Your camera is a great storyteller if you know how to use it.
One of the most important aspects of filmmaking for newcomers to learn about is what's called visual literacy, which is simply the ability to comprehend the language of film, from different lighting styles to focal lengths and how they affect audiences.
If you're going to start somewhere, camera movement is just as good a place to start as any, learning how pans, tilts, push-ins and pull-outs, as well as frame size and camera angle, elicit certain emotional and psychological responses from your viewer. In this video, Jordy Vandeput of Cinecom goes over several common camera moves and describes how each affects his scene differently in real time. Check it out below:
Vandeput utilizes a lot of different camera movement techniques in his video, all of which will constantly come in handy when shooting your projects. In fact, unless you plan on slapping your camera on a tripod for the entirety of your shoot, this information is going to be very valuable to you—and even if you do keep your camera stationary on a tripod, you're still speaking to your audience through the language of film.
At any rate, let's quickly go over a few of the techniques Vandeput highlights in the video:
- Camera at eyeline: Leveling your camera at your subject's eyeline is a great way to communicate to your audience that they are confident, in control, or simply neutral.
- Low angle: Tilting your camera up (even slightly) on your subject gives them dominance and power.
- High angle: Conversely, tilting your camera down on your subject takes away their power and renders them weak or docile.
- Static shot: Static shots, like those shot from a tripod, give your audience a sense of stability, groundedness, and neutrality.
- Handheld shot: This is a more assertive, even aggressive type of camera movement, and also produces a sense of realism and immediacy.
- Push-in: What do you do when you hear or see something interesting? You lean forward, right? This is essentially what a push-in does; it tells your audience that things are getting interesting. Great for building tension.
- Foreground elements: Shooting a wide shot through foreground elements, like trees, buildings, or even people, can create not only a voyeuristic feel but also a sense of safety from a potentially volatile on-screen conflict.
- Pull-out: This camera move is usually used to convey a transition from a conflict to a resolution or from one scene to the next.
There are countless ways to speak to your audience through camera movement. This is just a primer! If you want to learn more about camera movement, we've got a lot of yummy treats for you to savor here.