February 29, 2016

5 Tools That Will Help You Move Your Camera More Cinematically

There are a lot of ways to make your footage look more cinematic, like lighting, set design, and costuming. Great camera movement can also do wonders, but you might need some tools to pull it off.

Neumann Films has listed 5 key pieces of gear that have helped them pull off more professional, cinematic-looking camera moves in the video below:

Okay, so maybe you're not a fan of the specific brands that they listed. That's fine. The important thing here is this: if you're a beginner who doesn't know your way around camera gear, Neumann Films lists 5 basic tools that 1.) you should definitely know about, and 2.) might be useful to you when it comes time to shoot.

So, here they are (minus the actual brands):

  • a shuttle system (cable cam)
  • a crane (jib)
  • a motion-controlled slider
  • a dolly
  • a drone

Each of these tools offers something different. A slider is going to give you those subtle movements that are perfect for adding a little kinetic energy to an otherwise static scene. Your classic dolly is almost a necessity on set for all of your push-ins, pull-outs, and tracking shots. And drones — they've basically taken over the world (of filmmaking) and have made aerial shots accessible to any filmmaker, no helicopter rentals required.

My one critique to this list, however, is that given their accessibility and lower price point these days, I'd say that gimbals should be added to the list, because although these other tools have tons of capabilities, especially when it comes to capturing different perspectives, aerial shots, and subtle moves, they don't allow you to move freely the way a gimbal does. 

In the end, though, if I had to pick just a couple of tools to bring with me on a shoot, I would choose a dolly and a crane. They are usually cheap to buy/build, easy to use, and will probably get the most use anyway. But don't think that you have to just go out and buy thousands of dollars on camera gear. Look around you and see what you can use, especially when it comes to sliders and dollies: shopping carts are free — kind of, shoot with rollerskates/skateboards, carefully shoot from a car, wheelchairs are great, office chairs — not so much. Cranes though, are a little bit more tricky. I bought a crane back in college for a few hundred bucks and though it had its flaws (did I mention it was only a few hundred bucks?), it helped me capture some of my favorite shots.

Which tools would you recommend for camera movement? What are your favorite DIY solutions for these tools? Let us know in the comments below!      

Your Comment

20 Comments

Nice! Didn't know all of them! The one with the cable seems extremely handy.

March 1, 2016 at 3:03AM, Edited March 1, 3:03AM

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Michiel Eskens
Director & Editor
228

They left out the one that everyone seems to constantly forget: a tripod.
The camera doesn't have to constantly be flying around to be cinematic.

March 1, 2016 at 5:41AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1210

Exactly. Or even a shoulder rig...

March 1, 2016 at 9:22AM

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Eric Thayne
Director | DP | Music Producer
181

It does to be a "cinematic camera move" though. :)

March 1, 2016 at 12:01PM, Edited March 1, 12:01PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1767

Got em'

March 1, 2016 at 1:51PM

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Gimbal definitely should be considered. It can eliminate the need to carry a slider or a jib shots if packing light is essential. Other basic gear perhaps: a tripod?

March 1, 2016 at 5:42AM

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Johnny Wu
Director, Producer, Editor
88

I'm happy with my new EZFX jib. But it's really worth underlining the importance of actually practicing with any of these tools and developing some skill. It's easy to own gear, ready for use and then assume the tool will simply create the move for you (I guess the automated slider actually will...).

Maybe the best support tools for cinematic moves are still 'hands'!

March 1, 2016 at 9:09AM

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I just got a gimbal and found that attaching it to a monopod makes it a poor man's jib.

Example shots:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20znTvRnaJU

March 1, 2016 at 11:19AM

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Robert Schmeltzer
Cinematography Student
145

That is a really cool idea. Any other more affordable gimbals you recommend? Can't quite shell out $700 for one atm.

March 8, 2016 at 12:24PM

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The price seems to be related to the maximum weight the gimbal will hold. How much does your camera weigh?

March 22, 2016 at 11:37AM, Edited March 22, 11:37AM

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Robert Schmeltzer
Cinematography Student
145

Thanks for that! The second shot is brave, man. I'm a little scared about the bend in your monopod, though :) I have the DJI Osmo but am not thrilled with it. I think I'd rather use my 70D with a nice cine lens and this DS1 gimbal you use which is roughly the cost of the Osmo. The one nice thing about the Osmo is it's very light-weight so if you don't want to lug your camera and equip around, it's a good option. And the stutter on the phone screen is often just the limit of the phone - of course, that's kind of a drawback, too, eh? I think I'll wait till they work out the DS1 kinks, though. Thanks for sharing, Robert.

March 11, 2016 at 3:51PM

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Suzie Park
Director & DP
33

Oooh sharp eyes there to spot my cheapo bendy monopod. Now that I'm misusing it like this, I'll spend more than $17 on a better one. If you're looking for lightweight, that's not the DS1. But it is very reliable. Any "problems" I thought I had were either my error or the documentation not being very clear. The DS1 must rate pretty high though because Ikan is now selling it with their name on it. Ikan is starting to post their own videos about the DS1 on youtube and they are much clearer than the other DS1 instructional videos from other sources.

March 22, 2016 at 11:42AM

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Robert Schmeltzer
Cinematography Student
145

Hadn't thought much about a line cam.

March 1, 2016 at 11:31AM

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Matt Clark
Producer / Writer / DP
719

Very handy for an article by young filmmakers. Unfortunately, the prices of some tools are very expensive.

March 2, 2016 at 11:16AM, Edited March 2, 11:16AM

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I've been thinking...well for example if you are watching The Perks Of Being a Wallflower (which is not a particularly good film btw ) you know if you are Charlie or Patrick or Sam but you absolutely don't know that you are Mary Elizabeth. All the Mary Elizabeths of this world could watch the film and none would recognise themselves in these situations. I do know that the reference is probably not going to work for most people but that is exactly my take on this

March 2, 2016 at 11:17AM, Edited March 2, 11:17AM

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Question for you all: as drones become better (more stable at flying/holding position/following a programmed path; with better quality cameras), I'm wondering if they will take the place of jibs/cranes - at least for small cameras like DSLRs and mirrorless? For Arri's etc in cinema I can see cranes being needed for a long time of course, but for me on a 5D... I hardly ever unwrap and set-up the jib, a drone could do those movements pretty well. Otherwise I mount a slider vertically if just a little movement is needed, or as others pointed out, a hand-held/vest gimbal can do much of it...

March 2, 2016 at 2:26PM

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Charlie Round-Turner
DoP, photographer
8

Drones are not always safe, they need batteries and it is harder to repeat the same movement. Besides that you are not allowed to fly drones everywhere.

March 6, 2016 at 9:00AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
7279

The mentioned linecam looks great, but is not for sale yet (only a pre-order page can be found through google, but not by nvigating the site) and the demoreel on the limecam website seem to suggest that Neumann Films are the first ones that used it. Are they the sellers themselves?
(Which is hard to say, since the linecam website only has a contact form, but no addresss, lol)

March 6, 2016 at 9:04AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
7279

Actually their website is kinda a joke. It lacks info & proper showcase of the product.

March 7, 2016 at 11:56AM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1303

For a long time they only took jobs as operators of the system. So they were the only ones using it. They sold a few systems to local people (Oregon). Now, they have a 2nd version coming out and they are going to be selling it.

It has a lot of improvements. Two lines for more stability and I think better tension so it can almost go completely vertical. I saw a Timelapse on their page the other day that blew my mind. The biggest camera move I have ever seen in a timelapse outside of the hyperlapse technique.

March 13, 2016 at 12:43PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1767