This video demonstrates the technique of using a wildly moving camera for effect. BUT VIDEOGRAPHER BEWARE….This technique will mark you as an amateur if not done correctly!
TO MOVE OR NOT TO MOVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION!!
There’s no doubt about it.
The #1 mistake newbie video makers commit is to move the camera so much they induce sea-sickness in their audience.
Seriously. As a sufferer of extreme motion sickness I can testify firsthand to the effect. Wildly moving video can make people nauseated. It’s happened to me a bunch.
As a video production teacher, I can tell you that a wildly moving camera marks a video as amateur in a nano-second. When people first get their hands on a video camera, for some odd reason they are compelled to pan, zoom and tilt with abandon. This is so common it has become a cliche joke.
THAT DOESN’T MEAN CAMERA MOVEMENT IS ALL BAD!
Having sung the praises of getting rock-steady, tripod shots, it’s also true that a moving camera can occasionally be used as an effective story-telling technique. But to do this well, the movement has to be purposeful and controlled, not random and wild.
Generally speaking, video should be shot off a locked down tripod and the camera should not move much at all. If you do use camera movement such as zooms, pans or tilts, keep the movement slow and steady. Ideally, the action within your shot should move as much as possible, but the camera itself is usually kept steady.
MTV CHANGES THE WORLD
Beginning with MTV back in the 80’s, this rule started being broken so frequently that it almost became a non-rule. A steady camera used to be such a mandate that my first boss would go totally nuts if I moved the camera and couldn’t JUSTIFY it under intense interrogation! Thank goodness that rigidness is no longer the norm.
Deliberately moving the camera can create a sense of chaos or excitement. Over the years, this technique traveled beyond the music video genre but that’s still where you’ll find most of it. Dramatic TV shows use the technique relatively often though it’s not as extreme as what you’ll see in the Blair Witch Project. Watch CSI, the camera moves almost constantly.
Often, gentle, random camera movement is done to simulate a news story, since many news photographers keep their tripods locked in the trunk and always handhold. News video is usually a bit shaky. This basic style is referred to as “documentary style” and can be described as run-and-gun method used by one and two-man crews where nothing is staged and all lighting is natural. Let me re-phrase. If you want to follow ethical journalistic practices nothing is staged. Otherwise, stage away, make it look “newsy” by hand holding.
Some video producers think your average viewer has such short attention span that they must move the camera a lot or the viewer will get bored. I don’t buy that. Nevertheless, some camera movement can be extremely effective.
If you do chose this style, keep in mind that quality cameras movement is NOT the same as random, uncontrolled jiggling and it CERTAINLY isn’t the spastic, golly-gee-willikers-I’ve- just- bought-a-new-toy-and-it-does-tricks type of movement people always seem to do when first picking up a video camera. (Hey, I did it myself, 30 years ago and got laughed at my teacher too.)
Quality camera movement is planned and not too terribly spastic. Doing it right takes practice. Doing it right means using it sparingly.
My high school students used to CONSTANTLY argue with me over this. They thought hyperactive spastic cam meant they were creativity geniuses. I’d tell them to go home and watch TV. (How can you argue with a teacher who gives assignments like that?)
If you watch TV critically, you’ll notice that with the exception of music videos and high-drama crime shows, 95% of it is steady cam. There’s a reason for that. Viewers can’t stomach a constantly moving camera. Like spices used in cooking, a little is good but a lot ruins the stew.
That’s not to say I was rigid about the rules. I laughed like crazy when some of my students were POSITIVE I was going to gripe at them for not using a tripod on their rap music video. I said no, your grade got marked down for crappy lighting, the spastic-cam technique actually works for a rap video about a shrinking t-shirt, but relying on car headlights for nighttime illumination, then having no alternative when the car battery runs dead, not only strands you in the boondocks, it leads to poor-quality nighttime shots which would have looked beautiful with full light.
When you are watching TV and video, look at the very edges of the frame to see how much the camera is moving. Even just slight movement will show up on the edges.
Then, if you decide that you want a style that adds excitement, chaos and helps keep the pace moving rapidly, some camera movement might be an option. Otherwise, please do your viewers and your reputation and favor and lock the camera down on a tripod.
Here is a video I made years ago that used the moving cam technique in the opening. Watch this opening and see if you think it worked in this instance.
If you want to read more on this subject, here is another post on using a moving video camera.
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