It took a while before filmmakers even realized they could, and probably should, move the camera. At first, they thought of it as a person in the center of a theater, kept it in a stationery position, and staged all the action accordingly.
They eventually came to the realization that they could pan the camera, tilt it, dolly, zoom, and crane. Nowadays, we’ve taken it a step further with devices like sliders and steadicams, which allow for smooth handheld movement.
However, just because it’s easier than ever to move the camera, that doesn’t mean it’s always necessary or appropriate. But when it is, there are few better ways to convey or enhance emotion in film or video production.
So, let’s see what makes certain camera movements appropriate for certain functions and how you can use them to help tell your stories in your film or video productions.
1. Transition into and out of scenes and settings.
Like mentioned above, one of the most effective new devices for achieving smooth and effective camera movement is the slider, which is essentially a tool consisting of two rails for the camera to slide on over a relatively short distance.
And while laying down some dolly tracks for a dolly or tracking shot is often necessary and also a great way of transitioning into and out of scenes, a slider is perfect for pulling off the same effect without the extensive setup, albeit on a smaller scale.
Imagine sliding across a wall until a doorway is revealed which opens up to the scene, whether it’s in an office or a kitchen, and then exiting the space in the same fashion, continuing the sliding movement past the doorway and across the wall.
Or imagine entering a scene with a boom shot and moving down into the setting, or pushing into and then pulling out of the space, and make no mistake, the slider is more than just a great transitional tool. It’s also great for sliding across a scene while panning in the opposite direction, for instance, which is also called parallax movement and is a great way to intensity a certain moment.
A tilt up or down can also make for a great establishing shot and drones have become the go-to tools for achieving aerial establishing shots to begin scenes with as well.
2. Reveal the effect and enhance the emotion.
Another way that camera movement can help tell your story and enhance the effectiveness of your film or video production is by revealing an important object, action, or emotion in a scene.
For instance, if a character looks at an object, you can pan over to reveal it, or if there’s a skyscraper, a slow tilt up will reveal and emphasize its towering size. A slow tilt down, on the other hand, at an object on the ground will emphasize how tiny it is, and a slow zoom out would further accentuate the effect. A tilt is also great for revealing connections between the start and end point.
A slow dolly into a scene can help create slow-burning suspense and tension while a quick push-in creates a more jarring effect, and you can also use camera movement to reveal comedic elements in your film and video production as well.
Imagine a character within a scene discussing another character as if he/she isn’t in the room, making some potentially offensive or brutally honest statements, before a slow pan or dolly movement reveals that the character being talked about has been in the room the whole time!
For some information on using the camera, in general, to help support or enhance the emotion within a scene, check out this post: How to Use the Camera to Convey Emotion on Your Film & Video Productions.
3. Convey that a certain moment has added significance.
While cinematography and camera movement are both extremely important parts of the film and video production process, editing is equally important.
You can’t underestimate the power of a simple cut at the right moment, and that’s precisely what makes choosing a camera movement over an edit so powerful, if done correctly.
By choosing to slowly dolly into a subject’s face in a scene or to pan back and forth between two subjects having a conversation rather than using cuts, you can let the viewer know that that particular moment is especially important.
It could be that the character whose face is being slowly pushed in on is coming to some sort of revelation or realization or that the ongoing conversation or connection being made between the two characters within the scene is particularly meaningful.
The point is, simply by choosing to go with some type of camera movement rather than cutting, you’ll be telling the viewer that there’s a reason they’re seeing this play out in real-time, and that they need to pay extra special attention.
Don’t underestimate nor abuse the power of camera movement.
As you can see, moving shots are great for transitioning into and out of spaces and they have the power to reveal, conceal, enhance, or comment on the characters or the action within the scene, but that doesn’t mean you should employ some type of movement simply for the sake of doing it.
Just like any other aspect of film or video production, every camera movement must be motivated. If you use camera movement for no discernible reason, they can become a huge distraction. At that point, the viewer will be made aware of the existence of the camera and become somewhat removed from the entire viewing experience.
So, while there is tremendous storytelling power in camera movement, there is also great risk, and you need to be careful to apply it wisely and only when it can truly help the story you’re trying to tell have a greater impact.
About KVibe Productions: A full-service film & video production company in NJ / NY, KVibe can handle every aspect of production. Whether it’s a corporate video production, a commercial, a feature film, etc., at KVibe, we create to inspire.