The tight close up is a terrific way to emphasise an actor’s performance and hint at their inner emotions. Close ups are a staple of film and television and, in most cases, you want to get the camera as close to your actors as possible. When framing up traditional close ups, it’s conventional to have a little headroom above your actor’s head. But what if a scene is particularly intense and emotional? In these cases, it’s more than acceptable to lop off the top of your actor’s head and go in for a tight close up. After all, it’s really an actor’s eyes and mouth that convey most emotion.
You will notice that tight close ups play an important role in particularly dramatic and intense scenes. By the end of a conversation, you will often find that two characters are framed using a tight close up to emphasise the detail of their performance.
Examples of tight close ups
In The Imitation Game, director Morten Tildum goes in for a tight close up when Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) finally cracks an unbreakable German code using his Enigma machine.
Darren Aronofsky uses this technique to great effect in The Wrestler when Randy Robinson (Mickey Rourke) has a heartfelt conversation with his daughter. The intensity of this tight close up and the handheld camera movement help to increase the emotional impact of this scene.
When you’re getting coverage of an emotionally intense scene, don’t be afraid to get your camera close and film some tight close ups!