Aesthetics of Camera Movement
A camera’s movement provides more than an audience’s viewpoint and perspective of the action. Movement may also provide an aesthetic means by establishing emotions, whether of a character’s or from experiencing it from a third-person perspective. Always, when the camera moves, it moves in relation to something, and that something may either be a character or an object. Camera movement should be planned ahead of time, and employed dependently along with camera angles and composition to create any effective emotions all around.
Like a musical symphony or a dance, there’s always a rhythm to a scene when the camera moves through space–even when the camera is static. And when captured effectively, the audience will capture the mood you intended. Whether it’s a graceful dance across a dance floor or a bumpy ride through the desert, there are endless ways to create an effective experience for the viewer–all with just camera movement. The possibilities are endless. If you want to capture the ‘feel’ of riding a roller coaster, you wouldn’t just shoot a wide shot of the entire roller coaster and call it a ride, you would want to actually shoot it from a seat, and move with it, right?
Before planning a camera’s movement(s), considers two things: the narrative’s perspective (e.g. first person, third person); and the relation between an object or character and his/her environment, including emotions.
Depending on the narrative’s perspective, camera movement will first depend on how and who is telling the story. In film, this is usually a combination of more than one. If from a first-person perspective, you may want to include some handheld point of view shots (POV), as if seeing from the eyes of the character experiencing the action. Shots set up at the character’s eye level along with certain camera movements may mimic the way characters view their surroundings. For example, pans mimic the turning of a head in order to see the surroundings. Handheld dolly shots or Steadicam shots work best for POV shots of a character, and will give the audience a look (and feel) of what the character is experiencing. If you’re wanting to shoot the entire film from the first person perspective with all POV shots, keep the audience engaged with other creative techniques or camera angles and compositions, for an overly shaky camera throughout the entire length can disorient the viewers and have them lose interest; use a still camera or Steadicam for some of the shots.
How a camera moves around the characters and objects also contributes emotions to the narrative or action. No matter the narrative’s perspective, the way a camera moves will ultimately detail the emotion of the action and the relation between object(s) and character(s). Imagine a fight scene with graceful and smooth sweeping tracking and crane shots around two character’s fighting. The scene may create an epic feel, a dreamlike state, or capturing the fight as if an art, such as a dance. Now, imagine the same fight scene, this time with shaky, handheld dolly shots. This will create a more edgy feel, heightened with anticipation and uncertainty. Depending on the overall mood, consider the relation between the subjects involved in the action. Don’t be afraid to move the camera inside and/or around the action.
Some emotions camera movements may reveal are: freedom, abandonment, excitement, fear and tension. Give the audience a better feeling of being present by revealing new space around the action and create emotion with the use of camera movement. Experiment to see what type of camera movements will work for your special production.