June 24, 2015

Cinematography Tutorial: How Moving the Camera Can Help You Tell Stronger Stories

Simon Cade is at it again, this time with a helpful tutorial on the reasons why camera movement can take your cinematography to the next level.

Even though this video explores the reasons behind why filmmakers choose to move the camera, I want to start with a few reasons why you shouldn't move the camera. Reason one: because camera movement looks cool and adds production value. The main problem with this is that when there's no discernible reason or motivation for the camera to be moving, chances are that it will do little other than draw attention to itself and distract the audience.

Reason two: moving the camera just because you can. We live in a utopia of affordable camera movement tools, which is great, but it also puts people in a perpetual camera movement mindset. It's easy to think that owning a gimbal stabilizer means that you should use it all day every day. In truth, that will likely desensitize your audience to the moments when the camera movement is actually working well and serving your story. They'll be so used to seeing the camera move arbitrarily that they won't really care during moments when it moves purposefully.

DSLRGuide Camera Movement Tutorial

As Simon mentions in the video, there are three basic reasons that a cinematographer chooses to move the camera.

  1. To follow on-screen movement. This is by far the most common reason. Think of tracking shots where the camera is moving alongside a character who is walking down the street. Or when a character sits or stands, and the camera moves to adjust the frame. If an important character or object is moving through a scene, a well thought out camera move that mimics that movement can make the scene more engaging and immersive for an audience.
  2. To reveal or hide pieces of visual information in the scene. You've probably seen examples of this thousands of times. The most common is when a character is framed in a medium closeup (or some similar framing) and the camera moves slightly to one side revealing another character standing behind them. Whenever there are important characters or objects that show up in the middle of a scene, using a well-designed camera movement can serve as an excellent dramatic device when it come revealing that new information to the audience.
  3. To highlight the emotional state of a character. This is probably the hardest camera movement concept to grasp because it's fairly intangible and up for interpretation. The two most common forms of this are push-ins and pull-outs with a dolly. The push-in often emphasizes a strong emotional moment or realization, while the pull-out is usually associated with loneliness and loss. It's important to remember that these movements are up for interpretation. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to visually portraying emotion. As long as you understand the emotion you're trying to convey, and you design your camera moves around that emotion, you'll be fine.

If you're interested in seeing some of the examples and inspirations that Simon talks about in the video, head on over to DSLRGuide and check them out. Also, be sure to check out the previous installments of Simon's "Storytelling with Cinematography" series, where he shared practical tips for telling stronger stories through both composition and lighting.

What are your favorite methods for motivating camera movement, and what are some examples of those methods in action? Share them with us down in the comments!      

Your Comment

9 Comments

Great Post!!!. He has a Amazing Site And Knowledge About Simple Cinematography and Filmmaking..

June 24, 2015 at 8:12PM

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CABLE (X-FORCE)
DP/EDITOR/DIR
292

If anyone wants to learn a huge amount about blocking and camera movement, I'd recommend Hollywood Camera Work - it's ace.

June 24, 2015 at 8:31PM, Edited June 24, 8:31PM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3153

Also read "Shot by Shot" by Stephen D. Katz. It has everything you will ever need to know about framing your shots (with or without camera movement)

June 25, 2015 at 5:03PM

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I only read books about cutting hair.

July 9, 2015 at 7:32PM

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Well done, loved it.

June 25, 2015 at 6:22PM, Edited June 25, 6:22PM

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David Robillard
Photographer/Videographer
21

Soft, tiny, monkey hands.

June 29, 2015 at 7:19PM

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Torsten Pearson
Writer-Director-Editor
456

Reason 4 (and the main reason why many inexperienced DP's tend to do it): Because you need some moving shots in your reel

I am all for a motivated and reasonable camera move, but I find that this article may only add fuel to the fire for the already overwhelming flock of indie DP's who move the camera for no reason other than to be slick.

July 3, 2015 at 2:18PM

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Harry Pray IV
Director of Photography/Lighting Technician/Colorist
380

To naturally cross the line of action/interest and redefine the geometry without causing PHI effects and allowing the audience to follow action/dialogue without confusion (unless you're into new wave films - Godard, Truffaut...)

July 9, 2015 at 6:33AM

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Srdjan Bozinovic
Director of Photography, Head Cameraman
234

Well, the shot "over the mountain" is not emotional at all. I would take take the shot from the opposite. Mountain climber with sunglasses who looked straight in the camera. From cu to Extr cu. His face would tell the story, his sunglasses would reflect the helicopter while the sound of the helicopter fade in.

August 20, 2015 at 11:06AM, Edited August 20, 11:06AM

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Albert
88