Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cinematography - III

Camera Movement

Long takes usually involve camera movement of some sort, as it would be difficult to justify a long take in which the camera was static, unless the action within the frame was sufficiently interesting to be able to hold our attention. There are four main types of camera movement: in a pan shot the camera rotates horizontally around a fixed position (often used to follow movement); a tilt shot moves the camera vertically around a fixed (typically used to indicate height); a tracking shot involves a horizontal movement of the camera in which it changes location, usually fitted to a device called a dolly that runs on rails; a crane shot enables the camera to be raised and lowered and moved horizontally. In addition to the above, it is also possible to use a hand-held camera or to utilize the zoom facility, which strictly speaking is not a camera movement but movement within the camera - repositioning the lens in relation to the aperture.

The problem with hand-held camerawork is that the shots can be unsteady, but the use of steadicam equipment can overcome this problem and provide smooth moving shots. The viewer is linked more directly to the person filming; first because we usually see exactly what he sees via the camera but also because we are reminded of their presence through the shaky camerawork.

Shot taking with a crane

Crane Shot
In Martin Scorsese’s opinion, one of the greatest shots of all time is a crane shot lasting more than a minute, used by Hitchcock in Young and Innocent (1927). In this film a murder has been committed and those investigating believe the culprit is in a ballroom; the only clue that they have is that the murderer has a facial twitch. Hitchcock gives the viewer information that the investigators don’t have with a crane shot that begins with an ELS of the ballroom, and then moves over the heads of the dancers towards the band on the stage, ending with an ECU of the drummer’s face, which begins to twitch.

A Jib on Tracks

Zoom and tracking shots
It will immediately be realized that a tracking shot is one way of bringing a subject closer by physically moving the camera nearer. However, another technique which produces a similar effect is that of a zoom, the main difference being that the camera does not physically move closer but the lens alters its focal length .But while both techniques bring the subject closer, they differ in how they deal with perspective concerning the relationship between shat is in the middle of the shot and what is at the edges of the frame.

Camera Angle

Camera angle provides another means of producing different meanings. Normally the camera angle is horizontal and at eye level: we usually communicate with each other at something approximating eye level and subconsciously expect to relate to the characters in films in the same way.

However, high and low camera angles can be used too. A high camera angle can be useful for providing a general overview of a situation. A low camera angle may be required because of the position of a character in relation to something else. High and low camera angles can also be used to represent a power relationship between characters in a film or to emphasize the subordinate or dominant nature of a character to the audience. An angled shot can also provide a distorted view.

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