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Camera Height with sitting and standing actors


DanielSydney
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If there is one actor is sitting and the other one standing:

At which height do you put the camera.

  • at eye level of the actor we are seeing
  • at eye level of the actor they are speaking to (which I found a bit exegeratted)
  • or at eye level slightly below or above eye level to give the sense of the height of the actor they are speaking to 

 

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As Uli suggests, there are aesthetic considerations and there separate narrative language considerations. So you have to decide if you’re trying to make the audience feel a certain way about the characters and what’s happening in the scene, or whether you’re just trying to make the actors/subjects look proportional - for example, a lot of fashion and architectural photography falls into the latter category.

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40 minutes ago, DanielSydney said:

thanks for your replies.

I meant more if I do not want to give a priority to a certain character, rather if their relationship is neutral. 

A neutral perspective would suggest a moderate wide-angle to medium focal length lens with a level camera (not tilted up or down), at a subject-to-lens distance that is not overly intimate nor overly distant. Perhaps approximately 4-8’ away. Naturally at that distance and lens, you shouldn’t need to tilt the camera to maintain headroom if you lower the camera height to about chest level. A good rule of thumb is, the wider the frame, the lower the camera. Full shots would be closer to waist height. Close ups are usually close to eye level for a neutral perspective.

‘Perspective’ is the key term here, and is mainly determined by subject to lens distance. If you want the audience to feel more intimate with a character, move the camera closer. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

For a neutral angle, I would usually pull the camera back, set it for dead level, use a slightly long lens (70-90mm) to help minimize differences in the size of the actors, and set the camera height to split the difference between the two heads. To me, a longer lens also gives a sense of remove—the camera isn't judging, it's just observing.

The exact height of the camera is going to depend on what's in the background, obviously you don't want any distracting lines sticking out of anyone's head or face.

Edited by Richard Swearinger
I'm not good with first drafts.
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2 hours ago, Richard Swearinger said:

For a neutral angle, I would usually pull the camera back, set it for dead level, use a slightly long lens (70-90mm) to help minimize differences in the size of the actors, and set the camera height to split the difference between the two heads. To me, a longer lens also gives a sense of remove—the camera isn't judging, it's just observing.

Kurosawa would probably agree with you! But Ozu or David Fincher would each do it very differently, even though both were also going for an observational approach. It’s fascinating how different our individual perception can be.

Personally I like John Ford’s method - lens as a medium wide proscenium from roughly waist height, similar to Ozu but with less rigid adherence to perspective. Of course, a lot of Ford’s characters were standing or on horseback, rather than seated on a tatami floor!

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Of course, in medium/wide shots in the old 1.37 Academy format, you could just leave a lot of headroom for the stand-up moment so you didn't have to tilt.

That’s very true. I love that about older 1.33/1.37 films, much less rigid adherence to headroom and consequently some very creative compositions. One of the downsides of widescreen formats, though it has other advantages. 

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9 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

It seems like the OP is talking about camera height for the individual singles, rather than for a medium or two-shot.

Yes, I think you’re right. 

Isn’t camera height for wider shots a more interesting discussion though? 🙂

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7 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

 Isn’t camera height for wider shots a more interesting discussion though? 🙂

It is 🙂

In wider shots, camera height (and position) becomes less about the actors themselves and more about placing them within the space, paying attention to foreground and background elements, and creating an overall composition.

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