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Filming Basics: Camera Movements every Filmmakers Should Know

In the previous article, you understood filmmaking’s basic shot types and angles. To capture the viewer’s attention in establishing a scene/character or action, camera movements are also essential to capture their emotional response to the scene. With that, in this article, we will explore the basic camera movements that are commonly used in filmmaking and a few tips to create depth and visual interest in your videos. But what are Camera movements?

Camera Movements Explained with Examples | Beverly Boy ProductionsImage: Beverly Boy Production

Camera movement is basically a filming technique that describes how the camera moves to help in engaging the viewers without cutting the shot – helps in creating an immersive story.

1) Pan:

Panning is one of the commonly used camera movements that involve the camera moving horizontally from one side to another (from left to right/ right to left) while the camera stays in its fixed position. It offers a larger view of the scene which could not fit in a single frame – revealing a big crowd or new information/character off-screen that helps to enhance the scene. It gives a sense of movement rather than a static/stationary shot.

What is a Camera Pan? Camera Movement FundamentalsImage: StudioBinder

Whip pan vs Swish pan

Both whip pan and swish pan help to make the shot more dramatic and fast-paced. But what is the difference? Both pans are rather the same, a cinematic camera movement that creates a deception of high-speed/energetic action. The camera pans quickly while still focusing on the subject to create suspense/surprise for viewers. While filmmakers can use this method during filming, they can also be edited using professional panning effects in After Effects (Ae) or Premiere Pro (Pr) during the post-production stage.

2) Tilt:

In contrast to panning is tilting, the camera will move vertically from up to down or down up while the camera stays in its stationary position. Imagine yourself agreeing and nodding your head from up to down – revealing more things at the top/bottom of the scene.

film110 / Camera MovementImage: Film110

Tilting is not as common as panning as it acts as how humans see things – we look horizontally more than we look vertically. But they are useful in establishing a shot that contains tall vertical scenery (such as mountainous areas/waterfalls) or skyscrapers/building landscapes. Filmmakers often use them to give a POV of the viewers that adds depth/movements to the scene making it more engaging and less boring – stationary position to the eye level.

3) Zoom:

Zooming is another often used camera movement that helps to move closer to the subject without physically moving the camera. It is debatable as zooming action is technically not a camera movement. It only involves using the zoom ring on the camera lenses to zoom in and zoom out. While it helps to give a dramatic effect to the scene, it is advisable to use it moderately as it can affect the image quality and the effect. Make sure that the movement is smooth to prevent abrupt zoom that can disrupt the whole visual scene. Its main purpose is to give attention to the subject in scenes such as comedy, action-filled, dramatic, or someone possessing power/authority.

Faking Camera Movement For Greater Impact | Film Editing ProImage: Film Editing Pro

How about dolly zoom?

Dolly Zoom or also known as Zolly or Vertigo shot is a camera effect where you dolly towards or away from a subject while zooming in the opposite direction. It can draw the audience into the story and the character’s state of mind as viewers will find the scene uncomfortable through the shrinking/expanding effect.

4) Tracking/Dolly Shots

Tracking a shot simply means that the camera physically moves in any direction through the scene – be it sideways, forward, or backward for a lengthened time. The camera operator will physically move the camera body around. Dolly on the other hand is a type of tracking shot where the camera moves the entire camera forward or backward along a track (like a railroad track). Tracking usually moves left or right while the dolly means forward (Dolly-in) and backward (Dolly out). Both help to immerse the viewers in the film which allows them to experience firsthand similar the characters in the film – making them feel like a character.

The Dolly Shot: How To Create Powerful Shots With Simple MovementImage: StudioBinder

Is it the same as the following shot?

The following shot is also a tracking shot in which the camera continuously follows the subject’s action. It is mainly used to establish the audience’s perspective in following the subject as well as making the viewers conscious of their appearance/importance in the whole film. The following shots can be used with Steadicams or gimbal for smooth tracking or handheld for more organic, gritty, and unsettling due to the shaky camera.

Shot Stabilizing Equipment for Handheld CamerasImage: Manfrotto School of Xcellence

This comes to the next camera movement which is:

5) Trucking

While Dolly is moving forward or backward along a track, a trucking shot is a type of tracking shot in which the entire camera moves left or right along a track.

Camera Movements - The Truck (side to side) - YouTubeImage: Beverly Boy Production

6) Pedestal

Pedestal shots also known as ‘pedding’ are similar to tilting (changing the camera vertically up/down) just that the camera body stays, while only changing the height of the tripod. To better understand the concept, tilting the camera uses the angle of view up and down while in pedestal movement, the whole camera is moving, not just the angle of view.

Camera movement in pedestal shot and difference between pedestal shot... | Download Scientific DiagramImage: ResearchGate

Last but not least,

7) Rack Focus

Rack Focus is a subtle change in depth of field that revealed some new things in a scene, which we as viewers often missed to realize. While it is not a camera movement, it shows the movement of the focal plane from one thing to another in the frame (shifting of focus). It simply means a technique of changing focus on the lens during an uninterrupted shot. It is mainly used to capture/divert our eyes to small details, smooth connections between long shots, and reveal something hidden in the film. The camera operator mainly uses the focus ring slowly/smoothly to get the intended shot, which requires much time/practice, similar to zooming.

Rack Focus | Blog | JP Video ProductionsImage: JP Video Production

Conclusion:

Every camera movements have its meaning as well as its own purpose to elevate the video. Doesn’t mean the camera can moves brings you the decision to move the camera. It all depends on the film’s storyline and the director’s decision. In addition, combining the different shot types and angles are needed to create compelling videos. Everything takes time and practice. All the best!

Stay tuned for more interesting blogs ahead to give a guide to filming, especially for beginners that will walk you through everything you need to know about filmmaking!

In case you missed out our blogs:

Shot Types: https://vicinity.studio/filming-basics-shot-types/

Shot Angles: https://vicinity.studio/shot-angles/ 

Call us at +65 6993 6993 or email [email protected] for a quotation!