When I was a senior in college, I finally was able to access all the fancy tools from my film school (so what if we went to film school!). The most coveted was the jib, a piece of equipment so popular you literally had to wait four years to use.

Once you had that jib, it felt like the sky was the limit when it came to camera angles.

In the world of filmmaking, camera shots aren't just a point-and-shoot affair. Cinematographers utilize a wide range of techniques to tell stories visually, and one of the most dynamic tools in their arsenal is the jib shot.

So, what exactly is it? Today. we'll go over the job and talk about some examples of its use in cinema.

Let's dive in.

Jib Shot Definition

A jib shot is achieved by using a the commonly known tool known as, you guessed it, the camera jib.

A jib is essentially a boom arm with a camera mounted on one end and a counterweight on the other.

The camera operator (or remote control system) sits at the counterweight end, allowing them to pan, tilt, and move the camera along the length of the boom.

This creates dramatic, sweeping movements that can rise high, dip low, or move in complex arcs, all while maintaining a smooth, flowing motion.

The Difference Between a Jib and Crane Shot

When I started writing this article, it felt eerily similar to the crane shot. So I wanted to get to the bottom of what separates a jib from a crane.

  • Jibs and Cranes: Sometimes Interchangeable In casual filmmaking conversation, the terms "jib" and "crane" are often used interchangeably to refer to a camera moving up, down, and with wide arcs.
  • The Technical Distinction Here's the more precise difference:
    • Jib: A jib is the arm that extends out, providing that sweeping camera motion. It's typically mounted on a tripod or dolly for support.
    • Crane: A crane is the entire system that includes the jib, a base for stability (often wheeled), counterweights, and sometimes even a seat for the camera operator.

In summary, not all jib shots are crane shots if the jib isn't part of a larger crane setup. But all crane shots are jib shots, since they involve the use of a jib arm.

Make sense? Maybe?

Why Filmmakers Use Jib Shots 

Jib shots offer several key advantages in filmmaking:

  • Dynamism: Jib shots add a powerful sense of motion and visual energy that can't be easily replicated with handheld or tripod-mounted cameras.
  • Scale: They help establish a sense of grandeur or scope within a scene. Imagine revealing a breathtaking landscape or a bustling cityscape from a high vantage point.
  • Flexibility: Jibs can move the camera in ways that would be impossible with a dolly or crane. They can swoop in close, gracefully move around obstacles, and add depth to a scene.
  • Emotional impact: The fluid yet powerful camera movement of a jib shot can evoke a range of emotions, from excitement and wonder to suspense and isolation.

Jib Shot Examples

To illustrate the power of the jib shot, let's explore some famous examples in cinema and television:

  • Goodfellas (1990): Martin Scorsese's iconic tracking shot that follows Henry Hill and Karen through the Copacabana nightclub employs a jib and then handheld to glide smoothly through the bustling crowd, establishing a sense of excitement and privilege.
  • Sports Broadcasts: Jibs are now commonplace in televised sports events, allowing the camera to swoop down onto the field or court for dramatic replays and close-ups of the action.

Successfully executing a jib shot is more than just having the right equipment. Cinematographers carefully consider how the movement of the jib will enhance the storytelling, whether it's revealing a key location, following a character's journey, or creating a specific emotional effect.

So, shoot wisely.

Let me know what you think in the comments.