Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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

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

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.

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