Camera movements: A brief guide

I won't talk about flying cameras, but I will be talking about more reasonable sorts of camera movements

There’s a lot of different types of camera movements that can be done. These are theoretically limitless in a CGI environment, but in real life, they can be a lot more difficult to achieve.

The first movement that I’ll talk about is handheld. Since the advent of portable, lightweight cameras in the 70’s, the manoeuvrability of cameras has been freed. You’ll often see camera shake and general motion, even on some still shots in some movies. These can be altered in post production to achieve either a more shaky effect, or a stabilising effect. These are good if you want drama in your film, although a dominating style of either static or shaky is better than having a mix.

A pretty standard tripod. Fairly easy to understand.

Another movement (or lack thereof) is the basic tripod. Static, although able to pan both vertically and horizontally, it’s one of the basic things you’ll use.

A tripod mounted on a dolly. The dolly can be on rails, which does provide a steadier motion

The next is the dolly. The dolly is capable of moving a mounted tripod, enabling motion forward, backward, across and even when put on a completely flat surface, anywhere without moving up or down. It’s a really nice effect, and you can achieve the Hitchcockian zoom using a combination of forward/backward motion with the zoom, drawing a subject out of the background or putting them back in.

The jib - great for getting to those hard to reach places!

Next on the list is the jib. “What’s that?” I heard you ask. It’s basically a tripod, with an arm. You put your camera on one side, and pivot it around the tripod. It’s great for getting high shots as well, as it can extend higher than most people can reasonably position the camera. Also, it can give you a lot of control going close to the floor, and anything in between.

The steadicam - Camera>Arm>Vest>Person - works wonders!

And the last one I will talk about is the steadicam. This comes in a couple of forms depending on what size camera you’re using. If you’re using a large camera, it’s attached to an arm, which is connected to a vest that the cameraman wears. The effect is awesome, as it allows smooth flowing movement anywhere the cameraman can go. The smaller version for hand-held cameras is simply held (like a unstable gun almost). It has a similar effect, although obviously a lot cheaper and easier to do for longer periods of time. Part of the key with the latter device though, is getting the counterbalance right.


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