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Actor/Director Film Lab

Lesson 2 of 16

Free Preview: Camera Placement

Robert Milazzo

Actor/Director Film Lab

Robert Milazzo

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Lesson Info

2. Free Preview: Camera Placement
The most important decision you have to make is where you are going to put the camera – find out where to place it.


  Class Trailer
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1 Shot Sizes Duration:16:46
3 Camera Movement Duration:14:06
4 Actor Critique: Speed Duration:19:09
5 Actor Critique: Motion Duration:10:35
6 Actor Critique: Size Duration:14:49
7 Dynamics of Rehearsal Duration:11:53
8 Dynamics of The Shoot Duration:18:51

Lesson Info

Free Preview: Camera Placement

Typically, the next logical kind of subset of vocabulary words is what we call camera camera placement. I used to work for david mamet, writer, director, and he would say the most important decision you have to make is where you're gonna put the camera and you can make that case very firmly, whether your cinematographer or filmmaker, where am I going to put the camera? One of the most vexing propositions for filmmaker is space because it is the greatest illusion that film's perpetrate every nothing. You see israel, I'm not talking about the orange, they're appealing, I'm talking about the room there in I always laugh, you know, actors will say to me, I want to work in films because it's more realistic to me, it is the exact opposite you can't. You couldn't existing amore fabricated environment than a film set. Who in here has ever been on the films that just observing? Don't be shy if you've never done it, don't okay, so what do you think about that? That thesis that a film set is actu...

ally the height of art of artifice and the artificial you think that's politicizing that? Do you think that's relatively true, relatively true, everything is like very arranged there was a place for basically everyone in the room yeah and not on I love it I don't deny it you were in a room with lights that are attached to ceilings my kitchen doesn't look like this this gentleman is not in my bathroom when I wake up thankfully he's a great guy alex but you know this is the height of artificial and we embrace that and film has to that's that's the magician's trick you know that's what orson welles called film it's a magician's trick and well loved magic and all that kind of thing oh anyway camera placement and man it just to finish finish on ma'am it it's in mamet's book and I'm not plugging this book in any way but I learned a lot of the basic lessons from dave because dave is really a simple technician and a crafts person but another filmmaker who he learned from with sidney lumet's and I actually worked for something really brief really really great filmmaker and what was great about sydney is he worked in tv party and film and we're going toe look at those molecules a little later in the course the difference is the different the different realities of different different mediums and city would always say you know where am I going to put the camera if you look well if you look at twelve angry men signal matt if you look at any of the early suits and you'll met films iceman cometh anything with whom meant just to finish on movement that you think is boring is purposeful in twelve angry men. What he did, which was fascinating as the movie progresses, each lens of the camera is longer and longer. I don't know if you would know what does anyone know what the effect of a long lens is? Visa vi, the background and the subject. What happens to the background in the subject when you's a long lenses and one no closer? Absolutely it will. Of course, you know who brought this man in here? He's a ringer? Absolutely one hundred percent. It literally conscious that it brings the background closer to the subject. So what he wanted to do in twelve angry men is make you feel more and more claustrophobic. So every lenses longer and every background is encroaching, encroaching christians, something john houston did as well with maltese falcon. You know, he did it in a different way, which we're going to talk about now, let's talk about and that's actually a beautiful way to segue way I could have planned it any better. Quite frankly, camera placement. And what houston did is he would place the camera before talk about john huston angularity we talk about first placement in terms of angularity. I don't say that to the dp the cinematographer? Yeah, let's put it in the northwest corner of the room, you know, we don't that we don't use vocabulary in that way, but what we do use in terms of how we filmed the subject is everything is referenced in terms of angularity high angle, so high angle is when the camera is higher than checked, ok, so if we're using this premise again that there's no such thing as an actor, their subjects ok, I'm not going to car scott guest subjects will call them actors, but because they've earned that, but behind the scenes they're subjects when the camera there's a good example, this camera, if I'm going to kneel down for a second and that cameras photographing me, it is higher than me it is it is rendering the work in a high angle now what's interesting about that term and why I think it trips people up is what it really does in hitchcock use this one time but hitchcock before hitchcock uses this a lot, this kind of conspiratorial thing what it does and why that word high trips people up is it often makes the subject seemed less powerful, you know, it kind of uh de energizes them these air just cliches aspects of it, but what it does to it does address something that actors are often working with and that's height it deals with with subject hide in an interesting way now will go on to low angle because this is john houston. Then this is more about actor hype. This is this may not be a dirty little secret. I won't name names, but I will tell you a lot of actors will have it in their contract that they're to be shot primarily with a low angle. Okay, so if this up the camera is lower than the subject, low angle, okay, why, when you think of the relationship between subject in camera right, here we go. So low camera is lower than me, right lower than I subject. Why thanks dream? Why? Why would an actor this's is a tricky question? Why would an actor want to be shot from a low angle? Makes him told her I don't I'm not left to get on the critical value, but there are actors and it's one of the most disarming things I don't know if you guys have ever run into actors who you've watched on screen and my god, how many times have you submit my god that that dude is really short not naming names yeah it's one of and look it's not like they want to look like superheroes it just may be a slight adjustment I'll give you one that's very clear not to be brewed al pacino pacino very typical I don't know if it's in this contract but something some communications had that you see a lot of pacino's worked slightly it's a slight thing it's not like john houston and in the maltese falcon because what john houston wanted to do with bogart when they were chasing the dingus as he called it, one of my favorite movie props you kept calling it the dingus when they're chasing that I love that when they're chasing the dennis he would shoot low because what john wanted to do was use something that we rarely use in movies, which is the ceiling well, how many times do you see the ceiling in the film less than like two percent of movies ever made use the seal right? You right? Here is where we put exactly where things hang, you know, microphones or lights or or there's no ceiling because we're in a studio you know, uh s o in just to balance these points I think when I study film I like to study craft and perspective, you know, I'm looking at something like the maltese falcon and saying look low angle ceiling cost a phobia and john huston was doing something that a lot of filmmakers in the early forties were doing which was boring from german expressionism how does one into great the meat will be called the maison send into the performance low angles a beautiful way watch maltese falcon you'll never see it the same way watch another john houston movie recently that he did the same thing and it was a movie made in the seventies in the late seventies one of his last films called true blood still doing the same things awesome still doing the same tricks low angle ceiling coming up height so if you look it not too long ago so glengarry glen ross again the film and there's a beautiful shot where pacino is sitting with jack lemmon great shot and pacino's listening till them and basically the ideas pacino saying just you talk I'll listen it's awesome and the camera pulls back we'll talk about what that pullback is called in a second and you can see a slightly a slightly high angle a slightly low angle camera lower than the subject in the way I knew that it was a little angles you see a lot of the floor so it stands to reason if I'm pulling back here I'm going to see the floor if the camera is up because if it's level I'm not going to see the floor expose itself so it's very subtle I'm not saying you know, again this idea of height and illusion oftentimes when actors air filmed with low angle it's often very subtle in that way, so they're subtle expressions of height however, your point speaks to a different psychology and this isn't really interesting important psychology I think that we do romanticize performance in that way, you know, when we see people in real life who have been filmed there's always a disconnection and we've talked about some of the disconnection sometimes it's await disconnection under if you've ever met an actor who you've seen and you think they're probably shorter than you thought your something they're really skinny. I thought they were skinny when I watched him there like half the size because again we're talking about what does the camera due to performance? Okay high angle camera higher than subject low angle camera lower than the subject then we have we called this is always the most vexing angle I'm kind of exposing it here, but typically I'll hold off in ask students what is that last angle? And they can't wrap their brain around what angle is and we call it the eye level angle and when you think of why it's called the eye level and what's called high level because film ultimately in all its forms and all its neuroses and manipulations is is about your about the eye is about the experience of the eye right the camera is ultimately about the experience of the eye now this khun render itself in so many ways you know films was a lady in the lake was filmed all from the point of view of the camera now there's a new film so it's on internet film that was all done almost like a first person shooter all from the perspective think was j j abrams some really hip modern filmmaker was doing all point of view so everything ultimately is a point of view shots cameras don't turn themselves on you know cameras don't place themselves in environments so everything in a way is the psychology of the eye later on in the course we're going to talk about eyes but that's why we call it an eye level angle now an eye level angle khun b here it's all in relationship to the subject ok, I level angle khun b a camera here facing my belly button I level angle doesn't mean we have to see the eyes it just means the balance of it is a representation the purest representation of what the isis does that make sense essentially think of it this way in closing a straight line has a degree mint has has a degree measurement on it a degree measurement of one hundred eighty degrees when the camera represents something in one hundred eight as one hundred eighty degrees it's an eye level angle

Class Description

The relationship between the filmmaker, the actor, and the camera is an integral part of every production, but is rarely discussed. In Actor/Director Film Lab, Robert Milazzo explores cinematographic craft and collaboration and its relationship to acting and performance.

In this beginner-friendly class, both filmmakers and actors learn new ways to work together to bring their best work to life. Filmmakers develop new skills for effectively communicating and collaborating with performers. Actors learn how cameras capture performance and how to adjust their work to suit a production’s technical realities.

Actor/Director Film Lab equips those who work on both sides on the camera with insights that improve their working/artistic relationships, while strengthening the quality of their professional film work.

Special Guests:

  • David Morse, Actor 
  • Kasi Lemmons, Writer/Director/Actor 
  • Keith Gordon, Writer/Director


Philip John

I thoroughly enjoyed and became a better craftsman by watching and partaking in this workshop. Congrats Rob you're inspiring and down to earth made this experience a real pleasure. Cheers Mate Phil from Sydney Australia

Carlos Sandoval

I´ve seen a couple of lessons so far, and this is really a great class. Robert know his subject. Just by listening to him talk about Cassavetes and other fascinating filmmakers that rarely get mentioned nowdays, I get on track. The best.

Laura Latimer

Great Class - Thank you!