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Cinematography 2 / Camera / Movement / Transition

Action !

Camera movement is one of the most important elements in storytelling. We all use camera movement in our movies, videos, animations but we don't fully understand importance, benefits, and where to use it.

In short description, movement is the method of moving from one frame, scale, angle, subject, event to another without interruption. Movement has many artistic benefits that we will list shortly, but above all, we need to mention its biological benefit.

The human body, and specifically the brain, processes and reacts at unusual speeds. While watching a horror movie in the dark at night, there is a maximum difference of 1/60 seconds between a friend's approaching you from behind then screaming and you jumping out and screaming. (let's say the brain sends the first reaction signal, if we are overweighted, the body reflex may weaken). Minimum limit of this reaction has yet remained to be measured. 1/60 is an average assumption. You can see the research of Moscoso del Prado Université de Provence in France who tried to put some limit then leave open upper limits yet to be discovered by his statement :

28 Aug 09 update: Moscoso del Prado writes:

“I have a small scientific comment on your post. Although I think it

represents my results very well, I find the opening sentence:

“A new way to analyze human reaction times shows that the brain processes

data no faster than 60 bits per second.”

a bit misleading. I don’t think I have shown anything about the upper bounds

of the processing speed, in principle the curve I show in Figure 4 of the

manuscript could extend far beyond this, but I have no information to make

this extrapolation, so I would not claim (for the moment) any upper limit.”

You can read research here.

I know you think I'm straying from subject but bear with me. Those are important parts.

As a result of these instantaneous reactions, the change in the functioning of metabolism can start from mild to serious damage in our body. What does it have to do with our topic? Easy. We are getting close. I'm presenting you a different approach.

Aside from people who sleep at night when their head hits the pillow, a significant portion of people who take a while to sleep or having sleep disorder prefer to sleep with the tv on.

Even if we close our eyes, we feel cut transitions between scenes due to the translucency of our eyelids.

If a news channel is open, which means less camera movement and a lot of cut transitions, these transitions become more obvious and since the receptors in our eyes constantly perceive light and change, the brain continues to work at the point where it needs to calm down, interpreting the momentarily differentiating signals from the eye.

Especially sudden changes in brightness are enough to pull us back from sleep when we are about to fall asleep. Just like a sudden noise.

At some point, this forces us to cover our head with our blanket which limits our breathing then we open the blanket again, turn to the other side, a paradox.

If we open a sports match which means just camera pan-tilt and just a bunch of cuts , because of the minimized momentarily brightness changes we can sleep relatively easy.

Indeed most ideal situation is sleeping without any light or sound on.

You might noticed this situation or try it yourself.

For conclusion of this part, at the basic level, using movement instead of cuts is good for health. If we had action movies without movement, full of cuts, our brain would probably leave us in movie theater alone.

Some of artistic benefits of camera movements are :

  • Providing transition without disconnection between subjects.

  • Maintaining continuity in editing.

  • The ability to show contrast dynamically and intertwined.

  • Seamlessly showing the relationship and comparison between the environment and the subject.

  • Ensuring the conservation of action and proportions.

  • Smooth perception of the subject or environment structure in 3D with perspective distortion.

  • With the effect of Parallax, 3D depth and distances become perceptible.

Let's see 7 basic camera movements:

Pan : Turn your head left and right. Thats it. We can get an idea of ​​how fast it is by watching an F1 car speeding past us. Or, we can scan the area from one end to the other at a celebration to see the crowd, the special people in the crowd, and witness the tension rise dynamically by watching the unwanted person entering the area.


Tilt : Move your head down to up or opposite. Used for showing vertical actions and consequences. Following something that falls rapidly from the sky and crashes into the ground. Or we can see the knife in the hand of the person and raise the head up to see the scared victim. Or we can perceive the height of the Eiffel tower by raising the head up. The opposite gives the depth of the abyss.


Zoom : Magnification-demagnification obtained by changing the Focal Length of the lens. We can start from Ultra Wide or Establishing shoot and focus on the subject and its activity with zoom in, magnification seamlessly. Or, on the contrary, we can seamlessly shift our subject from big and important to the small and overwhelmed.

Tarantino and his lovely Crash Zooms...


Pedestal : Moving the camera vertically without tilting. Pedestal is used instead of Tilt when we want to keep the distance between the camera and the subject and prevent perspective distortion. Seeing the bride and groom holding hands and going up pedestal to see their faces. If we were to do this with the Tilt movement, the heads of the bride and groom would appear same size of the rings on their hands due to perspective distortion.

300. One of the most artistic pedestal movements in the cinema...


Truck : Horizontal version of pedestal. Same principles applies. A person running and walking along the street can be followed without losing the proportion the scale, and an idea about his speed can be obtained by looking at the speed of movement of the environment in the image. In pan movement, the situation is opposite. Environment is slow, the object flies away. The name Truck comes from the fact that these scenes were actually shot through the truck window initially. The famous scene below was also shot with a truck.


Dolly (Tracking Shot): Moving the camera in each axis. Fluent tracking can be achieved. Unlike zoom, since the camera moves in a 3-dimensional plane, the size and speed ratios between the objects changes. The scene gets enriched. Things obscured by something else can be revealed.


Rack Focus : The transition of focus from one subject to another. It is an internal movement like Zoom. It is used in emotional scenes, speeches. There is no special limit.

Apart from these, all of the movements such as Handheld, Crane, Orbit, Vertigo are versions and combinations of the above movements. Speaking of vertigo, let's talk about it, because some scenes that are engraved in the history of cinema were shot with this movement.

Vertigo (Dolly Zoom, Zolly) : It is the movement of the camera to Dolly In + Zoom Out or, conversely, Dolly Out + Zoom In by centering the subject. In this movement, the size of the subject remains constant, while the background grows or shrinks due to perspective distortion level. It has strong and varied emotional effects, such as severely abstracting the subject, making the depth feel extreme. It is necessary to pay close attention to speed and proportions. It's a delicate move.


It is a method of connecting two different shots. Usually executed in video editing. Shots must be appropriate for the transition. Requires planning. Continuity is the key element. The most overlooked elements are the movement of out-of-focus objects and time.

Let's take a look at the most commonly used basic types and some special ones:

Cut : It is the most used transition type. Allows instant switching between shots.

Dissolve/Mix/Crossfade : It is a smooth transition from one shot to the next by changing the opacity values.

Fade : Fading to one color or revealing from one color . These colors are usually white and black. It is also used in transitions between two shots. While fading to white gives positive feeling, fading to black gives a dramatic feeling.

Wipe : Connecting two shots by passing a geometric shape through in proper time.

Commonly used to dynamically show position/location changes.

Nearly all of the different complex transitions used now arose from the above basic transitions and they still use these transitions in core. The exceptions are Digital Effects such as morph, pixelization. There are thousands of different types.

Let's see some intermediate transitions that are popular:

Match Cut : Connecting two shots with harmonious geometric shapes, positions, colors and movements with the Cut method. While it is used to show the common points between two different situations, it is also used to show the development or the flow of time.

Match Dissolve : The only difference with Match Cut is that the transition uses Dissolve instead of Cut. This is often used with a combination of opacity and focus shifting.

Invisible Cut : Making a transition using one of the basic transition methods by matching two different shots to each other in a near perfect way. The purpose is to hide the transition from the viewer.

Hitchcock's early essays. Invisible -Cut

Invisible -Wipe

Invisible - Dissolve

Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman is almost entirely rendered through the Invisible Cut. You can review the transitions and transition points in the video below:

One of the most important tricks of Invisible Cut is the fast camera movements called Whip Pan. Fast camera movements creates Motion Blur. This makes it easy to connect different shots.

Whip Pan

Let's finish the camera here and move on to the light.

Stay safe.

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