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-   -   Why is the interview camera hight so low? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/totem-poll-totally-off-topic-everything-media/536588-why-interview-camera-hight-so-low.html)

Jos Svendsen February 13th, 2019 11:25 AM

Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Hi There,

Do you know the feeling that when you notice something, then suddenly the world is full of this something? I have noted that in the main part of interviews on video the camera is level with the interviewed persons mouth and tilting slightly up. Shouldn't that be level the eyes of the interviewed person and tilting a notch down?

Is this because all camerapersons are to lazy to extend the tripod fully? Interestingly the same happens when the camera is on a rig. The tilt is then just a bit down.

When we humans talk to each other we focus on the eyes, unless we are hard of hearing, And when we take photos we focus on the eyes. So I am slightly puzzled on the oral focus on video.

Can anybody come up with an explanation?

The best

Gary Huff February 13th, 2019 11:35 AM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Which interviews...on video?

Pete Cofrancesco February 13th, 2019 12:08 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
I was recently reading a cinematic article and part of it touched on this.

Framing can be adjusted by either raising or lowering the camera or tilting. While it’s easier to tilt the camera it is often more desirable to adjust the height. As you zoom in on a subject the camera is raised but you don’t want to shoot down on them. Where as a head to toe shot the camera would be lowered.

As a portrait photographer in a previous life I’ve been taught not to shoot up a subject face because it’s an unflattering angle (nostrils) but this can be remedied by asking the subject to tilt their head down. But in cinema I’ve read shooting slightly up is more dramatic.

It’s generally more pleasing when focal points are located at 1/3 of the frame in this case the eyes. Known as the rule of thirds. https://www.google.com/search?q=rule...nt=firefox-b-1 These rules aren’t set in stone but once you’re aware of them your framing will improve.

Pete Cofrancesco February 13th, 2019 12:22 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
duplicate post

Josh Bass February 13th, 2019 01:04 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
In my experience we usually DO line up cam lens height with subject’s eyes for typical interview framings. However, as the lens gets further away (if you were doing a wide/head to toe or a waist to head shot) it tends to get lower because of the overall aesthetics of that look. Might end up with lens at chest level on wide enough shots.

John Nantz February 13th, 2019 02:32 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?

Originally Posted by Pete Cofrancesco (Post 1949133)
In the visual arts there is also the rule of thirds.
These rules aren’t set in stone but once you’re aware of them your framing will improve.

Pete - this isn't about the original post question, but ... [I just came in from shoveling rain-laden snow and need to have a rest] ... with regard to "rule of thirds", I have a bone to pick.

We watched the TV series "Downton Abbey" and it didn't take me long to become irritated with their framing. It seemed like every single shot used the rule of thirds and I actually got a tad irritated at the framing.

I'm no framing expert, or even an amateur, but just knowing "the rule" and watching the movie, it really got to me.

For my videos I'll consider the thirds framing but try to mix it up a little bit. Not everyone feels like I do and that's okay (as they say, "your mileage may vary"). Thankfully, with the modern editing programs one can re-frame the clip if there is enough frame area to do so.

With regard to people's faces, though, the local news channel tends to get full head shots. Don't know why they, or some, like to get in so close a lot but they do. Maybe it depends on who is shooting. Which brings up another point, the reporter always gets recognition but the cameraperson never does.

Pete Cofrancesco February 13th, 2019 03:17 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
The local news is often quite bad. Last night I saw a storm reporter grossly over exposed. You could tell the idiot exposed the face to 70% while blowing out everything else. That’s what you get for blindly following rules.

Obviously local news is to fast food as cinema is to fine dining. ie I wouldn’t be looking to local news for either inspiration or validation. But yeah that’s another unspoken rule that most talent especially female appreciate you not doing closeups.

As for Downton Abbey I haven’t noticed or been bothered by their over use of the thirds rule but I wouldn’t be surprised because they are on the artsy side of the spectrum. While it’s known as the rule, it’s meant to be more of a guide. There should always be room for different options and styles.

I’m sore from shoveling ice today. Happily got the driveway clean before it had a chance to refreeze tonight

Christopher Young February 14th, 2019 08:28 AM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Sometimes done intentionally to subliminally increase a sense of importance, authority, respect and dominance of the interview subject. The big CEO interview. "Look at me I'm up here." shot. Shooting down towards the subject tends to subliminally diminish the interview subjects authority. To make them look less important and more submissive. Has to be executed very carefully otherwise it can look like real bad camera work... witch it is if it's that noticeable.

Commonly referred to as Objective and Subjective POVs when doing drama shoots reverses. The cop and the perp. POV looking up to the cop and POV looking down on the perp. Well demonstrated in this clip where the cop and the DA are at high and mid level and the perp is sitting. These POVs can be very compelling if used correctly in certain types of interview. I've always found CEO Alpha male types are nearly always happier with the lower camera POV. Power women also prefer it.

Dominant submissive in this clip at 1.02. But hey they break all the rules in that series!

Or it can just be sloppy camerawork. Of course the extreme of this dominant submissive framing is like the Dirty Harry power play, one guy on his back and one standing. Check 1.50 on this clip. No doubt who is the dominant character! :)

Chris Young

John Nantz February 14th, 2019 11:10 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Christopher - for me, THAT was a GREAT post! Awesome. Gives me a whole new way of thinking about framing.

Liked this statement:
Has to be executed very carefully otherwise it can look like real bad camera work... witch it is if it's that noticeable.

Really got me thinking a lot more about positioning and framing. Is there a book that covers this subject matter?

The Dirty Harry clip was something ... wonder how much money was spent on those few minutes. And how did they get the car to roll over on it's side without totally rolling over? Can't have too many takes on that shoot.

Paul R Johnson February 15th, 2019 09:35 AM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Downton is cleverly shot - and it does use tried and tested framing. The angle to the performer from the lens is very important for technical and artistic reasons. A small up tilt of the camera has the effect of giving the subject perceived power - as in the old phrase, "being talked down to". There is a foreshortening too when used close, giving the lower part of the head extra depth and drawing the eyes to the nose and mouth away from the forehead. It's also a very old technique in two shot interviews shoot the more important subject from slightly lower. In TV news where we use two shots of the main presenters, the taller one always has more presence. The news anchors look down on the viewers - only slightly, but they lose their impact when the camera has even a modest down tilt. Some modern shooters follow the trendy approach of matching lens and eyesight, so much so that we begin to see this as 'standard' and correct. Then you do the Downton Abbey thing and it appears unusual and puts the emphasis on the people the camera looks up to. The favourite shot from Downton especially in stills is the group picture outside the hall, with the camera lower than ever with the family group and servants with the house revealed behind them. A classic power shot. Raise the camera by two feet and the power totally goes. Hitchcock was quite keen on these angles too I seem to remember.

Christopher Young February 15th, 2019 09:48 AM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
John. There must be a book somewhere on the matter. I learnt my craft under good DPs and directors at the BBC a hundred years ago. Learning my craft as a cameraman on film and working with different DPs and directors I was exposed to many different experiences. Most of my learning happened by osmosis. We used to have a scheme where you had a journeyman. Someone who took you under his wing and tried to teach you as much possible about the craft. I remember one DP saying to me "The best teacher in the world is the one you see every day." I said "What do you mean?" He said "You have a TV in your home. Don't just watch it passively. Whether it is an interview, a drama or a movie learn to dissect every shot. Analyze the angles, the movement, the play of light, where is the light coming from. Is it a hard light or soft. How is the light sculpting the scene. Try and work out the lenses used their lengths and field of view etc, analyze, analyze my boy." It was the most telling and long lasting piece of advice I ever received. He taught me a lot. My wife hates it if I comment on a move or POV in a film. I do enjoy watching a good movie but at the same time I'm constantly learning. Been learning ever since the '60s.

If you want to watch and learn from craftsman at work analyze the work of these two. Pawel Pawlikowski and DP Lukasz Zal. Their collaboration on "Cold War" is truly cinema art. They use a lot of low in shot framing, heaps of head room, but it works well in this square format. To me Roma the Oscar winner is good but truly not in the same league as this truly great bit of film art. As the Hollywood Reporter said "Exquisite lighting and lensing." In my own humble endeavors I try to develop new ideas for filming by just learning from work like this. It will take a few minutes to watch these four, yes four clips but the lessons you can learn from them can be invaluable in developing ones craft.

Chris Young


Josh Bass February 15th, 2019 11:01 AM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
“ The 5 Cs of Cinematography” is a book that talks about this stuff extensively. My only concern is that it’s a pretty old book and even though everything in it is true, some of the approaches and techniques might be a little dated, unless there’s a newer edition.

John Nantz February 15th, 2019 11:53 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Jos - there were some really good replies to your thought-provoking question here, maybe not exactly what you expected, but it kinda looks like “It depends”. There are a lot of variables to consider. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all cookbook solution.

Christoper - another very interesting post you have there!

My, how times have changed and I guess we’ve seen it. In old Europe a kid started working at an apprentice for the Journeyman, probably his son, and inherited the business. In the 1930’s in the USA, trade schools or Junior Colleges taught crafts. Machine shop and welding was common. I worked part of my way though college in a machine shop and wound up doing tool and die work. The owner graduated from one of those ’30s trade schools. I suppose if one lived in Los Angeles they would have had film school courses. I suppose that was literally “Old School”?

The European movies had a different feel to them from the Hollywood movies, and Eastern European different again. Like the clips you posted, the content compared to American films, tends to be more personal. This isn’t surprising because one sees it in their living, it’s more family oriented, they go to the cemeteries and pay respects to their ancestors. There are more family bonds. So, it’s not surprising to see their movies be the way they are.

In the case of “Cold War”, just watching the clips, it’s obvious there is another story there. Since it’s on Amazon maybe we can watch it. My wife watches movies, I don’t have time. That they used B&W media in this day of color was also a decision to put one back in time, I guess, but to leave more for the senses. The old radio programs did that too,

Like you, when I do watch a movie I also think about the technical issues, and my wife is like yours, maybe it’s in their genes??? While I’m finding the flaws my wife is telling me to be quiet.

As for “learning by watching”, I wish that was more the case. I think that’s where storyboarding would be helpful because one puts the scenes and shots on paper then there is time to really think though the lighting and camera angles. To do that, one needs to have a script. And a story. Maybe that’s what a big Hollywood movie has a credits list that takes ten minutes to watch?

Josh - “The 5 Cs” is one book I checked out of the library. It was a tough to read and I did read parts of it. Not that I remember anything though … (it needs to be more repetitive!)

One of the pictures was that of a Hollywood film crew with huge cameras and, if I recall, someone in a “cherry picker” lift (director), and I think the caption was something about Alfred Hitchcock. One thing sure changed and that was the size of the cameras.

Christopher Young February 16th, 2019 07:17 AM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
Great observations JN. As you say maybe not what Jos was expecting but then he opened an interesting topic about angles and that opened up the bigger picture... no pun intended.

Another old lesson that was drummed into me was "Learn all the visual rules first and then when you fully understand them then you can break them." I first studied film at college and I will never forget our first assignment. A particular tutor handed around a basket of boiled eggs and said you can only eat them after you bring me back twelve individual still shots of your egg. "What?" we said. We had to light our eggs, low key, high key, back lit, side lit, up lit etc, etc to get totally varied looks and angles, textures and mood. After our shooting sessions I asked this tutor "Why an egg?" he replied 'If you learn to light and shoot an egg broad end up properly you will be well down the path to lighting a human head." He was right. Our second assignment was a 1" chrome cube... but that's another story:)

Trouble today is no one seems to have the time, inclination or funds to teach the craft any longer. As you say the old trade school culture seems to have faded over time, more's the shame I think.

Chris Young

David Barnett February 16th, 2019 12:57 PM

Re: Why is the interview camera hight so low?
To the OP, could you be referring to 'intentionally (mis)framed shots'??

Either copying The Office style of interviewing, or something with a newer Instagram/selfie look?

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