Camera Movement - CinematographerTools.com

Whether you use a special piece of equipment to move your camera or go hand-held, make your camera moves deliberate and execute them well.  Camera movement will add production value to your film.

 

On this page we will look at:

 

Hand-held Camera Rigs

Tripods

Dollies

Sliders

Jibs/Cranes

Stabilizers

Action Cameras

Aerial Shots/Drones

 

We will also examine how camera movements emotionally impact the viewer.  Movement is another powerful tool that the Cinematographer has at his or her disposal.

"I’m a storyteller – that’s the chief functionof a director.

And they’re moving pictures, let’s make ‘em move!"

 - Howard Hawks

CAMERA MOVEMENT

HAND-HELD CAMERA RIGS

DESCRIPTION:

Hand-held camera rigs make your digital cine camera easier to hand-hold (especially when the camera is loaded with a matte box, follow focus and an external monitor.).  DSLR camera bodies are often small and hard to hand-hold with a rig.  These rigs add balance and allow he operator to hold the camera for long periods of time.

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

Hand-held camera movement often feels uneasy and unpredictable (sometimes a little dangerous).  You will often see it used in fight scenes or at moments of high tension in a film.

TRIPODS

DESCRIPTION:

Tripods give your camera support.  3 legs support a head.  Fluid heads (not friction) give the smoothest pans and tilts.  A pan is horizontal movement.  Tilts are vertical movement.  A tripod with a claw ball is easy to level.  Tripods generally have adjustable legs or stages that allow you to set the height of the tripod.

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

A quick pan can be used to reveal something or someone in a scene.  For example, a tight shot on the actor pans off their face to a character that is about to wreak havoc on them from behind.  A slow pan is a good way to establish a large area.  Camera height also impacts the viewer in an emotional way.  Shots that look down on an actor often make them look weak.  A low angle shot looking up at an actor often conveys strength.  A camera angle that is level to the actor usually feels neutral.

DOLLIES

DESCRIPTION:

Dollies often ride on some sort of track (like pvc pipe) or come in direct contact with the ground via wheels (like a doorway dolly).  Some Camera Operators sit on the dolly as it is pulled or pushed by an assistant.  Other dollies are pushed by the operator.  When the entire camera is moved forward or backwards (dolly in or out).

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

A quick dolly into an actors face can sometimes gicve the audience a sense of shock.  A slow dolly in feels more intimate and helps us connect with a character and what they are feeling.  A dolly out sometimes gives the feeling of the character feeling alone or lost.  A dolly across is a good way to reveal someone or someting in a scene -- dollying from one person to the next in a face off for example.

SLIDERS

DESCRIPTION:

A camera slider is a set of bracketed tracks that mounts to a tripod or can often be placed on a flat surface.  It has a movable carriage that the camera is mounted to.  It can do the same moves as a dolly, but it is limited by its overall length (unlike a dolly that you can keep extending the track).  Sliders are popular because they are portable and easy to setup.  Some sliders can be motorized and do not need to be pushed by the operator.  Some sliders can be positioned vertically to give up and down movement.

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

Same as the dolly.

JIBS/CRANES

DESCRIPTION:

A jib is made up of an arm with a camera attached to one end and a balancing weight attached to the other. The arm is usually attached to a tripod.

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

A Jib starting from high up (looking down on a actor) that cranes down to their level, feels like moving into someone's world.  This is a good way to get into a scene.  A Jib that starts low on an actor (like starting at his or her feet) that cranes up to looking down on them from very high (resulting in seeing more of the background of the shot), gives the feeling of the actor feeling small or challenged or facing a big obstacle.  A camera angle that starts jus a little higher than the actor and cranes down to a low shot looking up at them gives the actor great power.

STABILIZERS

DESCRIPTION:

Unlike a dolly or slider, a freefloating stabilizer (like a Steadicam) can sustain long continuous shots (they don't require track or smooth surfaces).

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

A glidecam, steadicam or camera on a gimbal that circles around a character feels epic or dreamlike.  Stabilizers are also great for creating point of view shots.  Often they follow a lead character as he or she goes on a long walk while introducing other characters.  This is a good way to start a movie.  Stabilizers also work well in action sequences, where the camera moves quickly, yet is still smooth (less jarring than hand-held movement).  Stabilizers are often used to reveal something suprising in a scene.  We follow a character and then as we round a corner, we encounter an obstacle (like something disturbing in a horror film).

ACTION CAMERAS

DESCRIPTION:

Action Cameras, like GoPros, are small cameras that can be mounted to virtually anyone or anything.  Popular mounts include:  helmet, bicycle, motorcycle and car.  Many of these cameras can be used underwater.  Earlier versions of these cameras had an inferior image compared to their more professional counterparts.  Fortunately, they keep getting better (many shoot 4K).

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

Action Cameras can go where other larger cameras can't.  This gives the viewer a more intimate experience in otherwise dangerous or risky situations (like a car crash).

AERIAL SHOTS/DRONES

DESCRIPTION:

Aerial shots were often accomplished by helicopters, but today, more affordable drones are doing a lot of the work.  In he beginning, smaller cameras (like go pros) were flown on drones, but as these machines advance, they can carry heavier cameras.  Drones are flown by remote control.

 

EMOTIONAL IMPACT:

Aerial shots are often used at the beginning of films to establish the area that the film takes place in (a city for example).  As the scene continues, aerial shots usually cut to tighter shots of the lead actor.  Sometimes, aerial shots are used to establish other scenes in the film (like an actor walking through the woods), where the cinematographer wants to convey the feeling that the actor feels small, is lost or is battling a harsh environment.

 

 

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