Camera movement can often sway your shoot from beauty to beast.
To make camera movement work to your advantage, understand the differences between subtle tripod moves, long tracking and sweeping crane shots. With this skill, emphasize details or immerse the audience in the action.
Movement can be produced physically or digitally. Teams behind blockbusters such as Avatar and Transformers often program movement through software and virtual cameras. Motion-control systems like these help when camera moves can be repeated multiple times to achieve the perfect shot.
Interesting moves are still possible on lower budgets. Think outside the handheld or tripod and consider the slider. Sliders come in sizes from 0.5m to several meters long and can be floor mounted or supported on one or two tripods or light stands.
Sliders are lightweight and versatile. Matched with a tripod head, they move the camera horizontally or at an angle. Some sliders even come with motors for speed control.
When time and crew are on your side, equip yourself with a track dolly. Track dollies can attach to tripod feet to shift the tripod between positions.
A track dolly requires some set-up time especially when dealing with uneven surfaces. Like a toy train set, tracks come in straight or curved sections to give the length of shot needed.
When moving between shots, cameras can be raised or lowered to create dynamism. Revealing a character or a landscape are common situations to exhibit this technique.
To achieve this effect, a jib arm raises and lowers the camera in a controlled manner through a counterbalancing weight system.
Control the jib from the front and use the tripod head to add pan-and-tilt capability. The balanced camera and head weights create fluid movement while counterweights at the back allow fingertip control.
Another option to bring your film to new heights is with the use of a camera crane. Longer than a jib, camera cranes are operated from the back rather than the front.
Cranes do not have a normal tripod head, but some may feature a Pan-Tilt-Zoom system for extra versatility, also with a counterbalancing system. Unlike the jib, cranes allow operators to focus on the object while lowering or raising the camera.
Some of the trickiest handheld shots to manage are action shots. To prevent up-down movements that echo the motion transfer of steps to camera, consider a vest and arm for smooth shots. Alternately, camera stabilizers such as a Tiffen Steadicam are now smaller to accommodate lighter cameras and DSLRs.