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Motivated camera movement (2 replies and 3 comments)

1 year ago
ravikantrai 1 year ago

Hi Roger, I was wondering what you think about what they call 'motivated' camera movements. Do you only move the camera when you feel a scene needs it? I have been thinking about this a lot lately and I get a feeling that some (or a lot?) of this could be subjective? Because how does one know when a scene 'needs' it?

Thank you.

Roger Deakins
1 year ago
Roger Deakins 1 year ago

In general I don't like any camera movement that doesn't relate to the movement within the frame or seems to have no specific purpose in relationship to the scene. So much camera movement in contemporary cinema seems to be there only to enhance what is an inherently uninteresting scene. I can be quite happy not to move the camera at all if it feels right for the scene. But that is only my personal view and such choices are very subjective. I am at present working on a film that has more camera movement than anything I have ever done but it is a very specific piece. 

1 year ago

Thank you, Roger! I appreciate it. I agree. Even some good films made me think "Wait, why is the camera moving this much?" The 'shaky' cam for example, on the Bourne series of action films was not a distraction for me (I actually liked it in the first two) until the third film, where I felt it made it difficult for me to follow the action on screen in several instances, it was so fast and shaky.

David W
1 year ago

Hmm, this project sure seems like a continuous take to me.

1 year ago

Although I agree the camera should not move without motivation I approach movement in a unique way. I believe that every shot should have one or more of the following types of movement.

1. movement of the subject within the frame
2. movement of the frame (camera)
3. emotional movement of the frame (this is an important reason to hold a frame around a still subject)

The top three types of movement are the basics for me. Although I have seen many beautiful films whose story requires a slower pace along with its shots movement. Let's not place theory above story even if we don't understand why a particular style is working. There is much to us beyond logic and consciousness.

4. movement of the viewer's eye within the frame (sometimes the viewer just needs time to see all the detail)
5. movement of the foreground/background within the frame (sometimes the subject and camera are locked off on a moving platform such as a car or train)

The benefit of this approach is that we not only choose when to move the camera but also choose when to keep the camera still.

There is another consideration. How does each shot's energy fit within the scene or story? For instance, a single locked off shot within a chaotic action scene could give the viewer a quick break. But, it may also take away from an emotional still shot at the end of the scene. Contrasting movement is a powerful tool that we should wield intentionally.

The Byre
1 year ago
The Byre 1 year ago

There is something to be learned from bad cinematography and (IMO) if it is pointless camera movement and inappropriate framing and angles you are looking for, 'The Bone Collector' would be right up there in my top ten.  

As Roger says "So much camera movement in contemporary cinema seems to be there only to enhance what is an inherently uninteresting scene." and this movie has it all.  Scenes where nothing is going wrong and not much is happening, are shot at a crooked angle.  We go from totally static to jiggly hand-held for no apparent reason and Steady-Cams give us the 'floaty' shots seemingly at random.

But then the story ain't no great shakes either!  Every overworked cliche gets an airing, from the angry police captain to the brilliant rookie cop and of course a psycho serial killer who leaves cryptic clues at the scene of every murder - and I've completely forgotten which C-character it was or what lame excuse he came up with for being a serial killer! 


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