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Shooting video in Holland?

If a Producer asks you to shoot a “Dutch Angle” would you immediately dust off your passport and book the very next flight to Amsterdam? Sounds like a nice idea but in actual fact it’s a lot nearer than Schipol Airport.

A “Dutch” angle is the process of tilting the camera at an acute or diagonal plane from the horizontal so as to give a slant to the picture forming an oblique shot. It is a compositional effect that is sometimes combined with a high angle or extreme low angle view and is often used as a dramatic effect to give a scene tension or a slight uneasiness. Hitchcock used this technique frequently in his movies to add to the psychological tension of a scene. It was also famously used in the 1949 film “The Third Man” where Carol Reed used the technique extensively, adding an additional dramatic edge to Orson Welles’ performance as Harry Lime.

The origin of the term “Dutch” angle is very vague but it is thought to have originated from the famous German film-maker Robert Wiene who used this effect for the first time in the 1919 German movie “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” where it was referred to as the “Deutsche” angle which was later re-interpreted as “Dutch”. It has also been called the canted angle, German angle, Dutch tilt or even a “Batman” referring to the original 1960s television series which over used the technique to an alarming degree, utilizing it in almost every shot.

The technique is often used in filming tall buildings or structures where the oblique angle emphasizes the dramatic structure of a building giving it a grandeur and making it appear imposing and dominating against its surroundings, in this instance it can often be referred to as a “thrusting diagonal”.

Sometimes “Dutch” angles can be combined to make up a sequence of effects. Here the angles are alternated, so if in the first shot the angle is to the right the following shot is to the left, this allows each subsequent shot to be edited together to construct a dramatic sequence.

So the next time the Director asks you for a “Dutch” there’s no need to brush up on your Flemish!


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