A Little Perspective!

Oh, the joys of online shows and teaching, filming in our front rooms, kitchens, gardens and if you are super lucky big, open studios. This discussion is talking about our cameras and how we can get the most from our recordings by looking at perspective!

Before starting to record any performance or class, we all should do a test run to get a feel for what we want to accomplish in the space allowed. Use this practice to ask yourself, how much space do I need to accomplish my goal? What if any props am I using? What is my lighting situation? What is the feel of my piece? Asking yourself these questions and having a plan before you start, can really make a big difference in your recordings.

Perspective in Photography and Video, is defined as the sense of depth or spatial relationship between objects in a photo. By changing perspective objects can seem bigger or smaller in relation to the angle of the camera. In the simplest example we can look at the classic “road into the distance” image. In this image you see that the road at the bottom of the image, is much larger then the tree in the middle of the image. Though you know the image is 2-D, it creates a 3-D feel, by using a vanishing point or point of convergence to create the allusion of depth, this is basic perspective. In photography and videography you can also use perspective to create the focal point, this is the point you want your audience to focus on the most. While you might assume it would be the entirety of the dancers body, certain angles can actually hyper focus the audience’s eye on a smaller portion of the dancers body, because of the perspective created with the camera.

In the sample pictures you see black lines, that mark out the point of convergence to give you a sense of the perspective of each angle. The pictures, represent a small, narrow, well lit room. The tripod images are to show you each level clearly marked, the first tripod always stays at my eye level for reference.

We start with the camera approximately at eye level, and flat on to the dancer. In portrait view you see that the dancer has minimal space to move side to side (this is obviously increased with landscape mode) and some space to move forward and backwards. It does not offer very much perspective or depth, but does give a balanced focal point of the entire dancer to the audience. As a side note, I will say this is the easiest view to light.

The tripod in quite high in this next example, so I suggest only using a high quality tripod to achieve this angle or a good sturdy shelf, I would hate to see you lose a phone or webcam, due to it falling to the ground.

This angle has the camera above the dancer, pointed downwards. This angle is for performances where you want to have access to moving forward and backwards, and is great for interacting up close to the audience without losing all of your body. The down side is it can limit raised arm positions, and would not be a good choice for props used over the head.

This last example is one of the most common, currently used for online shows, simply because it is the easiest to accomplish with a laptop camera, or with a phone or tablet propped up on a table. I actually tried to use the height of the table to replicate this angle.

The camera is below the dancer and tilted upwards. This angle gives you the ability to see the arms, but loses the feet very quickly. The main focus comes in at the hips and belly, and you can lose the face, as lighting this angle can be more difficult. It can be very good angle for props that you are doing over the head.

Each of these angles can be used for different types of performances, the key is using the angle that is best suited for what you are creating. You always want your audience to see what you are offering, losing a hip move because the camera cuts off just below the waist, or not seeing your face because it is too dark, for example, can disappoint the audience even with an otherwise amazing performance. So I really hope you take this information and have a play and see what you come up with, and definitely keep an eye out, as I offer even more tech tips.

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