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August 7, 2017

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One-Point Perspective

July 23, 2017


I love that title. It’s so evocative of what the technique actually does – changing your perspective. Here’s a couple of one-point perspective shots from one of my movies.





Hi, my name is Miguel Parga, I’m a filmmaking teacher. That sounds almost like I’m introducing myself at a Filmmakers Anonymous meeting. I guess that’s not far from the truth. For those of us who have the film bug, we understand. When you're into film, mere marginal involvement is never good enough. It often turns into an obsession. For me it’s an addiction.


Fellini said: “Film is a decease. It’s cure: more film.” He was right.


But what is it exactly that we’re addicted to? Many things I suppose, but for me, it has to do a lot with the way films make me see the world in a different light.


That’s what we do as artists, help others see the world differently. When that happens, colors seem brighter, smells amplify, sensations become all-encompassing. It feels almost like a communion with forces beyond us, like we’re connected to millions of other lives and somehow we are all feeling this together.


Don't you love it when you walk out of a movie theater yet somehow you're still in the movie? The world outside feels just like the fantasy world of the film. It's marvelous.


It doesn’t last long. Then we start craving it.


It’s no secret to those who know me that one of my favorite filmmakers is Stanley Kubrick.


Kubrick used the one-point perspective shot in his work quite often. There’s even a youtube video of a bunch of his shots cut together to music. Here’s the link. 




Here’s how the genius of Kubrick worked. A one-point perspective shot is when all the horizontal lines in your frame, if you were to extend them infinitely, would disappear into a point, usually at the center of the frame. That’s the vanishing point. Think about looking at a train track disappearing in the distance.


Kubrick used the shot endlessly, both static and moving. Here are some examples.




Humans don’t usually see the world in one-point perspective. It happens, but it's not that common. If you’re in a room, your head usually sits a bit above where it would have to be for the lines in the room to disappear into one vanishing point in the center.


In order for this to happen you have to lower your gaze by about a foot.


Go ahead. Try it. Get up. Go to the middle of the room, then crouch down about a foot, and look at the room from that vantage point.


Different right? Walks around looking for shots.


You just forced yourself to look at the world in a different way. This is what Kubrick is making you do. Whether you want to or not, he's forcing you to do it.


Remember that scene in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams tells his students to get up on top of his desk, just to remind themselves that they must look at the world from a different point of view.



This is what art is supposed to do. Yes, it’s there to entertain and all that, but it can also serve a much higher purpose. It can wake us up from the stupor we fall into every day. Humans have a defense mechanism. We tune out. Art shakes us up. It wakes us up to the beauty that was always there and we stopped noticing.


Kubrick forces you to look at the world differently. When you crouch down, you’re looking at the world from the point of view of somebody that height – a child perhaps. In this way the director forces, not only a change of perspective, but a psychological change as well. He wants you to look at the world through the eyes of a child.


He wants you to remember what the world looked like from that height, when your imagination was open, and you saw the universe with new eyes. Pretty brilliant, I'd say.


Now go watch some movies! Kubrick ones!




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