How to Motivate Your Camera Movement: A Killer Tutorial from Film Riot

Here at No Film School, we talk a whole lot about fun new tools for creating camera movement. Whether it's a slider, the latest variation on the gyroscopic gimbal, crazy jibs, or even the 100 foot technocrane, chances are that we've talked about it at some point. However, one thing that isn't talked about nearly enough are the reasons and motivations behind adding camera movement to your films. But worry not, NFS brethren, because Ryan Connolly of Film Riot has a fantastic video just for people looking to move their cameras. Check it out.

In this video, Ryan hits the nail on the head in terms of his philosophy behind camera movement. With the camera acting as the audience's portal into the world that you are creating, it's crucially important for the camera, and the way it moves, to enhance the story being told, rather than hinder it. While that might sound like a simple concept, in reality, it can be as complex as any cinematographer/director decides to make it.

On one hand, moving the camera can be as easy as following or tracking character movement. This basic motivation accounts for a fairly sizable percentage of the camera movement that you see in films and TV shows these days, and it is definitely the easiest form of movement to incorporate into your own filmmaking. However, as Ryan Connolly points out in the video, you can choose your form of movement (panning, dolly, handheld, etc) in order to subtly accommodate the subtext of your piece. This idea of magnifying subtext leads us to the next point.

Perhaps the best theory behind moving the camera is that it should all be motivated by both the emotionality of the characters and the overall emotion and tone of the film itself. One of the most effective (and most used) examples of this type of camera movement is the slow push in on a dramatic or revealing moment in a scene. If done correctly, this can build an incredible amount of tension and mirror the swelling emotional experience of a character. Of course, that's a bit of a generalization, especially considering that how you choose to move the camera is very much dependent on the specific context of your film.

All in all, moving the camera -- as well as all cinematography-related decisions -- should be based on the emotionality of your characters. However, the form that idea takes will differ from project to project.

What are your theories about how to motivate camera movement? Do you like to use movement as an expressionistic tool, or do you prefer movement that's motivated by characters moving through the frame? Let us know down in the comments!

Link: Film Riot channel - YouTube

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Your Comment


Ryan and the film riot crew are the best film making channel on youtube, hold that thought, they are one of the best channels on youtube, keep it up Film Riot, huge fan of the show.

February 14, 2014 at 6:32AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Liam Alexander

Straight to the point and giving just enough information to get the viewer thinking without going too in depth. Great work.

February 14, 2014 at 6:37AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Haroun Souirji

[ ] - this shows move moves.

February 14, 2014 at 7:42AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I can't believe I have been watching this guys for 3 years. It's simple good. Missing Bruno though.

February 14, 2014 at 8:56AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I love these Film Riot guys. I love their enthusiasm, I love how they are unapologetic about what they create. No excuses, they are fully upfront that they are learning as they go.They aren't unjustifiably cocky like a lot of indy youtube/vimeo film makers out there. And not only do we get the benefit of learning from their mistakes and their successes.... they are entertaining to boot.

February 14, 2014 at 11:11AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Film Riot kicks ass...simple as that...a great and resourceful show...period!

February 14, 2014 at 12:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Haven't watched the video yet (I'm without my headphones), but I'm the DP of a college run 3 camera production. I always find it difficult to incorporate camera movement when restricted to a three wall set, and not getting any camera in another camera's shot. When I do use movement, it is often to reflect the energy of a scene, or to highlight an emotional point.

Any thoughts on how I could use movement better in a 3-camera production?

February 14, 2014 at 12:53PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Nate Suri

As a High School Media teacher (who dabbles in Art Department part-time), I insist my students try to limit themselves to static shots, with only motivated pans, tilts and zooms. I do this because I feel they need to master story telling by using basic framing and composition first, before experimenting with other techniques. With the three wall set/3 camera approach you are using, it is likely the only movement you will be able to get is to use pan, tilt and zoom, and possibly incorporate a slider or Digital Juice's Orbit dolly (or equiv.). However, most movement in a confined set can be covered the MS or WS/LS anyhow - probably not a great deal of motivation to move "off-sticks"...

February 14, 2014 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

GerryBuilt Scenic

My college professor did the same thing and he was an amazing teacher. Movement is great when it adds to a shot, but if you look at good movement, it's extremely complicated to pull of. Tarantino has amazing camera movement, but to be able to pull it off without great lighting and a great crew it's very difficult.

If you watch That 70s show (which I think was a multi cam live setup) there is very little camera movement other than pan, tilt, and the stoner circle. But you have to start there, as my teacher said, there are many great stories that have been told with zero camera movement.

But it really just depends on the story and what it requires and what you can pull off.

February 14, 2014 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Multiple cameras are great for extra coverage, but if that is limiting you from getting the best coverage, strip it back and pick a primary camera, enable that with all the movement that is appropriate for the scene, and use the other cameras to pick off B-Roll around it (close-ups of characters, etc). That will also help the director focus on getting the best performance out the scene's main character/s from the POV of A-Cam.

Even with a 3-wall set, see if there is opportunity to shoot through windows in the set's walls (if available), or setting props up at the front of the set that secondary cameras can shoot through. If the cameras are hard up against them, then they'll only need a very small amount of travel to make the movement feel much more dramatic, and a dirty frame always gives a shot more depth and texture.

But this is really only a case if movement in the scene is appropriate.

February 14, 2014 at 2:00PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Ben Howling

There's tons of opportunity for movement in a 3 wall set. You can do a slider move. You can pan the head as you slide to get a parallax slider move. You can use a jib or vertical slider going up or going down. You can put your slider at an angle combined with a still camera head that will let you level the camera against the diagonal then move up/down.

It takes experience to develop a sense of when movement is correct, but honestly that's why they invented the take. Do a take with your boring static straight-on shot and then do two more with some kind of movement. Your editor will thank you for the choices.

February 16, 2014 at 6:31PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


The Dana Dolly can be used as an 8' slider. You can get different angles, or moving shots if you want. Sometimes I mount a 5' section of rails on two roller stands, and keep moving it around for different shots. Placing all 3 of your cameras on Dana Dollys will give you all kind of options.

February 20, 2014 at 1:26PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


10 seconds of listening to that tosspot and I had to turn him off
What a flogger

February 21, 2014 at 4:03AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


The most compelling reason for camera movement is to make the audience a participant rather than a viewer. Static shots (which certainly are necessary and have a place in filmmaking) are rather two dimensional and suggest the audience is a viewer. The same is true of zooms, pans, and tilts (all of which can be accomplished with a static photo). Camera movement through three dimensional space suggests the audience is the camera and is moving into the action itself. This is a very useful ploy when you want the audience to be a participant rather than just a viewer. This is the reason documentary filmmakers employ three dimensional movement through a static photograph. Camera movement through three dimensional space involves the viewer and makes him or her more involved in the film, no matter the genre.

February 22, 2014 at 7:28AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I have learnt a lot from nofilmschool and film riot. Good job guys

February 22, 2014 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM