Five rules for camera movement in film and video

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Movement in Film and Video
Movement in Film and Video

Five rules for camera movement: Videothink sheds light on the topic of movement in films in a four-part series. In addition to the basic aspects of movement in films, this 4-part series culminates with 5 rules for the movment of the film and video camera which explain the criteria according to which movement should be used in moving image communication. Panning (part 2) and tracking shots (part 3) together with editing belong to the most important film-related means of expression.

No systematic, scientific measures are provided for the assessment of camera movement.

However, it is agreed that some rules apply for camera movement for professional film-makers. The most important rules for camera movement are:


rules for camera movement

(#1) All movements dramaturgically motivated by the plotare always and fundamentally justified. (#2) All movements can be triggered by a dynamic element in front of the camera. (#3) The camera is also allowed to move around an object, representing the viewer’s eye.

Rule #1: Dramaturgical necessity

Camera movements without dramaturgical necessity remain reserved for experimental films. Only movement triggered by an object in front of the camera constitute a widely accepted exception.

Rule #2: Movement creates a sense of space

Tracking shots increase the audience’s sense of space. Even without 3D recording technology, they provide the audience an intensified feeling of being in a three-dimensional room. However, the classical movement of the camera can hardly keep pace with the natural room depth and also with the virtual reality (VR) described in this series of articles.

Rule #3: Movement guides the view

Camera panning and tracking shots guide, lead and accompany the audience’s view. Panning and tracking shots reveal new contents to or retain contents for the audience. They shock or surprise the audience with fast editing cuts or provide the audience with the pace as a rhythmic element for its experience.

Rule #4: Movements have their price

Camera movements result in three consequences:

  1. The duration of a setting is increased by camera movement.
  2. The tempo of the plot is slowed down. 
  3. The image composition is more difficult.

Rule #5: No rules without exceptions

Purists and protectors of the pure teachings of the art of film insist on camera movements as “accompaniment technique”, only serving to maintain the emotional connection to actors moving in the image, the only reason the camera is allowed to be moved.

Conclusion: Rules for camera movement

Content and dramaturgy determine the camera work. The logics of a director who can only move the camera instead of the actors is rather unpopular in current filmmaking and is seldom practised. There are no rules for camera movement without exceptions.

Camera movements are allowed only to maintain the image size and distance between the actor and the camera constant as long as the emotions allow this. Francois Truffaut

However, the unleashed camera is used more frequently once again. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, the lack of concepts itself is declared as a concept and misunderstood, so that merciless arbitrariness for a medium which holds the subjectivity of the angle of view within its DNA cannot be a recipe for success.

Photo: Shooting the German monumental film “Metropolis” (1927) by Fritz Lang. Camera: Karl Freund.

Über Videothink Team 32 Artikel

Articles by the Videothink team are collaboratively-written by more than one member of the videothink publishing team.

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