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!