Could you talk us through some of the different camera moves you might see in a video production?
Well, you can have a camera static on a tripod which means you won't see any movement, however, no movement is just as valid as movement. You can also have handheld which is obviously more jittery and not as stable, which is a popular for films which want to emulate a level of reality. You can also put your camera on a Steadicam which makes it look as if the camera is floating through the scene, so you won’t see any shake or wobble, but it will still be moving.
You can have your camera on a slider, which is a short (usually a metre or so) rail kind of thing to move the camera side to side or in and out. A longer version of this is called a dolly which comes on tracks like a train. It can even have the tracks moving forward almost as if you’re zooming in on the subject but all background will change because you are moving the camera, not just zooming in on the lens, which has a different perspective. So all in all you have quite a lot of choices.
When might they be used in a typical video?
Usually, the director has got a vision of what they want the audience to feel. For example, if they want the audience to feel certain emotions they'll tell the cinematographer (the person on a film set in charge of camerawork and lighting): ‘this is a fast-paced action scene and I want people to feel panic’ and then as the cinematographer you’d suggest something like, for instance, the handheld, because that type of jittery, frantic movement will create panic on the screen. Whereas, if the director wanted some slow-building tension you might put your camera on a dolly and slowly move it towards the subject. If someone was talking about something really serious then you’d very slowly zoom in on it, so the audience can feel the emphasis on what they’re saying.
Another example would be if you wanted two people talking to each other and have absolutely no distractions whatsoever, you'd probably just put your camera on a tripod and not move it, so there are no distractions to the audience and they’re only concentrating on these two people in this one space at one time. A Steadicam is interesting if you want to follow someone around and have a lucid, almost water-like feeling. The only hard-and-fast rule I would say is you should never do a camera move for the sake of it, it should always be to communicate an emotion to the audience.
What effect do camera moves have on people and how can they add to the effectiveness of a video?
The audience shouldn’t notice that you’re changing the way they feel by any kinda of camerawork, if they do notice then it kind of means you’re doing your job wrong because you’re taking them out of the film or video. This is why it’s best to pick the right camera move for the right situation or right emotion because then it happens naturally. If you start seeing what the cinematographer is doing, for instance, a calm scene of someone walking and talking to their partner in a street, yet you're moving about with a frenetic handheld camera and running behind them, then the camera movement wouldn’t match up with what you’re watching and the audience begins to notice the movement of the camera. Now, this might be relevant if this scene was supposed to be eerie or unsettling but if it didn’t lend itself tonally to the rest of the film and the context then it would feel out of place.
Could you give us an example of a cool camera move in action?
There are quite a few famous examples of brilliant camera moves in the cinema that were never done before, which set the gold standard on how to use camera moves effectively and how to improve your storytelling with them. There’s a famous Alfred Hitchcock film, it’s one of his early ones, and the first five minutes of the film is all in one shot. It starts with a couple of people in an apartment in America and the camera is physically on a crane but you don’t realise. The crane looks through the window and it comes out the window to reveal the street and then follows it down to street level and two people are walking along, then the camera walks along with them as they're talking and then enters a nightclub with him at night.
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Edited by Esme Johnson