The goal of any good video project is to convey a story to an audience. Within the process of creating a video, before we begin shooting, we carefully consider what tools will be necessary to help us accomplish our goals. Among the many things we ponder relates to what we call camera dynamics, or, the effect of certain movement of the camera in space as it relates to the story-telling aspects of the project. Moving the entire camera rather than just using a zoom lens to frame shots can be very effective and give the project a cinematic feel.
In many cases, we determine that no significant camera movement is needed and would be a distraction. A simple camera mount like a tripod is the proper tool for the job. A nice, stable tripod with a pan and tilt head is a great tool for creating rock-solid shots. Hand-held shots have their place, too. In other cases, designing a shot that involves moving the camera laterally or vertically can enhance the story and deepen the audience’s viewing experience. There are several tools available to us that can help us accomplish the desired dynamics. Depending on the requirements of the shot, we can use a camera dolly designed to roll on a smooth floor or on special track. Some dollies are equipped with a small boom arm that allows for vertical travel as well. Another tool for even greater range of movement is a crane. Whether it is a large crane designed to be ridden by the camera operator, or a smaller jib arm that mounts the camera on a remote-controlled head, cranes can add significant dynamics – and significant costs to a production. Finally, helicopters are an excellent platform for creating sweeping, broad-angle shots. These days, we have the choice of a full-size helicopter for speed and for covering large expanses, or the latest technology – small, remote-controlled units that are excellent tools for maneuvering a light-weight camera into areas where a traditional helicopter could not venture.
The most important consideration we face when determining camera dynamics is whether or not these movements are necessary and relevant to the story. Do these maneuvers improve the impact on the audience in a cost-effective way, or are they a distraction to the audience and an unnecessary burden on the budget? Careful planning and vision helps answer those questions.