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English 11-12

Film Techniques: Shot Angles

Shot angles are an essential element to examine when analysing films. So, let's see what angles can mean!

Unsure of how to analyse shot angles in film? Don’t worry. We got your back! We will go through different types of angles, their general effect, show you how to analyse shot angles, and guide you through an example of how to analyse them.


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Table of contents:


What is a shot angle in film?

The angle of a shot, in film, refers to the height that the camera is positioned in relation to the subject.

It is important that you don’t get this confused with shot types. Shots, as they are commonly referenced, refer to the distance of the camera, whereas, shot angles, or, alternatively, film angles, angles,  or camera angles (phew! That’s a lot of synonymous terms), refer to the height and tilt of the camera.

There are a variety of different shot angles that directors can use.

Different angles are used for developing meaning: to provide different perspectives and to shape the audience’s emotions and responses.


Different types of shot angles used in film

Different angles produce different effects for the audience. It is important that you remember all the different angles that directors use in films and know their general effects.

So, let’s take a look now!

Angle of shot Definition Effect Example
High angle shot Filmed from above, where the camera is tilted down onto a subject (approximately 45 degrees) This makes the subject seem smaller and inferior.  blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-high-angle
Bird’s eye view shot Filmed from directly overhead a subject (90 degrees). It is usually is positioned far away so that the subject looks small. It is usually used to quickly set or capture the scene, capture action, or make a subject seem inferior and small.  blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-eagles-eye-view
Low angle shot Film from below, where the camera is tilted up towards a subject (approximately 45 degrees). This makes the subject seem bigger and superior.  blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-low-angle
Worm’s eye view shot Filmed from directly below a subject (90 degrees). The camera is usually placed at ground level.  Worm’s eye view angle makes the subject seem extremely tall and superior. It also creates a disorienting effect.  blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-worms-eye-view
Eye-level angle (straight-on) shot Filmed eye-level to the subject. This is the most common angle you will see. It is a neutral shot that is used to convey information.  blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-mid-eye
Dutch/Tilted/Canted angle shot  The camera is tilted on a horizontal axis. Dutch angles create a disorienting effect. Directors tend to use this angle to represent insanity and madness.  blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-dutch-tilt



How to analyse shot angles

Now that we know the different effects of different angles used in films, let’s see how we can analyse them!

  1. Identify the shot angle in the scene
  2. Identify the general effect of the angle
    1. Identify the atmosphere in the scene
    2. Recall the table above
    3. Adapt your findings to the atmosphere of the scene
  3. Ground your findings in the context of the film
    1. Identify the film’s themes
    2. Figure out what is happening in the film
    3. Adapt the general effect to the above findings
  4. Write a TEEL paragraph


1. Identify the angle in the film

Firstly, you need to identify the angle used in the scene.

Take a few screen grabs of the scene to make this easier for you to do.

You should remember all the different types of shot angles and be comfortable with identifying them. If you’re not, take another read of the above table and continue to practise identifying different angles when you’re watching films!

Here’s a handy image to help you remember the shot types.


Examples of various shot angles


2. Identify the general effect of the angle

Each angle type produces similar effects every time. However, this doesn’t mean that it produces the exact same effect every single time.

So, this step is about identifying the general effect of the angle and adapting it to the atmosphere of the scene.

Let’s see how we can do this:

a. Identify the atmosphere of the scene

Pay attention to your emotions when you watch the scene. Are you frightened, happy, sad, or tense? This will help you identify the mood and atmosphere of the scene.

b. Recall the table above 

Now, you need to recall the general effects of the angle from the table above. Try to memorise the angles and their effects by heart. This will help you analyse angles faster.

c. Adapt your findings to the atmosphere of the scene

After you’ve identifies the atmosphere and the general effect of the angle, you need to combine these findings.

Relate your general effect back to the atmosphere of the scene. Think about how the angle helps the director convey a particular mood.



3. Ground your findings in the context of the film

Now, we need to further ground our findings to the context of the film. Doing this will add sophistication and depth to your analysis.

This step is all about finding the meaning behind the technique and identifying it’s significance.

So, let’s see how we can do this:

a. Identify the film’s themes

Try to figure out the film’s main message and identify ideas and issues that the film consistently discuss. These are your themes.

b. Figure out what is happening in the film

You need to know the storyline of the film and exactly what is happening in your scene to properly analyse the film. Ensure that you know where your scene is placed in regards to the whole film.

c. Adapt the general effect to the above findings

Now, it’s time to find the significance of the effect. To do this, you need to combine all your findings (general effect, themes, and what is happening in the film).

Try to figure out how the effect of the film helps the director emphasise the themes and meaning of the film.


4. Write a TEEL paragraph

Now, we have all the necessary ingredients to put together a T.E.E.L paragraph.

T.E.E.L stands for:

  • Technique: The technique used in the example
  • Example: The example
  • Effect: Your explanation of the effect of this technique and how it develops meaning
  • Link: An explanation of how this example supports your argument.

You can find a more detailed explanation of using T.E.E.L in our post on paragraph structure (this post is part of our series on Essay Writing and shows you the methods Matrix English Students learn to write Band 6 essays in the Matrix Holiday and Term courses).




Example with step-by-step analysis

Now that we know how to analyse angles, let’s put it in practice. We will be analysing a scene from Danny DeVito’s Matilda.

In summary, Maltida is about a gifted girl with telekinesis powers who play tricks on the big bully principal, Miss Trunchbull.



1. Identify the angle in the film

Firstly, take a screengrab of some key moments of the scene. Here are a few that we’ve taken:

blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-matilda-screengrab-1 blog-english-how-to-analyse-shot-angles-matilda-screengrab-2

At a glance, we can immediately identify a low angle shot being used in this scene. The camera is situated at a lower position than Miss Trunchbull and is tilted upwards.


2. Identify the general effect of the angle

a. Identify the atmosphere of the scene

This scene is tense, and frightening but also, quite humorous.

Miss Trunchbull seems scary and intimidating as she threatens Amanda and grabs her pigtails to swing her across the field. However, the process of her swinging Amanda is quite humorous.

b. Recall the table above 

From the table, we can recall that low angles are used to show superiority and dominance.

c. Adapt your findings to the atmosphere of the scene

Since the atmosphere of the scene is quite tense, we can determine that the effect of low angle shots is to make Miss Trunchbull seem more dominant.


3. Ground your findings in the context of the film

Now, it’s time to further ground the general effect to make it specific to this scene.

a. Identify the film’s themes

The main themes in Matilda are reward vs punishment, greed, education, love, and power.

b. Figure out what is happening in the film

In this scene, we learn about Trunchbull’s cruel punishments towards the students as Matilda and her friends talk. We also see Miss Trunchbull pick on Amanda because of her pigtails. After insulting Amanda, Miss Trunchbull picks Amanda up by her pigtails and tosses her across the field.

c. Adapt the general effect to the above findings

We can see that low angle shot is used to convey Miss Trunchbull’s power and dominance over the children. This angle, alongside with her facial expression, emphasises her hatred for children and how she creates fear in the children to maintain her power.


4. Write a TEEL paragraph

Danny Devito highlights how one’s greed for power can cause humans to resort to cruel and unfair punishments to maintain this position. We see this with the low angle shot of Miss Trunchbull’s angry face in Matilda, where she threatens a young student, Amanda, and swings her across the school by her pigtails. Here, the low angle shot makes Miss Trunchbull seem much taller, as though she is towering over little Amanda. It asserts Miss Trunchbull’s power and dominance over the students and emphasises her unfair hatred towards these children through the exaggerated angry facial features. As such, Devito emphasises how an individual’s desire for power can compel them to act cruelly to maintain it.


Get the right angle on film analysis!

Get ahead of your peers and ace your film analysis now. Learn how to analyse angles and other film techniques, and how to write about them with our expert teachers. Learn more about our Year 11 English Course now. 

Written by Tammy Dang

Tammy is a former student of Matrix and is now studying Law / Media (Screen and Sound Production) at UNSW. She is a Digital Content Writer for the Matrix Education blog. Tammy aspires to become a lawyer in the future while continuing to run her art business.


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