Appreciating the High Ground
The versatility and gravitas of the bird’s-eye shot.
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The bird's-eye shot, also known as the overhead shot or the god's-eye view, is what you see when the camera is elevated above its subject and points directly down toward the ground. This presents the viewer with an unnatural perspective. One of the more common reasons for employing the bird's-eye shot is to express magnitude and/or scale. Capturing a moment from above grants us clear view of the action. Think of how Paul W.S. Anderson pits hordes of zombies against Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil movies, or the epic Crazy 88 battle in Kill Bill: Vol. I. A traditional camera position would not allow us to truly see the daunting task that lay before the blood-spattered Uma Thurman. Seeing from above as the men close in on her, we can better appreciate the gravity of the situation. Beyond that, the bird's-eye shot may be the most versatile in a filmmaker’s arsenal. Within different contexts, it can be used to communicate everything from confinement to freedom. This video explores six different uses of the bird's-eye shot with examples from a variety of films.