Monday, June 7, 2010

Shooting with Style

When you videotape a scene there is a lot you can do to take advantage of the medium. One could say with video you can create “poetry in motion”.

First, a zoom in or out can be useful, but be aware that it compresses the space. On the other hand, a dolly emphasizes depth. You can simulate the effect by slowing taking a few steps towards or away from an object in the scene. When we dolly, the dimensions of objects are much more dynamic, visually stimulating, and have what I call “verisimilitude”. You can also make the dolly more intriguing by moving the dolly in an arc, across the scene from left to right, and place it up high or low. So try not to overuse the zoom button. Vary your shoots by including dollies when you can. It is particularly useful to begin and end a scene.

You might ask, how can I do this without expensive equipment? Well the first way is to go “hand-held” and use your body and try to move smoothly in the pattern of your choice. It takes practice, but can be done.

A second way to deal with it is to make your own dolly—out of  PVC pipe and roller skate wheels. You simply attach the rollers—at opposing angles—to the four corners of a large piece of plywood, and place the plywood on tracks you have laid using the parallel PVC pipe. Then the videographer hops on the platform with a tripod and camera, a crew member attaches a puller of sorts (part of a C-stand used for lights work fine). A member of the crew pulls or pushes the videographer along the path as the scene is shot.

Another way to simulate a dolly is to use a wheelchair. The videographer sits in the chair with the camera and a crew member pushes the camera person in or out.

Are there other useful tips about artful shooting? Yes. You should always shoot from a variety of angles…high, low, to the left, to the right, and pan across a scene or object. Also, if you shoot into corners, or diagonally across  a scene you get a look that is more dramatic. Diagonal lines in any medium create energy. Vertical and horizontal lines create stability.

And the last word of advice relates to the beauty of a motion medium. Plan every shot so there is action in the foreground (people walking through the scene in the front), mid-ground (usually the subject), and background (people or activity). Then as you move with various dollies and pans you can achieve a satisfying visual experience. 

To see examples that illustrate a variety of visual compositions and motion, see my website.