Filming Techniques - How to Position the Camera

Camera placement, angles, directions are all filming techniques, which will determine how individual images are translated to a film shot. Just like you need to sequence words to form a sentence, you need to sequence camera angles and positions for filming a scene.

How you film a shot with your camera, determines what your audience will see. For instance, a close-up shot will concentrate on the item and will show a blurry background. The object in focus magnifies manifold. A close-up helps the audience get in the mind of the character. A close-up of a face is a very intimate shot. It shows us all the expressions of the person.

The extreme close-up shot, on the other hand, magnifies details that we normally won't be able to notice. An extreme-close-up face of an animal's face, for instance, would only show mouth and eyes, and nothing more. This gives a very dramatic effect.

For each scene that you film, you will have to consider the following three pointers:
1. Length of the shot
2. Angle of the shot
3. Camera movement
This article will discuss the third pointer that is, how to move your camera according to the requirement of the scenes.

Camera movement
There are 4 main types of camera movement which you can use while filming. These are:
• Pan shot
• Tracking shot
• Tilt shot
• Hand held/zoom

The pan shot
In this shot, the camera moves on a fixed axis, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The camera is placed on a tripod or on the cameraperson's shoulder. The position of the camera does not change during the shot. The object to be focused is in the middle of the frame.

The tracking shot
In this shot the position of the camera changes. The camera is moved by means of a dolly, which is a vehicle moving on rails. Complicated scenes may involve a track laid on the set for the camera to move. This shot portrays movement.

The tilt shot
This is similar to the pan shot with the difference that the camera moves vertically. The tilt shot can be done with handheld camera or a tripod. When capturing the height of a building, for instance, a tilt shot can be used. However, be careful of any jerky movements.

The handheld shot
This delivers a dramatic feel to a shot. It has been used in documentary making. Handheld shots make viewers feel they are part of a scene. This shot is popularly used in recent horror or supernatural films such as 'Paranormal Activity' and 'The Blair Witch Project', which makes the scene more real and believable.

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