Features and Columns · Movies

A Beginner’s Guide to Shutter Angle

It’s a matter of degrees.
Blonde Cameras
By  · Published on May 5th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores what shutter angle means in the context of cinematography.

If I had known how much movie-making hinges on optical physics, I would have paid a lot more attention in high school.

In all seriousness, I do think that you could build an entire “intro to how we see stuff” class around examples from filmmaking. Case in point: shutter angle, a useful way of describing the shutter speed relative to the frame rate. What does that mean, exactly? While if you’re a visual learner like me, you’ll want to scroll down to the video essay below, which does a bang-up job explaining what shutter angle is, how it differs from shutter speed, and why filmmakers might choose to play around with it, for narrative and aesthetic effect.

Vaguely, shutter angle has to do with the way that our eyes perceive the illusion of movement when we’re shown two frames in quick succession. A camera’s shutter controls how we perceive movement in successive images because it’s the shutter — a rotating circular disc — that determines how much light gets through to the exposed film. (Or, if you’re working with digital, how many frames are captured).

The result of playing around with shutter angle is exaggerated motion; either hyper-crisp images (think: the stuttering, crisp image directors often use to convey war flashbacks) or lagging motion blur. You’ve almost certainly seen directors use shutter angle to create impressionistic motion. Still, now — with the help of the below video essay — you’ll be able to attach some technical jargon to the phenomena.

Watch “Shutter Angle In Cinematography Explained”

Who made this?

This video essay on the purpose and technique of shutter angle in cinematography is by In Depth Cine, a YouTube account dedicated to providing its audience with practical rundowns and explainers on some of the more technical aspects of movie-making. Gray Kotzé, a documentary DP based in South Africa, is the man behind the channel. You can check out Kotzé’s portfolio on their website here. And you can check out In Depth Cine on YouTube here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.