Point of view cutting (or POV cutting) is a technique used in film editing, which spatially relates two shots. The first shot shows a person looking at an object, usually offscreen. The second shot shows the object of the person's gaze, from their point of view. This second shot is also known as a point of view shot.

POV cutting is a type of eyeline match. While eyeline matches and POV cuts both show the film spectator the object of the character's gaze, a POV cut shows the object strictly from the perspective of the character; eyeline matches can show the more space around the object and can be shot from a different angle. For POV shots, the camera is positioned "in" the character's eyes.

Another very subtle distinction is that for eyeline matches, which also consist of two shots, the observer and the object are not shown together in the same shot; for POV cutting, the object may be in the same shot as the observer. For example, a character is reading a newspaper, and there is a cut to allow the spectator to read the headline.

Although POV cutting is fairly intuitive, a diagram might help (sorry for the bad ASCII artwork). Compare this to the diagram for eyeline matches.

+------------------------------------+
|                                    |
|       __                  __       |
|      /  \                /  \      |
|      |  o --eyeline-->   o  |      |
|      |@  \              /  @|      |
|      \__-                -__/      |
|      /  \                /  \      |
|      | A \              / B |      |
+------------------------------------+

Shot 1: This establishing shot shows person A looking straight at person B. This shot pulls double duty, establishing the space both people occupy and showing the eyeline that will be followed. Eyeline matches are so suggestive that an establishing shot is often not necessary and is omitted.


+------------------------------------+
|                                    |
|                ___                 |
|               /   \                |
|               |o o|                |
|               | v |                |
|               \_-_/                |
|              /     \               |
|             /   B   \              |
+------------------------------------+

Shot 2: This shot is filmed from person A's point of view, so the spectators are now looking straight at person B. The camera is placed approximately where person A's eyes would be.




      _                   _
     / \                 / \
-----|A )--[2]<---------( B|-----
     \_/                 \_/


                v
               [1]

Overhead: This is an overhead diagram showing the camera placements for each shot. The cameras are represented by the square bracketed number and an angle bracket. The dashed line represents the axis of action.

Shot 1 was taken by camera 1, which is on the bottom of the diagram. Shot 2 was taken by camera 2, which is on the axis of action, facing towards person B.


POV cutting is often used instead of regular eyeline matches for some specific narrative function. For example, a POV shot may be used to limit specators' knowledge to a character's knowledge, to increase suspense. One of the most common uses of POV cutting allows spectators to read something that a character is reading.

There is a nice example of this in Fight Club, Everything2's favorite film. Warning: very mild spoiler ahead.

Around 21 minutes into the film, the Narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are talking for the first time in an airplane. After Tyler asks the Narrator why airlines put oxygen masks on planes, the Narrator looks down at the air safety card. There is a cut to the point of view shot, and the card is shown on screen as if we were holding it and looking down. Part of the Narrator's thumb is in the frame, to give more spatial context. This particular POV cut is also an eyeline match; when the Narrator looks down, the card is offscreen.

POV cutting is a valuable editing technique, because it effectively puts spectators in the film.


Notes

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction, Sixth Edition. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001).


/msg me with any corrections or comments.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.