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Don’t Move

It’s time to go watch TV again (hey, this moviemaking stuff is easy!). Turn to a scripted dramatic show and note how often the camera moves. I don’t mean how often the camera is moved, which provides different angles of the same scene, but how often the camera is actually moving—not much. When it does move, such as when following a character through a set (The West Wing often uses this technique when transitioning between scenes), the movement is smooth and measured.

As much as possible, limit your camera’s movement. You want action that emotionally affects the viewer, which is more likely to happen when the camera is stationary and focused on the contents of a scene. A shot that’s bouncing, zooming, or otherwise sloshing about like a drunk at happy hour is a scene where the movement is distracting from the action. Of course, there are times when motion is called for: can you imagine reality-television shows like COPS or ER using stationary cameras? I imagine it’s difficult enough to chase a suspected criminal down a dark alley and over a chain-link fence without asking him to pause for a few minutes while the crew sets up its lights and tripods.


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