POV shot in IKEA commercial

Emma Coats, former story artist at Pixar, recently tweeted a link to this commercial as an example of visual storytelling. Watch the commercial in the video below:

So far, I’ve been writing about cinematic storytelling (with one exception) using various movies as examples. However, cinematic storytelling doesn’t apply only to the movies, it has its place also in video games, music videos or TV commercials.

POV shot

The IKEA commercial uses one of the basic shots of cinematic language – the POV (point of view) shot. The POV shot shows literally, what the character sees. Additionally, through POV shot, we can experience not only what the character sees, but also how he feels or moves.

The POV shot is usually edited in such a way, that we’ll see firstly the character looking off screen and then the object the character is looking at, that is, his POV. This way of editing leaves no confusion whose POV it is. Here is a great example from Psycho.

Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)

The POV shot helps us to identify with the character, even if we don’t like him, like in the final scene of The Silence of the Lambs.

Most of the time, the POV shots are used in a connection to beings, who are alive (people, animals), but only very rarely you’ll see a POV shot of a thing (chair, table), because it doesn’t usually make any sense, unless its alive, right? Like in the movies from Pixar, where you’ll have hundreds of POV’s of various toys, fish, cars, bugs, monsters, robots etc.

POV in IKEA commercial

So, when I see a POV shot, I automatically presume that it comes from a live being. And when you are alive, you can breathe, smell, you can feel, you can experience emotions, and you have also the ability to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another beings.

That’s why I felt sad for the lamp, when I saw it on the street, standing in the rain and wind next to the garbage can, looking back at the window, where it used to stand and shine.

How about you, did you feel sad for the lamp as well, or was it just me? 🙂


Vimeo Video School – POV
Point of View Shot (PDF)
Types of Shots (POV included)
Creating Point of View

Forest rain and bird chirps in Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park by Gus Van Sant was the opening movie at Cinepur CHOICE film festival in Brno in 2008. From all of the movies I watched there, it had the biggest emotional impact on me. The story is simple, but it is told beautifully and there is a lot of great examples of cinematic storytelling to look at.

One of my favorite scenes is definitely the shower scene. It takes place after an accident at train tracks, where Alex, the main protagonist of the movie, kills by mistake a security guard.

This would be a harrowing experience for anyone, and especially for Alex, who is just 16 years old. He is really confused, struggling what to do, thinking, if he should call somebody and say what happened.

That night, he doesn’t go home, but stays at his friend’s house. He takes off his clothes and puts it in a black plastic bag. After that, he goes to the shower.

Paranoid Park (2007)
Paranoid Park (2007)

The whole shower scene was shot in slow-motion and in close-up. Close-ups have the ability to make us feel as though we are experiencing everything through the point of view of the character. That means, we can get inside their head and experience what they are experiencing.

For sound designers, this is a great opportunity to play with the sound, especially in this case, where they can get into a mind of a 16 year old teenager, who killed a man.

So when we get into the shower, we’ll hear at the beginning only simple water drops, but this changes very soon. In a moment, we’ll hear some kind of processed bird sound (I might be totally wrong here), which rises constantly in the pitch. Meanwhile, the sounds of water drops change into a heavy forest rain. Then you can clearly hear bird chirps – notice the bird tiles in the background – and after a while, you’ll hear all sorts of other bird sounds. All of the sounds are slowly rising in their intensity and volume. So what we are hearing in this scene, describes perfectly the troubled state of mind of our main character.

I didn’t have the opportunity to read the original script, but I’m almost sure, that it was all scripted, including the bird tiles in the background.

Great screenwriting, great directing, great scene. What else to say? Perhaps only, choose carefully what tiles you’ll have in your shower cubicle, just in case…

Sound bridge in Hesher

Hesher (2010)
Hesher (2010)

The sequence starts when T.J. calls Nicole. She is not answering the phone, so T.J. decides to visit her. When he gets to her place, he finds her and his friend Hesher having sex. No wonder, that he gets mad. He screams “NO”, throws a lamp at the door and walks out.

Than he smashes Hesher’s car and when Hesher and Nicole come out from the apartment, T.J. starts yelling at them. After that, he takes his bike and rides away. On the way home, it starts to rain.

The whole sequence is viewed from T.J.’s point of view (POV). This creates an amazing opportunity for sound designers, because in POV sequences, you can do almost anything with the sound and it will be justifiable, because we can explain it with: “That’s what the character hears.” And what the character hears doesn’t have to be based on reality, it can be based on his inner feelings and emotions.  That is why POV sequences are such a great opportunity for sound designers.

After T.J. finds out, that Nicole is having sex with his friend Hesher, you’ll start hearing all sorts of uneasy sounds, describing T.J.’s inner feelings. One of those sounds are thunders and lightnings. The whole sequence is happening during a sunny day, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to hear those sounds (thunders and lightnings), but since this is from T.J.’s POV, hearing those sounds is completely justifiable. They describe how he feels inside –  angry and furious.

But that’s not all – the sounds of thunders and lightnings have also additional function, they work as a sound bridge to the next scene, where it starts to rain.

I don’t know if it was scripted or not, but if it was, my hats off to screenwriters! I think this is one of the best examples, where sound is used for the purpose of cinematic storytelling!