After looking at shot sizes and camera angles in our last two articles, we’re now going to turn our attention to camera movement, which is also a key part of a shoot. The majority of angles and shot sizes we’ve looked at can either be used as moving shots or static shots. By incorporating motion into a scene, it’s possible to easily move from one camera angle to another, sometimes within one shot. While you can combine movements to create more advanced shots, here, we’re going to look at four common basic camera movements.
Pan or tilt
A pan or tilt is the easiest camera movement. You pan by keeping the camera in the same place while turning it sideways. To tilt, you need to turn it up or down. If you’re using a tripod, you can turn its head. If your subject stands, you can tilt the camera up to turn an eye-level shot into a low-angle as they stand. You can also pan to tilt to play around with speed. To showcase a landscape or room, you could slowly pan for a whole minute. Alternatively, you could do a whip pan, which is where the motion occurs so quickly that it looks like a blur.
Crane shot, tracking shot, or dolly shot
The most important part of a pan or tilt is that the camera remains motionless, so the audience feels like an observer. If you want the camera to move along with the subject to give the audience the feeling of being involved, you can opt for a crane shot, tracking shot or dolly shot. Usually, a crane shot moves vertically, a tracking shot moves from side to side, and a dolly shot can move backwards or forwards. Depending on the equipment you have available to you, each of these movements can be used performed separately, or combined if you want to move on multiple axes simultaneously.
A zoom shot moves either in or out of the frame through the use of a zoom lens, as opposed to moving your camera. A medium shot can be turned into a close up simply by zooming the camera in on the subject’s face slowly as they perform an emotional scene. Alternatively, by zooming out, you can reveal an object or a character that wasn’t in frame previously. By being subtle and slow with a zoom, you can have the audience barely notice it. If you want to give a cinema verite style to the shot, however, you can make it more obvious.
One final camera motion we’re going to look at here is 360-degree motion. This is where the camera moves around the shot’s subject entirely. Such a shot can be a challenge on a large film set, as both the equipment and crew need to be out of sight, although they’re more commonly used in the era of CGI and Steadicams. A high-budget camera setup was used in The Matrix for its 360-degree fight scenes. Of course, not every film production has the budget of the Matrix; fortunately, a drone or hand-held camera can also be used.