Basic Camera Techniques and Movements

video camera

The camera angles in a film are one of the essential rules you need to know about filmmaking. Whatever field you’ll take on the film and television industry, whether it’s producing, directing, acting, scriptwriting, etc. Every filmmaker needs to learn the technical terms of any shot.

 Why knowing camera techniques is important? 

First of all, it will help you to develop your camera techniques. But more importantly- this is the way all the film casts communicates. It will save you a lot of time (and embarrassments) to know them.

There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your Photography in your self, for what we see what we are.

Important Camera Techniques you must know

Now, it doesn’t matter what your job is in the film, you must know and understand the basic Camera Techniques and Movements​. This is why I also put this article on the film direction course page. Not knowing or not paying attention to this stuff can ruin all your hard work.

illustraition of the 180 rule

What is the 180 rule?

The 180-degree rule is one you will hear lots of your crew members talk about in film production. Here’s the deal:

The rule helps you not mess up the direction of characters in the film while relating to each other. For example, if you have a scene with two characters talking to each other, not following this rule, it might make them look like they are talking to themselves.

The 180-degree rule is an imaginary line connecting the two (or more) characters in the scene. The camera has to stay on the same side of the track during the whole scene. Crossing the line will mess up the direction the characters are looking at.

illustration of 30 degree rule

30-degree rule

Make your video editor’s life easier by moving your camera angle at least 30 degrees between each shot of the same subject being shot. For example, if you are shooting a car and you want to shoot it from a different angle, you should make sure your next camera angle will move for at least 30 degrees from the previous shot. Otherwise, a “Jump Cut” will appear. A jump cut is when two shots don’t attach smoothly.

Use Camera movements to built emotion 

Some camera movements can make the atmosphere in the film a lot stronger. The camera movement is critical to set the scene’s emotion, and it something you’ll have to practice a lot. A wrong camera movement can ruin the scene atmosphere. You have to be careful not to use them too much, as many beginner directors tend to do, as it might make the audience lose focus. Use them only when it’s necessary for the scene. Remember! A good camera work doesn’t call attention from the audience.

If you decide to go on the camera movement, I would recommend shooting the same shot in a static camera, just to be safe. Sometimes a movement shot will look great in your head, but in the editing room, it won’t feet, and then you’ll be lucky to have the static take.

As an exercise, I would advise you to shoot a scene with all the movements I’m going to introduce you now and then reshoot the same scene with static cameras and see what kind of scene you are getting each time.

Zooming In & Zooming Out

It is a process in which the cameraman changes the lens length from long (Wide Angle) to close-up. This movement tells the viewer that what is happening now is essential. Usually, we use it when the character becomes emotional or to highlight it is saying.

 

Point of View

The camera transmits the point of view of an object in the scene. It takes the place of looking. If we are filming two people talking and we want to pass the point of view of one over the other, the camera will be in front of the photographed object in the place of the one we want to emulate his eyes. Usually, the photographed object will not look directly into the camera, but 30 degrees to the side. If the object looks directly into the camera, it’s like he is looking directly at the audience and thus breaks the cinema’s magic. Of course, there are quite a few films that do this on purpose, but this should be a conscious decision.

Pan Left \ Right

While the camera is sitting on a tripod, we motion its lens to the left or right. It means that the camera is scanning the scene horizontally. If you nod your head left and right, you will see how pan left and pan right looks. If the director wants to see more of the right, he will ask the cameraman to Pan Right. These movements often are done relatively slowly unless doing what is called:

 

“Swish Pan,” which is a high-speed pan that creates a blurred background. This camera movement also excellent to immolate point of view

Tilt-Up/Down

The camera is stable on a tripod. Now, move the lens up or down, The camera is scanning the scene vertically. If you nod your head up and down, you will see how tilt up and down looks like. If the director wants to see more of below the frame, he will tell the cameraman to tilt down.

Usually, we use it to show the size and power of a person or an object in relation to the viewer, so the viewer feels as if he is looking up. The same thing when you want to emphasize the lack of power Tilt down will show the bottom part of a photographed object. This camera movement also excellent to immolate point of view

Here is a scene from one of the funniest films I know- the movie Top Secret – from the masters of parody- Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker– to show you a small Til up

read about more camera angles here

Enhance your camera movements 

The movement we saw up to now is effortless, but there is a way to make them look much more powerful. The DollyDolly is kind of a cart that you put on tracks and put the camera on it, and it creates smooth motion. It makes the viewer less passive while watching and feel more active.

Dolly In/Out

A dolly shot is a type of tracking shot, also known as” Dolly Zoom.” 

Dolly In means to get closer to the object – we will usually use it to emphasize a sentence in dialogue, emphasize emotions, or emphasize a moment of realization. Dolly Out means to get away from the object – we will usually use it to capture the environment around the objects or to emphasize emotional disconnection. It is quite similar to Zoom In and Out, but there is a big difference:

 

On a Dolly shot, the photographed object’s ratio and its environment will remain the same so that the visual effect will be a lot stronger in the “Dolly shot.” The way to do this is by pulling the camera backward or pushing it forward while pulling the zoom on the lens in the opposite direction. It will always look better then zoom in because zoom in calls for more attention from the audience, while the DollyDolly is more subtle. 

Track Left/Right

Move the camera on the DollyDolly to the right or the left. This kind of movement is useful to create at the viewer a feeling of more activeness.

Make your movement look professional

Your camera movements must be smooth and substantial to the story. Otherwise, they will attract too much attention, and it will interrupt the viewer to Be “sucked” into the film’s atmosphere. The viewer might also be aware that he is watching a movie, and once that happens, you lose him. Therefore, it is essential to practice as much as possible on these camera movements. Today’s homework is to start paying attention to the camera angles and movement in the films and tv shows you are watching. Try also to take it a step forward and understand the emotion the director is trying to set with these angels. film school on line
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