When taking pictures or video, ideally, one would always use a tripod to stabilize the picture. We expect our videos to be solid and stable. Watching a video that is shaky for any length of time is very annoying. Hand held cameras can add a bit of tension to a scene, but are used very seldomly. If you aren’t using a tripod, then you need to take extra care to stabilize yourself and the camera as you film. If possible, lean against a wall or tree, and try to avoid zooming in as much as possible. Having expensive, specialized equipment helps, but with a little practice you will be surprised at how well you can do with just a hand held phone camera.
A pan requires you to turn your camera horizontally, from left to right or right to left. If you have the camera on a tripod, you would slowly move the tripod arm either left or right, keeping your movement slow and consistent. You want to avoid any jerky movements. If you are using a hand held camera, aim your knees at the target you want to end up on, then turn at the waist to aim at the starting target. This will help you keep your pan level. If you don’t do it that way, you will have a tendency to tilt the camera down as you complete your pan.
Swivel or move the camera counterclockwise so that the camera moves to your left.
Swivel or move the camera clockwise so that the camera moves to your right.
A tilt requires you to make the camera point up or down. The camera remain the same height above the ground. You only rotate the camera up or down. Like the pan, a tilt should be slow and steady. (There are times when a pan or tilt can be moved quickly, but those are for special effects and shouldn’t be used too often.
Gradually point the camera up. This should be steady and smooth.
Gradually point the camera down. (Totally unrelated to tilt, but notice the bird leaving the birdhouse near the end of the clip.)
A cant requires that you tilt the camera sideways. Some film crews refer to it as a Dutch Tilt. Often used for dramatic effect. It helps to portray disorientation, unease, frantic or desperate action, madness or intoxication. Not all tripods have this capability. This is where you may need to hold the camera in you hands. In many cases, when we watch a video, we see the result of the cant, not the actual moving of the camera unless the scene is trying to suggest disorientation.
To Cant left, tilt the camera sideways so that the top of the camera moves to the left. This will cause the horizon to be slanted with the downhill side on the left and the high point on the right.
To Cant right, tilt the camera sideways so that the top of the camera moves to the right. This will cause the horizon to be slanted with the downhill side on the right and the high point on the left.
A Pedestal requires you to elevate or lower the camera, usually on a center column of a tripod. Pedestalling up or down will put the camera in different vertical positions, making things look like you are filming from the top of a ladder or while kneeling on the ground. This does not work well on most inexpensive tripods. Studio pedestals will have pneumatic telescoping columns that will allow for a nice smooth movement. Depending on how much movement is needed, a jib arm may be used instead. You can do this with a hand held camera with a little practice. You want the movement to be steady and smooth. Practice a few times before recording.
Carefully raise the camera up, using a steady and smooth movement.
Carefully lower the camera down, using a smooth and steady motion.
To Dolly, you need to move the camera toward or away from an object in more or less a straight line. If you were working in a studio, you tripod would have wheels that would allow you to move the camera easily. Film crews will often build what looks like miniature railroad tracks and have a cart with the camera move toward or away from the object. You can do this with a hand held camera, but you need to take some precautions. Walk through the area you are going to be dollying in, looking for uneven ground or tripping hazards. This is especially important when you are going to dolly out as you will be walking backwards while keeping your focus on the object you are filming. Remember to keep the camera level and your movements smooth and steady.
Carefully move the camera closer to the object using a steady and smooth motion.
Carefully move the camera farther away from the object, using a smooth and steady motion.
To Truck requires that you move the camera laterally. You might also see it referred to as tracking. It is much like a dolly, only you are moving the camera to the right or left, not forward or backward. Like a dolly, rails are often used on professional sets to help keep the motion steady and smooth. When using a hand held camera, be sure you do a practice run or two, to make sure you have a clear path and not tripping hazards.
Carefully move the camera to the left, keeping a steady and smooth motion.
Carefully move the camera to the right, using a smooth and steady motion.
To Arc requires you to move the camera is a slightly curved dolly or truck movement. Imagine you were filming two people talking and had the camera looking over the shoulder of one of the people. You would use an arc to move the camera around that person so that you could get a full view of the person they are talking to. You can also use the arc to reveal something that is hidden behind a tree or building.
Use a dolly in or out in a camera left curve or truck left in a curve around an object.
Use a dolly in or out in a camera right curve or truck right in a curve around an object.
To Zoom, you must change the focal length of a lens through the use of a zoom control while keeping the camera stationary. This works well with a camera mounted on a tripod, but can be a bit more difficult when using a hand held phone. One trick to always getting a good zoom, is to zoom into the object, get it oriented as you want it, and then zoom out. Now start recording and zoom in. The object should always be in exactly the right place. Zooms should be steady and smooth. Generally, you will want a slower zoom, although a fast zoom is sometimes used for special effects.
To Zoom in, you need to change the lens gradually to a narrow-angle position, thereby making the scene appear to move closer to the viewer. (The motion should be smooth and steady, something that is somewhat difficult to do with a hand held phone.)
To Zoom out, you need to change the lens gradually to a wide-angle position, thereby making the scene appear to move farther away from the viewer. (The motion should be smooth and steady, something that is somewhat difficult to do with a hand held phone.)
© 2020 Gerald Wichlacz