Perspective on VW’s Darth Vader Commercial

By now you’ve probably all seen the fantastic commercial by Volkwagen featuring the pint sized Darth Vader struggling to use The Force as he roams around the house. But what you probably never paid attention to were the camera angles they used:

Now, the thing I want to point out is how intentional they were in choosing the perspective for each shot. It starts with a very low vertical panning shot. This immediately distinguishes him as a prominent, powerful individual regardless of the fact that he’s probably 4 years old and 3 feet tall. That said, the right camera angle can in fact make you look younger, thinner, more powerful, and all that. The trick is to learn how to communicate that from the right perspective. (Hint: photographers would do well to study cinematography.)

Also, notice the camera height on the majority of the shots. Almost all of them were shot at the kid’s eye level, and that was by no means an accident. This helps bring the audience into his world and see things as he does. The number one mistake I see in photographs of children is that the photographer was too lazy to kneel down and see eye-to-eye with them. Do yourself (and your subject) a favor and put yourself in their shoes. Your images will be much better for it. (Hint: This also applies when shooting animals.)

There are two shots taken from a higher perspective, and there is very good reason for those as well. Around the 8 second mark he is wielding his powers against an object much bigger than him. By shooting from high above and looking down they exaggerate the proportions and communicate that this little kid isn’t one to back down from a challenge. He’s shooting for the moon. Then halfway through the commercial they include a shot looking down on him in the kitchen almost as if to remind us that his mom is just humoring him. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that these two scenes appear when they do. There’s a timing and sequence to it all.

Even the shot of him running past his dad is still on his level. Heck, his dad’s head is cut out of the frame because it’s not important. The story is all about the boy; there is enough context to communicate that the man is his father, but everything beyond that is unnecessary. Find your story or subject and then keep the audience’s attention focused on that.

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