Narrating a story requires some effective skill sets that can help the audience to understand the story or at least feel connected to it. It is not always an easy task for an amateur filmmaker to know about the set of skills we are talking about here. Today we are going to discuss camera movement, a tool that is used by the narrator to create a bridge of understanding between the story and the storyteller. In other words, it is the most quintessential element in filmmaking that makes the little details create havoc.
What is camera movement?
Camera movement is a method of shifting cameras to create an understanding of the frame that helps the audience to observe the frame even more intimately. Only by shifting cameras slightly a narrator can change the perspective of the viewer and create a different aspect of the story. It is basically a technique to change the perspective of the audience without using any cuts. Filmmakers like F.W. Marnau used only camera movement to specifically tell the story in his silent films.
Types of camera movement
Like always it is a sector of improvisation. But there are some basic camera movements that an amateur filmmaker must learn. An understanding of the grammar helps the foundation of improvisation. So, let’s get on with it.
- Static: This kind of shots are basically without any movements at all. You can always use a tripod to fix your camera to a certain point from where it can deliver a perfect static shot for your frame. Static shots are mainly used for a drama sequence with intensity. Static frames help to build the depth of the narration which leads to the revealing of the plots easier. For example, in most of the films, Wes Anderson has used static shots remarkably that helped the audience to flow with the motion of the plots. Although most of his shots are one-of-a-kind static shots known as tableau shots where the actor is very well dressed, carefully posed with props, and the shot is theatrically superior.
- Pan: It is a movement where the camera horizontally moves to the left or right of the screen. The word ‘pan’ was derived from the word ‘panorama.’ In this scenario, the camera doesn’t move physically; this movement takes place in a fixed location. In other words, the mounted set-up doesn’t move at all; only the camera follows the movement of the character at times. This sort of camera movement allows the audience to follow some action.
- Dolly Shot: A Dolly Shot is somehow known as fixing your camera with some mechanical instruments. It is a special kind of tracking shot where the camera follows the character and its actions. These kinds of shots are designed to produce smooth and controlled camera movements. Dolly is basically a cart where the camera is mounted. Dolly in towards the character is often used to emphasize the dialogue or the emotions that are put up to create a connection with the audience. Dolly out is often used to enhance the atmosphere to create a detachment in the plot, like when the character is leaving all sorts of connections from the place. For example, Todd Philips beautifully orchestrated a Dolly-in shot in Joker when Joaquin Phoenix tries hard to make his face look like smiling in the mirror.
- Zoom Shot: During a shot, if the focal length of the lens is changed, then the shot is known as the zoom shot. Just like pan shots, here in zoom shots, the camera doesn’t change its physical position. The difference between normal zoom shots and dolly-in are in zoom shots; the camera does not move; only the focal length of the lens is changed, but in dolly-in, the camera itself changes its position to give the zoom-in effect. A nice example of a zoom shot is while you shoot in your smartphone, you can simply zoom in to some particular point in your frame.
- Vertigo Shot: This shot is also known as the Hitchcock Zoom, as in 1958, Alfred Hitchcock, in his film, “Vertigo” introduced this movement. It is basically an in-camera effect that is orchestrated through the dolly zoom. In this shot, the foreground doesn’t move, but the background either shrinks or grows bigger depending on the movement of the camera. These kinds of shots are often used to portray the inner conflict of the character or to establish the anger or rage inside the character. For example, you must have seen Vertigo, so that’s it.
- Tilt Shot: When the camera stays fixed in a position, and the movement takes place up and down vertically, then the shot is called a tilt shot. Tilting is mostly used as an establishment shot that gives the audience an idea of the plot. There are basically two sorts of tilting, one is downward tilting which is used as an observation over a larger spectacle, and then there is upward tilting which follows the character’s action to establish the inferiority or weakness. In other words, tilt shots mainly focus on revealing the plot to the audience. Here is an example for you:
- Whip Pan Shot: Whip itself means a strip of leather. So, in a way, we understand what this shot looks like. It is basically an intentional camera movement on the x-axis that happens so fast that it creates a blurry effect, at the least. The same technique used on the y-axis of the camera will be called whip-tilt-shot. The mechanisms are almost the same except for the movement of the axis. One goes left or right, and the other goes up or down. This kind of shot is used to follow the actions between two characters or a flow in a frame. For example, we all have seen the camera movement when Thor summons his hammer; that’s a whip-pan-shot.
- Tracking Shot: For a larger amount of time, when a camera physically moves to track the character, then it is known as tracking shot. In filmmaking tracking shots were commonly placed on the dolly tracks to move with the character for a long period of time. In modern times the techniques have changed a lot in the case of tracking shots. Often to make the audience feel like characters, this kind of shot is established. Apart from this, when the filmmaker is eager to show the rich details of the setting then also this kind of shot takes place.
- Crabbing Shot: Crabbing shot is just like a dolly or tracking shot except the camera movement almost resembles crab. In this shot the camera movement takes place horizontally.
- Arc Shot: Arc shot means the movement of the camera focusing on the subject to explore more surrounding. It basically provides the sense of the environment to the audience while the action is taking place. For example, in Matrix, we see multiple numbers of arc shots, be it while Keanu Reeves dodges the bullets or in face-to-face shoot-out sequences.
Apart from these, there are more camera movements under pan or tilt or tracking. As an amateur filmmaker, you should go through the basic movements at first, then try and improvise something out of the box. You’re just a Vertigo away to discover your own camera movement.