Cinematic Camera Work

By Jair Martinez

Camera work is one of the most important parts of creating a movie. Directors use different types of camera angles to show emotion, setting, point out certain characters, and to show the tension between characters—not to mention that noticeably sloppy camera work can potentially ruin a film. But it’s easy to make a careless, unfocused shot. It’s much more difficult to actually make an aesthetically pleasing shot that bolsters the plot of the film.

Many factors make up a well-structured camera shot, lighting arguably being the most important, as lighting can influence the meaning of the shot (exemplified when filmmakers portray villains that are heavily shadowed using silhouette). Additionally,  a variety of camera shots including long, medium, close up, extreme close up, and extreme long shot can each serve an individualized purpose in conveying the tone of a scene. For example, long and medium shots are the types of shots that filmmakers use in scenes that don’t have much going on in them. Conversely, close-ups and extreme close-ups are used in scenes that usually include some sort of conflict or situation in which the camera gets close to the characters face in order to show their reactions to the situation. Either way, each shot has its time and place.

Another important aspect of camera shots is the angle at which the shot is taken as it determines how objects in the scene look—angles include high, low, aerial, and eye level. A shot at a high level makes objects in the scene look smaller, shots at a low level make objects look taller and more powerful, aerial level shots are usually taken from lanes and helicopters, and eye level shots make the objects focused on looking and sounding real.

Going hand in hand with camera angles are camera movements which help show emotion and certain movements of an object. Chiefly, the movement called panning is used to follow moving objects like cars, boats, and airplanes. Others, like a tracking shot, follow a certain character, and zooming is usually used to point out a certain object or character. For example, some camera movements mimic a character as seen when the camera tilts while a character nods “yes” or implies agreement.

It doesn’t matter if the script, actors, the set, and the audio is amazing — if the camera shots are poorly done it will ruin the film or video. So, for any potential filmmakers, or even photographers, it is important to keep all this information in mind while filming any type of video or taking any type of photo as it will make your final product look professional and well-done.

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