written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/9/2010
Moving your camera around while recording can bring a more vibrant feel to your images, so learn about some of the common ways in which this is done.
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Shake It Up
Though keeping your digital camera still may be enough of a challenge, there are a number of ways you can move the camera while you are recording to portray the image differently. In professional filmmaking there are few wide or establishing shots that are not in constant motion, and you can really affect the way the scene appears by ending the perpetual stillness of the camera on a tripod. Most of these kinds of movements have been used for decades and can be utilized for a number of purposes.
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One of the most used camera moves is done while the camera is still attached to the tripod. The Pan is when you take the camera and move it on a pivot from left to right, or vice versa. This is a curvature motion and does not go directly from left to right. The camera itself always remains stationary, but rotates along the X-Axis.
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The counterpoint to the Pan is the Tilt, and it is based on a similar principle. While the camera is attached to the tripod you “tilt" it up or down, which it does at an angle. Instead of moving the camera up or down the viewpoint is up or down.
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The use of the Zoom is not usually considered a camera movement, but it does change the proximity to the subject of the image so it should be listed with the rest of them. The Zoom is commonly used for the image to appear closer or farther away while the camera remains in its standard position. In most circumstances it is better to use Zoom than readjust the position of the camera, but it may be harder to achieve perfect image focus and appropriate light when Zooming in on an object that is far away.
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When it comes to actually moving the whole camera any distance there are a number of standard ways, depending on what you would like. If you are going to move the camera forward or backwards while you are filming it would be called a Dolly In or Dolly Out. This name comes from the practice where you would use a platform with wheels, such as a dolly, to make this camera movement smooth. This can look similar to a Zoom so it is usually used if you want to move the camera for a long distance, such as when you are following someone walking.
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If you want to move the camera left or right it is called a Truck Right or Truck Left. The same principle applies as with the Dolly Left or Right, and it is best to use a platform with hydraulic wheels attached to keep everything smooth.
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Some common movements are a combination between others used in unison. If you are going to Tilt up or down while you are Panning left or right this would be called an Arc Left or Arc Right. This is a motion that you would be using a lot when trying to keep a moving subject in frame.
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If you want the camera to go directly up or down it is usually called a Pedestal Up or Pedestal Down. This term comes from older television studio cameras that have hydraulic pedestals for going up or down. Most tripods do not have an easy way to do this, so you have to be innovative when trying to record while the camera is going directly up or down.
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There are a lot of standards for camera movement, but like any principle they were created by people who simply employed trial and error. Try out many different ways to do this and you may find just the right kind of motion to match your vision.