as possible, not tell a nuanced story or ease you into anything. It is jarring and disorienting and it wants to be.

  31. iinmediasres says:

    Fantastic video. I absolutely love your content <3

  32. Stacey Miller says:

    The shot of Brie Larson's face from inside the rolled up rug in "Room" is so quick but made the entire movie for me. It's easily one of the best acted scenes I've ever seen. When POV works, man, it works!

  33. Conchita Mendez says:

    This channel is always great but this video felt extremely refreshing as I had the impression that the last ones all dealt with animated movies or with franchises targeted to a rather infantile audience.
    Beautiful to see how powerful a filming technique that does not depend on CGI can be.
    I would love very much to see something about good and bad use of voice overs and the so fashionable non-linearity.
    I would also love to see at least from time to time some review of non-US films.
    As for immersion techniques, I find the movie Victoria (2015) which is a full length feature done in a single continuous shot, especially interesting. It might be a special experience to watch it without subtitles as the Spanish protagonist Victoria doesn't understand the German that is spoken around her and relies completely on English and non-verbality for communication.

  34. Joseph Ferguson says:

    I love the opening scene in Halloween the POV shot gives us what the killer sees through there eyes

  35. DaveTV says:

    Robocop used this method effectively as well. When Murphy is transformed into Robocop and OCP scientist wake and turn him off for testing.

  36. Bork A day says:

    wew :3

  37. Altair Evercroft says:

    Can you please post the full list of films/TV series featured in this video?

  38. Craig Benz says:

    My pet name for #3 is monster vision. I always saw it as an annoying cheap trick.

  39. JaggSwag230 says:

    Does anyone know the names of the movies at 0:33

  40. Demetrius Dion says:

    There are three stages of a Point of View Shot: 1) Close-up of the Character looking at something off-screen, 2) The next Shot shows what he or she is looking at, and 3) His or Her reaction of what they have seen or what they are seeing.

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