Moving your camera can do so much for not only your film's aesthetic, but for its quality of storytelling as well.
Even if you're a beginner, chances are you know about different camera moves, whether it's a pan, aerial, or tracking shot, but do you know the effects they can have on your film? Sure, they can make your shots look cool and increase the aesthetics of your overall piece, but the gears of several cinematic concepts begin to turn whenever you begin to move your camera. So, let's take a look at a few of them to figure out what kinds of visual and narrative benefits they add to your films and videos when you put them to work.
We can start by checking out this video from Matti Haapoja of TravelFeels. In it, he critiques several travel films submitted by his viewers, but he also talks a lot about a number of things camera movement can do to make your films more interesting.
Admittedly, the focus of Haapoja's video is to provide feedback for those who submitted their work, but I think his bit on movement, which is found about two minutes in, touches on a lot of great concepts in aesthetic theory, as well as visual storytelling.
So, here's what camera movement can do for your films and videos:
Reveal your locations
If you're filming a travel video with beautiful vistas or just want to reveal a prized location in your feature, adding camera movement can give the space a certain tone. What do I mean by that? Well, if your location is grand and picturesque, adding, say, an 360-degree aerial camera movement could give it that high level of grandeur you're going for. Or if you're shooting a scene for a horror film at a spooky cabin in the woods, you could do a slow dolly-in to give your audience the feeling that they're trepidatiously approaching.
Give your project a sense of exploration
Though this is geared more towards travel filmmakers, it's still good advice for all of us, because exploring isn't limited to far off places; it can happen right in your character's backyard. You can use camera movement to create a sense of exploration for just about any film set in just about any place. If what you're trying to do is show your audience how far your subjects have traveled, what landscape they have overcome, or their emotional responses to discovering something/somewhere new, then using camera movement might be a good choice.
Make the edit flow
Transitions are tricky for every kind of film or video, because you need to find ways to hide, blend, or disguise them. Camera movement does all three. It's important to note, though, that while editing two shots together is relatively straightforward, motion tends to complicate things a little bit. Can you transition from a moving shot to a static shot? Yes, but it can be jarring if in some cases (which might be a good thing). Can you transition from one kind of camera movement to another? Yes, but I would pay close attention to the direction of that camera motion. If you're getting some aerials of a big, beautiful mountain, you may not want to put the bird's eye clockwise pan next to a bird's eye counterclockwise pan, or a tracking shot of your subject scaling the mountain toward screen left to the same kind of shot going toward screen right. Direction matters.
Add kinetic energy
Haapoja doesn't talk about this in the video, but I think it's a very important concept to be aware of when it comes to camera movement. In aesthetic theory, the nature and quality of beauty can be measured in terms of "energy" and, thus, judged by its level of it. Things that can add to an image's aesthetic energy are color, element size and shape, vertices, symmetry, and kinesis. According to the theory, a composition that contains something that is moving (or in photography/sculpture/painting, appears to be moving) tends to have more aesthetic energy than a composition that contains something that is stationary. So, adding camera movement to your shot can definitely help make it more interesting to watch, especially if you add more moving elements, like your subjects and foreground and background elements.
I think it's also important to point out there camera movement isn't always necessary or beneficial to a shot, and that's something you'll really have to consider when you're planning for production. Just because a bird's eye clockwise pan looks totally awesome doesn't mean it has a legitimate place in your project. Remember, everything should serve your story, and if that sweet camera movement doesn't, get rid of it.
What are some other things to think about when it comes to camera movement and how it affects your work? Let us know down in the comments.