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Response to Douglas & Harnden, “Point of View”

I love how much of my communications class ties into what I’ve been doing in my other classes. Today we’re going to cover various points of view as explained in chapter 3 of John S. Douglass and Glenn P. Harnden’s The Art of Technique. They say that “the moving POV shot is particularly effective in horror and monster movies to build suspense” and I’d say that this is best illustrated in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). This first person shot doesn’t let you know who the killer is or how old he is, and it makes it even more shocking when the camera switches to the third person and reveals the killer’s identity.

First person shots, then, are shots that show what the character would see with their own eyes. The first-person perspective can last the entirety of a novel or a video game, but it doesn’t work for long periods in film because it lacks the increased information of a third-person perspective. The longer a first-person shot goes, the harder it is to believe it.

Second-person perspectives also have a purpose. The idea is to address the viewer directly, and commercials frequently will refer to “you” the viewer. Training videos and informational videos are also designed specifically to target the active viewer. The idea is that someone is giving a presentation to you and hopefully you’ll respond to what they’re saying by buying a product, voting, heeding safety guidelines, etc.

Third-person perspectives are most common in movies and TV shows. They show all characters from an imaginary “observer’s point of view, but this point of view is not omniscient,” the reason being that videos don’t have time for all the inner thoughts of characters that a novel can provide. The scripts might write out these thoughts, but the scriptwriters are talking to actors not the audience.

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