When you’re watching a video, can you ever tell that, at times, the camera is completely still while at other times it’s following the action and moving around? It’s okay if you say no. It can be hard to realize the different types of camera movements until you truly look. There are quite a few actually, and it helps to understand all of them in order to decide which ones you want to use in your video.
Stationary refers to a camera staying locked in a certain position so that the action of the video is the only moving piece. This could mean that the camera is either locked onto a tripod (most likely the case), or maybe resting on a table or something that will keep it from moving.
This position is really good for keeping the focus on the action occurring within the frame. An interview or any video with someone reading off of a teleprompter works best with this movement.
This is holding a camera with certain equipment that takes the shakiness that would generally come from using it out of the picture. This allows for a camera operator to walk around a scene or action and capture a lot while moving the camera, producing a beautifully fluid look.
This is helpful if you need to follow someone walking/moving or to help show a lot without having to cut between multiple stationary shots.
This refers to literally holding the camera in your hands while shooting footage. A camera is very sensitive to even the smallest of movements, so when hands are involved, there’s a slight (or sometimes greater) shake to the frame.
It’s not meant to provide the same feel as a steadicam. In fact, this type of movement really raises the viewers’ awareness to the fact that there’s a camera present. Typically, we prefer to focus on what’s happening within the frame, but that shake draws people into the idea that what they are watching was created by someone. This type of movement is great for Viral Videos or action scenes.
Other options include panning, zooming, tilting, and these can certainly be combined with stationary, steadicam, or hand held movements. Panning refers to physically moving the camera to the left or right and vice versa. Zooming means zooming in or out the frame. Tilting is physically moving the camera up or down.
To better understand this, think of your head as the camera. When you move it to the left or right, you are panning. When you’re moving your head up or down, you are tilting. And so on.
Another movement to consider is dollying. Dollying is moving a stationary camera along a track. This means you can capture a stationary shot and then start moving along the track and achieve a steadicam look.
There are no right or wrong choices when picking camera movements for your video. The most important thing is that the choices make sense within the context of your video. Also keep in mind what other equipment will be needed for the shoot. If your camera is moving around, will it have enough room to do so? And what if you’re using a teleprompter? With equipment like that, it’s probably in your best interest to stick with the stationary choice. If you want more movement thrown in, then add a second camera in order to get some of those movement shots.
For example, with our shoot at Brockton Hospital, one camera remained stationary, focusing on a medium close-up, while a second camera was moved around by a camera operator, capturing B-Roll. For Arianna Skincare, on the other hand, one stationary camera was used for her initial interview and then a steadicam was used separately to capture B-Roll of her cooking, walking around the Boston Commons, and so on. This was chosen to lend the video a soft movement that fit the feel of the initial interview. Also, at Brockton, we only had the duration of the interview to capture all of the footage needed, so a second camera was necessary due to the time constraints.
As you can see, camera movements really depends on the situation. Now knowing all of your options, you can consciously understand your camera movement choices with your next video project!