What is a Head on Shot in Film_

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What is a Head on Shot in Film?

Filmmakers use different types of shots. Such as the head-on shot which provides a frontal, eye-level view of a character. To evoke various audience responses. But what is a head on shot in film and why is this type of shot popular? What emotions can be generated using an eye level shot that faces the character head on?

on set 2 - BBP

So many questions may come up when you’re just thinking about the head-on shot in film and what it means. If you’re new to cinematography, you’re probably quickly realizing that there are seemingly infinite ways to adjust the camera and the angle at which you’re filming.

All of this in order to achieve the desired emotions or underlying tensions within the audience. The head-on shot is one of several unique shots that you’ll have in your arsenal of options when you begin planning your shot list.

What is a Head on Shot in Film?

A head-on shot, or eye-level shot captures the subject by framing his or her face from directly in front of the camera without any profile or side views.

If you think of what a train conductor would see if someone were standing on the train tracks staring head-on to the light of the oncoming train. That’s a head-on shot!

Why is the Head On Shot Used in Filmmaking?

The head on shot in film is often used to provide a subjective view of a character. It’s as if we’re seeing a character through the eyes of another character.

By having the subject view the camera at eye level, looking directly into the camera. Filmmakers are able to use the head-on shot to elicit an emotional connection between the character on the screen and the audience.

The idea is that, whatever the character is feeling at the time of the head on shot, the audience will feel as well.

When are Head on Shots Used?

BBp camera crews

Head on shots are used to connect the audience with the emotions of the character. We see this when a particular moment is questionable. Or it’s incredibly uncomfortable for a character.

And the filmmaker wants to drive home the connection that the audience feels to the character’s concern over the situation.

Eye level shots or head on shots are frequently used to offer a neutral perspective in which the audience accepts that this particular character is feeling a particular way.

But there is neither a superior nor an inferior character connection. The head on shot can be used to closely signify how we see people in everyday life.

The Implications

What happens when you look someone dead in the eyes, head on? You’re signaling neutral ground. Breaking down the boundaries between yourself and the other individual.

To show that you’re neither bigger than, nor are you smaller than, this individual. The same holds true for the use of a head on shot in film.

So, what is a head on shot in film? It’s a shot that is captured at eye-level from directly in front of the character. To create a sense of neutrality while offering a direct connection into the emotions that the character is currently feeling. 

If you want to learn how you can pull a head shot off in your film, check this video from Film Riot out!