Anxiety is settling in, I was already late on one article, and filming is the aspect that I’m least familiar with. I think I’m gonna need a lot of structure for this one.
I have some familiarity with exposure and basic operation of the camera equipment that I have.
Things I am unfamiliar with:
- Camera angles
- Camera transitions
- Camera movements
And for the cutting part:
- How to film a scene to have several videos
- How to cut them together
- Cutting to music or some other rhythm?
Also another thing I’d like to understand is how certain transition and effects are edited so that I can have the end in mind, when I shoot.
So in this article, I’ll explore these topics…
- Static shots: usually from a tripod, better for dialogue or precise composition or for great acting, can be used to trap a character, or give an effect of claustrophobia
- Pan shots: rotate and usually track a subject while being fixed in position
- Slow pan shot: heightens anticipation or mystery
- Whip pan shot: heightens energy and emotion
- Tilt shot: rotate vertically while being fixed in position, reveals information or new character or setting or scale
- Push in shot: moves the camera towards the subjects, visual cue that can mean this is important, can direct the attention to a specific detail, can capture a thought process or internal conflict
- Pull out shot: can reveal setting, characters, as subjects get smaller the pull out effect can pull the viewer out of the story, it can also convey isolation and abandonment
- Zoom shot: can reveal context around the subject, can feel unnatural, when you zoom slowly it can create uneasiness
- Crash zoom shot: is a really fast zoom, can add a dramatic effect to a scene
- Dolly zoom shot: pull out and zoom in, or push in and zoom out, basically in either scenario, the zoom has the bigger effect, and so it can bring the attention to the subject or their context
- Camera roll: while centered on a subject does a kind of airplane rolling thing, can be unsettling, can match the subject’s movement or internal state, can accent shift in the movie
- Tracking shot: camera follows the subject, where is the subject going, and builds anticipation, can be immersive to the viewer, handheld moving shot can be even more immersive
- Trucking shot: moves laterally with the subject, can be good way to change scene, or show speed, or show time passing
- Arc shot: orbits around a subject, keeping our attention on the subject, heightens panic like emotions, when it stops, something should happen
- Boom shot: moves a camera up or down, can bring the attention to the subject, or their surroundings, can follow the subject
- Camera shake shot: camera shake is added to make it more subjective, gives a shot more documentary style, random zoom and shake gives it a real time feeling, where anything can happen
- Combined shots: this is where the magic happens
Blocking is where you place the actor in the scene. This is important because as I mentioned before, you wanna do story telling visually so that the dialogue and narration can be an added fun, not an exposition.
How the actors occupy the space and appear small or large on screen can tell a lot about the scene.
Circles. Squares. Triangles.
Circles feel safe, squares can box you in, triangles have a pointing effect.
Shapes are sometimes formed by lines.
Lines can lead or point to an area or subject, meaning it will highlight and focus an element in the scene.
Subtext & Contrast
If you have all of the above elements randomly, it won’t do much. Might look cool. But won’t have the actual effect we want, which is visual story telling. So for example. Showing intention of the character, or where their focus is.
Camera Movements (On the cheap)
- Hold the camera on your stomach and use your hips to slide sideways and kind of orbit the subject, arc shot
- Slide on the table, sideways or towards the subject, trucking shot, pull in, pull out
- Moving fast, the idea behind this is that, our hands naturally wobble, so if we move fast, we can reduce the random shakiness, if we record in high FPS and play in slomo, we can nail this effect, arc shot
- Use a spinning stool for example to do a pan shot
- Hanging your camera to get a boom shot
- Skateboard or roller blade while holding the camera still to get a trucking shot
- Levering your boom or tripod against something to get a dynamic move
Handheld Camera Movements
Gimbal Replacement Shots
Move along single axis and definitely stabilize in post. Use camera stabilization if you have it.
- Strap around your neck to get a statically determinate hold on your camera
- Use your legs to do a smooth motion, do a lunge step, don’t actually step, just have your legs in lunge position already
- If you have to walk, do it smoothly
- Tracking pan, so basically move and rotate, slowly
- Get the focus first, put shallow DOF, then pull out, remember roughly where you have to be to be in focus, then push in
Intentional Handheld Shots
- Bend the knees while you walk and get a good comfortable hold on the camera
Tools of the Trade
For a long take, you sometimes want to go continuously from one shot to the next. For example, a drone coming in from above then a person grabs it and starts shooting.
There are some different camera angles you can utilize to shoot a scene. The rule of thumb here is, for an interesting scene or sequence, have at least 5 different angles.
- Long: shows the entire body of subject
- Wide: shows the surroundings, maybe wide angle lens
- Medium: shows waist up
- Cowboy: shows gun holster up
- Close up: shows chest up
- Detail: shows face or hands
- Macro: shows fingers or nails
- High: from above the subject
- Low: from below the subject
- Dutch: horizon angled shot
- Over the shoulder: shows over the shoulder of the subject to give perspective
- POV: shows first person perspective
- Cutaway: shows another scene or a different far away shot
Motivated vs Unmotivated
Motivated camera movement basically follows the subject or their movement. Whereas unmotivated is if the camera started moving somewhere else, on its own accord, as if to say, look here, there’s information here.
- Pan or zoom in slowly on a subject, creep in on the subject’s wants and desires
- Creep out, on the other hand, can convey a feeling of abandonment
- Pan away from the camera on purpose, to hide away something unsightly
- Pan slowly, wandering camera, camera can become its own character
- Cross the 180 line to convey that the tone has shifted
Here I am just gonna kind of freestyle and figure out what I need to do.
I know I need to shoot like at least 5 different angles. Considering how inexperienced I am, and how crappy some of my equipment is, I might possibly need 8 different angles.
Then I need to kind of understand the space so that I can brainstorm some camera angles. Once the angles are considered. I wanna consider the compositions.
At which point, I wanna do some test shots. For each composition I wanna test a couple different camera settings.
So basically, scene => actions => angles => compositions => frames. With each step introducing alternatives and options, we could possibly get:
- 1 scene
- 20 actions per scene
- 3 angles per action
- 2 compositions per angle: beginning and end at least
- 3 camera tests per compositions
- 2 camera setting tests per camera
So on average, we might have like 20 x 3 x 2 x 3 x 2 = 720 different tests and I can appreciate why movies take a year for a large crew.
Here is how a typical sequence might be filmed.
- Wide shots to establish the scene and time
- Street view 1
- Street view 2
- Street view 3
- Subject walking while camera pans or tilts
- Subject walking across a big field
- Subject walking away telephoto compressed
- Subject tracking, panning shot
- Subject entering the hallway
- Subject throwing their bag onto the sofa
- Subject turning their computer on
- Subject grabbing beer from the fridge
- Subject sitting down at desk, text effect
- Computer shot
- Subject typing face scene
- Subject side view
- Pull keyboard out
- Crack the knuckle scene
- Investigation scene
- Over the shoulder scene
- Computer screen recording
Okay after some test shots. I realized a bunch of things.
For almost all of the cameras, I wanna handle the exposure myself. Some go way too high, some go way too low. And when I cut them together, it takes away from the sequence.
I can do interesting whips and stuff with the gimbal, and I can program the gimbal so that I don’t have to touch and shake the camera.
Touching the camera adds a lot of shake.
Generally I wanna film it as clean as I possibly can.
Assume I won’t get to edit it. Because I realized even if you could edit it, first of all, it would take time and second of all, it’s just not the same.
But then of course edit it.
For some effects and transitions, I wanna experiment with a simpler clip, before attempting a real video, just to get a feel for it. So that I can film the right way to make my life easier in edit.
I will need to come up with a way to compress these so that they can be done very quickly and efficiently.