Bird’s Eye View

Bird’s Eye View refers to “an elevated view of an object from above.” The term “bird’s eye” is used for this view since the shot would resemble what a bird may see looking down from many feet above the air. The term can be used for film, photography and comics as well. Among the many uses for the view in comics, it allows for panels to show an image in its totality. With this, an artist can show many things at one instance. Not only can the artist show a lot in one image, the artist can also use the space around an object to focus on a particular aspect of the shot. For example, in this scene from Wanted, the use of the bird’s eye view makes Wesley Gibson appear weak and vulnerable (see Figure 1). In the image, he describes how his father walked out and him and his mother when he was eighteen weeks old. The characters look small and we can clearly see how he is isolated from everyone else by being in his cubicle. This gives the audience a perspective of how inferior and lonely he may feel in that tiny cubicle.

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Figure 1. The bird’s eye view makes Wesley Gibson look small and parallels any feelings of inferiority that may have resulted from his father abandoning him. Image source: Mark Miller. Wanted. (2003). Wanted #1. (December).

The view also allows the audience to view the scene in a zoomed out manner from above. As Jeff Ellis explains, bird’s eye view “is a great way to show the layout of the space.” This works great with buildings. An example of this would be a scene in The Thing (see Figure 2). In this two page spread, we are able to see the damage made to the city. The cars serve as a way to portion the damage and compare it in terms of sizes. Here, we see that the scene is captured from directly on top. Here, the thing is having an inner battle with the Puppet Master, as he tries to regain control, he damages several blocks of the city. 

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Figure 2. Bird’s eye view works great with buildings, allowing the reader to see the magnitude of the damage made. Image Source: John Byrne. (1983). The Thing #6. (December).

Another aspect of bird’s eye view worthy of mentioning is that it does not have to be seen many feet above the air, like we have seen in previous examples. Bird’s eye view can be looking down at the scene, in a small distance above the subjects. By doing this, the shot can emphasize power relationships. We see the possession of power in a scene from All Star Superman. We see a focus on Perry White, the editor and chief of the Metropolis Newspaper. He explains how they are about to post an article in the front page of the paper saying Lex Luther lied. Here the audience is looking down and their attention is focused on the boss, showing that they trust him when he says that Lex Luther’s investments were rooted in lies.

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Figure 3. The focus on Perry White, along with a bird’s eye, place importance and power on the character. Image Source: Grant Morrison. (2006). All Star Superman: All Star Superman.

Like we can see from the previous examples, Bird’s Eye view can accomplish several tasks from establishing a shot to creating power relations, by using a view looking down.

References

(2015). Bird's Eye View. Web. Wikipedia. Retrieved from 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird%27s-eye_view

Ellis, J. (2011). An Introduction to Graphic Novels: Basic Cinematography and Perspective. Web. Cloudscape. Retrieved from
http://www.cloudscapecomics.com/2011/07/13/an-introduction-to-graphic-novels-basic-cinematography-and-perspective/