Style and the Camera (Discussion)

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Depth of field

Focal length

  • Explain what focal length is -- using the textbook illustrations.
  • How does a zoom in/out look different from a track in/out?
  • How does the Vertigo effect illustrate the impact of focal length on the illusion of depth in an image? View clip (starting at 35 seconds)

Aspect ratio

  • Explain what aspect ratio is -- using the textbook illustrations.
  • Also explain letterbox, pillarbox and pan-and-scan.

Framing, height, and movement

  • Explain the significance of camera framing, height, and movement -- using the textbook illustrations.
  • When might movement be used that does not follow a character?
  • How is a Steadicam shot different from a handheld shot?

DP exercise

If you were a DP reshooting the Northern Exposure and New Girl shots (below), how might you change these cinematographic aspects?

  1. Describe a cinematographic element's use in these two screenshots. I.e., start by describing the frame's depth of field (Group 3), focal length (Group 5), aspect ratio (Groups 6 & 1), and framing/height (Groups 2 & 4).
  2. Imagine changing that element's use in this frame.
    • Groups 6 & 1: these screenshots use different aspect ratios. What if they were swapped?
    • Group 5: how might a zoom lens (a variable focal-length lens) be used in this shot?
  3. How would such a change affect the scene's impact or the viewer's understanding of it?
Frame capture from Northern Exposure.
Frame capture from Northern Exposure. View clip (starting at 22 seconds).  
Frame capture from The New Girl.
Frame capture from The New Girl. View clip.  


  1. Butler, Jeremy G. Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture. New York: Routledge, 2018.

External links