This article is about the different meanings of the phrase “point of view,” and how each definition applies to film and video production.
The three applications of this phrase are as follows:
1.) The angle taken by the actual camera. In filming, point of view (or POV) means a shot that is seen literally from the audiences point of view. If you are watching the film, it looks like the scene is being seen through your eyes.
Here is an example of a POV video.
2.) When it comes to the phrase point of view, this is the definition that I am most familiar with. Probably because I spent 12 years in the public school system while this was pounded into my head. The second definition refers to what is known in literature as “person”, i.e. first-person, second-person, third-person. Depending on which voice is used, the point of view of the story changes.
3.) The final definition is the more vague concept of world-view. This is what people mean when they try to debate politics with each other and reference other peoples’ “point-of-view.” They do not mean that they are physically seeing the world through the eyes of that person, or that they are speaking as if they were that person- instead, they are referring to someone’s opinions, beliefs, and attitudes that stem from their place in the world.
The link above is to a blog written by a resident of Mozambique. He uses his point of view to write comics about his life there. The whole pig thing… Well I haven’t gotten to the point where I really get that yet.
These three definitions do not always apply to all aspects of a film. Each genre uses point of view separately. For example, there are films that use POV shot every now and then to make the viewer see things from the characters eyes. The suspension of disbelief can only be held onto for so long in this situation, which is why movie makers generally avoid long POV shots. Leaving a viewer looking from the eyes of someone else for too long is jarring and uncomfortable.
This is an example of a short POV shot in a film.
The “person” from which a story is told is also more difficult to convey in film. Because of the discomfort of POV shots lasting too long, filmmakers will instead have a first person narration to portray the perspective of the main character. Third person perspective is displayed on the camera, but the thoughts of the character make it a first person scene.
Second person, addressing the viewer directly, is rarely used in film and is instead used to educate or inform a viewer directly, like in how-to videos, educational film, or advertisements.
Check out this clip of Richard Simmons, everybody’s favorite work-out instructor, to see what I mean.
I’m not sure it’s possible to make a film or video production in which somebody’s point of view (as in world view) is chosen over another. In America, we have a lot of American perspective in film. This particular definition, at least in film, is hard to separate from persuasion. The only example to the contrary that stands out to me is a documentary, where the filmmaker is trying their best to make us see the world from another persective, or another person’s point of view.