High-angle shot definition

The high-angle camera shot is one of the powerful “how’s”. It is a cinematic or photography technique that describes how a subject is filmed. A picture can be defined as a high angle when the camera is placed above the character and points down to the scene.

Various types of shooting — for example, eye level, POV, or others — are used to evoke specific feelings within viewers. The high angle is no different and makes the scene look and feel different in its specific way.

Let’s explore some common high-angle shots examples used in movies and see how each of them helps convey certain emotions.

Types of high angles

Basically, shooting from above can result in the following types of shots:

  • A narrative one is informative and gives an overview of the scene. Viewers can better see the context, understand the scale of the location or crowd. The camera can sweep over the scene, which usually looks very impressive when done using special film equipment, like cranes or drones.

    On the screen above from the “Parasite” movie by Bong Joon-ho, the camera shows many people in the shelter where they stay after the flood. Viewers can understand how big the disaster was and feel how small and vulnerable the characters are in this crowd.

  • An emotional high angle (also called visceral, bird’s eye view, or overhead) is filmed almost straight down and creates lots of thrill or tension. Viewers feel anxiety and fear for characters as it seems something bad is about to happen or has just happened.

    For example, in “Parasites”, the bird’s eye view of the party table with drops of blood induces anxiety and creates tension. Viewers sense that something really terrible has occurred. The contrast between the brightness of the picture and the tragic event emphasizes how terrifying the overall situation is.

  • A character-driven shot concentrates on subjects. When viewed from above, they appear smaller and thus seem weaker and more vulnerable.

    In one of the “Parasite” scenes, the high-angle shot just above the eye level of the father of the Kim family indicates his weakness and lower social position.

To sum up, filming from above helps evoke feelings of the characters’ powerlessness or anxious anticipation in general. The more extreme the angle is, the more powerful the emotions can be. That is why many thriller or horror films use this type of shot to create tension, emphasize the danger, and make the scenes dramatic.