Camera moves

I'm in need of understanding camera work/moves much better. Is Hollywood Camera Work's - Hot Moves  out of date material?



  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator
    edited January 2017

    Well good camera work is something that never goes out of date so as long as it's presented well this should be good!

  • That was my thinking too but had to ask.

    I watched their free 12 minutes video (s) on grid theory.  Really enlighten me on shearing/plane parallax and line sweeps, toppling lines, striding lines, slinging(vertical/horizontal), striding,...etc

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Once you've absorbed the magic of Hot Moves (it's been years since I watched it, but it's got a lot of great information in it) the next trick is translating that into CG. 

    Now, a 2017 resolution is to prioritize Hitfilm Tutorials more and get them out the door, and an early one in the series (after Scopes and Import/Export) will be cameras, including setting up realistic camera moves). Some general hints here basically mean after absorbing Hot Moves you need to study camera rigs. This is literally looking at a tripod, jib, crane, dolly and gimbal and seeing the actual physical structure that connects to the camera. Then figuring out how to build a virtual structure with point rigs.

    Let's take a quick look at the Hitfilm camera vs a tripod mount: Hitfilm's camera effectively moves and rotates around the image plane (the actual film or sensor in the camera). Now, unless a camera is mounted on a nodal head--a rig specifically designed to rotate a camera around the image plane--this isn't a "realistic movement." Nodal heads are usually used in panoramic photography. With a standard tripod one balances the camera weight over the sticks, and the sensor isn't going to be at center of mass. A camera on a tripod pivots and tilts from a point behind and below the sensor. So, parenting the camera to a point behind a below the camera will give a more realistic "tripod look." Additionally, Hitfilm's camera (actually all things in Hitfilm) rotations are calculated in axis order XYZ. However, a tripod rotates in order of YX (Z-locked, of course). So you add a second point to the rig. Like so. 

    Cameravparents to:

    "Camera X-tilt." This point should be behind and below the camera and represents the tilt-joint of the tripod head. This point parents to:

    "Camera Y-pan." I usually duplicate X-tilt and move it down a little bit, just to make it easier to grab. Now, if my virtual camera is on a dolly, I'll parent Y-pan to:

    "Camera dolly point." In a 3D scene I'll actually put this below Y-pan at ground level. 

    Now, what each point does is in the name. X-tilt only rotates on X, Y-pan only rotates on Y, and Dolly actually does all spacial movements. 

    Yeah, now I'm using three points to animate the camera, but this gives a lot more realistic movements. It really makes a difference, and it worth the extra rigging. 

    Btw, I have "startup templates" saved which have my preferred window layout and Media Pool sorting set up as well as three composite shots: Tripod Camera, Crane Camera and Notes. Notes is a text object I use as a scratchpad.

    Anyways the eventual tutorial will cover this in more detail, but studying a crane/jib will help you anticipate where the rest of the rig goes. :-) 

  • +1 this info!!

    You have shared camera rigs  once before but I was a little dense to it all last year when you did.

    The outline above is perfect for me to understanding rigs better. I'm going to setup a rig as you have described above and start learn'n. I think I might even have one of your rigs you used in your Klingon ship / Enterprise  project you shared from a few years back. I'll study that too as there is a pretty good swing setup there.

    I look forward to some of your tutorials this year.

    Thanks bud.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @GreyMotion I think I explain it better now. :-) 

  • @Triem23 firstly it's GrayMotion not GreyMotion :)

    Secondly, you explain it very well for people who already have a solid foundational understanding and acute awareness of HF.  Everyone else, very hard to grasp textually, visually would be easier :)

  • edited January 2017

    I must say @Triem23 after watching couple hours of Hot Moves and noticing the entire course is presented in cgi examples I definitely looking forward to your tutorials!

    I built a raw rig as you describe above but just couldn't get clean moves because of my lack of understanding of the mechanics of the whole thing but this little series is turning on all kinds of buttons in my head. 

    The plethora of different camera moves I'm seeing is awesome and since I'm working in I like to work in 3D no move appears to be undoable or unsafe for me :-)

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Greg, the real trick with the CG camera is to keep it a kind of move that a camera could actually do! Now, this is my grumpiness coming out, but I do get annoyed at the "Utterly impossible" camera move--snaps my suspension of disbelief in half.

  • Be as grumpy as you want Mike. Ive seen you mention that b4 and I agree. Physically impossible moves ruin the feel of the shot.  Moves that are to close,  panning in the same direction you're  tracking, zooming while tracking, orbitals. I'm guilty of all this.

    Extreme unrealistic moves is what I do now because I didn't know how to do it right. Some may look cool to me...but unrealistic.

    btw- my English is good for a guy from Colorado but hat the heck is undoable? How about not doable.  Just correcting myself a bit :-)

  • @GrayMotion I followed undoable just fine. It's not like you're Cajun and hoping we can follow "Un raton laveur dans l'arbre est pas le souper." ;)


  • I went to Louisiana a few time. I needed an interrupter :-)

  • There's a book called Visual Storytelling by Bruce Block that I highly recommend. There are also two books on directing by Stephen Katz, one that goes into moving cameras that I just started reading recently. The first one was very good; I highly recommend that as well.

    There's also a book floating around that I found at NAB called "Everything I Know about Filmmaking I learned Watching Seven Samurai" that I also highly recommend.

    In the end, the foundation for camera movements is the same as the foundation for static shot design. It's more complicated, but th principals are the same. Think of decisive moments, which will probably make a lot more sense to you if you're familiar with the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. If you aren't, you should be. :)


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    And motivated moves. I was watching Sense8 recently and a very nice camera move caught my eye--a crane shot starting high on the sun (establishing time of day) , arcing down and panning as an extra walking on the sidewalk enters frame (starting the pan) then speeding up to pick up the featured car as it drives by. By starting the pan with the pedestrian the camera acceleration to track the much faster car was very smooth and transparent. My wife didn't consciously notice and gave me the bemused look when I muttered "nice!" in a specific tone I apparently have when I really like a camera move.

    Incidentally, if you've never seen Orson Wells "Touch of Evil," that film has two of the best crane shots in history. This one, the opening shot, is a nearly four minute continuous take that moves three city blocks! Fantastic!

  • That Touch of Evil shot is amazing. It's also so famous that Robert Altman made fun of it in The Producers (I think that's the right title), during its even longer and far more complicated single-take opening shot.

    Really though, unless the camera movement is motivated either by an actor's action or by the story, then there's no reason to have it. A properly executed camera move can quickly turn into a furball of choreography -- done right, it's worth the effort, and only the filmmakers in the audience should notice it, at least the first time they view the film.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @WhiteCranePhoto another reason the Touch of Evil shot is so amazing. Besides the technical wow, everything motivates from the action in the scene, starting from establishing the bomb to that first pan (motivated by OS noise) all the way to the end. 

  • What is 'OS noise', @Triem23 ?  And this little thread helps me immensely in beginning to get just a glimpse of understanding.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @DLKeur OS in this case was "off screen." The shot starts on the bomb being set, then quickly pans as the couple down the alley laughs. The move shows the bomber noticing them, as the bomber crosses left in front of camera, then follows the bomber as he crosses back right, etc, etc, then as the scene progresses the camera keeps shifting focus to the car with the bomb and Charleton Heston and Vivien Leigh in a very smooth, natural manner. 

    60 years later the only way to even slightly enhance the shot would be to shoot 8k and throw on some Warp Stabilization to smooth out some minor jitters as a 30 foot crane gets driven several blocks. 

  • Thanks for the explanation, @Triem23 .  I wondered if that was a crane they were using. It's an awfully big crane to go as high as it did. And without a whole lot of wobble, despite it being so extended.  I have to admire the crane operator and whoever was driving the semi-tractor or truck it was mounted on.

  • Agreed @Triem23... the design of the shot was as excellent as its execution. It builds suspense by showing you the bomb being set, it introduces the setting, the protagonist and his wife, and the event that begins the story all in a single shot. It's a showcase on how to design a shot with camera movement.

    My guess is that the camera was on a crane set on a dolly, and that it was all hand operated, just as is the case now. @DLKeur, If it had been on a truck or something, it would have been too noisy for dialog recording.

    Another shot in that film that's also a textbook worthy example of shot design was actually static. It's the one where Charleton Heston was on the phone with his wife; the frame is set up to give you a good view of the empty road behind him while he's talking, so that you get to discover some information when the antagonist crosses the street.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @WhiteCranePhoto They actually did have the crane on a truck (Can you imagine the looks on the grips faces if told they had to hand-pull a 30 foot crane on a dolly that far while keeping up with a car?) for that shot.

    That entire scene is all ADR ( @DLKeur ADR=Automated Dialog Replacement, which is the fancy way of saying they re-recorded the actors later.), which was another rare thing to do in the 50's.

  • @Triem23, they actually used a truck for that? Wow... that must have been a royal pain to ADR, especially since audio technology was pretty new back then. We have it easy these days... with the right hardware you jam sync timecodes, record 6 (up to 12 if you have a really high end recorder) tracks of audio with a boom pole + wireless mics, and sync them all up with a single button click.

    I'd always guessed that they made that shot work by coordinating their timing so that the dolly didn't actually have to keep up with the car, but there you go :)


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @WhiteCranePhoto while compared to today audio tech was primitive, let's not underestimate how sophisticated the techniques in use were. Even in the 1930's and 1940's Warner Bros cartoons had good old Mel Blanc basically playing everybody--we're talking layered multitrack recordings with various speed and pitch treatments applied for lipsynch reference, then another multitrack layering once Treg Brown got the animated footage and did his sound effects work. So, while it certainly wouldn't have been as easy to ADR Touch of Evil as it is in today's world, the studio certainly had the gear and the engineers to make it happen!

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator
    edited January 2017

    Because Kurosawa's Seven Samurai was mentioned.

    @WhiteCranePhoto I'm going to have to order a copy of Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai. 

    On the ADR - Never forget Orson Welles started in radio and was well versed in what could be done with audio recording even if he didn't do it himself. On top of that he had James Stewart working for him at RKO for several years. Stewart was a pioneer in film sound, ADR and post production mixing. Together they re-defined what could be done with audio in making Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.

    This is Stewart talking about how the ADR was done for a scene in The Magnificent Ambersons. This originally appeared in an Association of Motion Picture Sound newsletter but right now the only reference I see online is at

    Orson Wells and ADR

    In one sequence in The Magnificent Ambersons, where the cast is riding in the park in an early horseless carriage, a problem of real magnitude was presented due to the manner in which Welles had photographed the sequence.

    I was busy on other pictures and knew nothing of how the scenes were being shot until I received a call from Mr Welles' secretary saying that he wished to see me downtown on the refrigerated stage where he was shooting. At this time the Union Ice Company maintained a stage at their plant in downtown Los Angeles which could be iced over to represent an exterior, snow-covered scene. Orson had a park set constructed an this stage.

    With the techniques available at that time, it would have been extremely difficult to record dialogue in the horseless carriage, and even if hidden microphones had been used, the stage itself was so reverberant that no sense of being outdoors would have been achieved.

    Orson's approach to this problem was to make a temporary recording of all the dialogue of the scene in his office on a disc recorder, then play this back to the actors on the stage. Unfortunately it was difficult for the actors to hear the dialogue clearly and to mouth it, and the original track was of no particular use since the quality of the recording was typical of home acetate recorders at that time.

    When I showed up downtown and observed how this was being done, I was considerably taken aback. Orson's only comment was "Jimmy, you're going to have quite a bit of trouble with this sequence". And I did.

    There were six principals involved in the dialogue, and I recorded each one separately to the picture. This was done without Orson being on the stage. I then combined these tracks and rerecorded them with the necessary motor noise of the old-type automobile.

    On running the result with Orson, he said "It's all right technically, but it's no good from the standpoint of realism. I don't feel that the people are in the automobile. There's no sense of movement in their voices; they're not responding to the movements of the car. The voices are much too static."

    So I went back to the recording stage and redid all of the lines. This time they were done with the actor or actress and myself seated on a twelve inch plank suspended between saw-horses. As we watched the picture I simulated the movement of the car by bouncing the performer and myself up and down on the plank. After a week of bumping, I had a track which I then rerecorded and ran for Welles. His only comment was "That's very good". Orson was not given to exaggerated praise of anyone's efforts.


  • @Aladdin4d Where's that quote from Stewart from? I'd like to read more of that if there is any. :)

  • @Palacono updated with a link

  • @Aladdin4d thanks for that article. I think all of us who got started in filmmaking in the digital age should read more about how the old school folks did it; there's a reason that professional sets work the way that they do, and it's something that indies generally ignore to their severe detriment.

    You can learn a lot from the experiences of those who came before, and their craftiness in dealing with challenges that are easy for us due to our tools is always inspiring. :)


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @WhiteCranePhoto I think when I'm animating in 3D one of my strengths is my camera movements, and I think the reason for that is, when I'm on set on an event of production, well, I'm a camera operator!

    As as touched on above, a real camera is rigged to hardware that is almost always offset from the imaging plane of the camera. CG cameras just don't move like real cameras in any program unless one builds a virtual rig to replicate a real mount.

    In general I love studying old films and techniques, because one can learn techniques that are tried and true, and it's honestly amazing how much "old" technique still holds up in the digital age. :-)

  • @Triem23 You're quite right about the old school techniques; while there are some new ones that are still good, there's too much of the shiny new toy syndrome and a silly obsession with the Fool of Thirds and gimbals.

    The gimbal obsession is frustrating especially when crewing, because of how often gimbal dongles and their directors just start running around with the gimbal, giving no thought to planning, marks or rehearsals. One fool even told me that you can't do that with a gimbal, even though professionals with Steadicams set marks for the Steadicam operator and actors and focus puller quite often.


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @WhiteCranePhoto One can absolutely rehearse with a gimbal, much like one can rehearse with a crane, jib, tripod, dolly, slider, steadicam, drone, or handheld.

    I actually find gimbals limiting. Their great if you want every shot at pectoral level, but that gets as old as everything being on a static pair of sticks. I'll usually go for straight handheld, or I'll jump to a dolly/slider/jib.

  • @Triem23 I think that in the long run, gimbals were worse for the film industry than the rule of thirds. The dongle crowd, which is most indie filmmakers, latched onto the gimbal idea like a magic bullet, because of the low learning curve. And everything they shoot ends up looking the same.

    I agree completely though; it is definitely possible to rehearse gimbal, steadicam, and such shots. Moving camera shots have much more complicated lighting requirements than static shots of course, but most gimbal fanatics just don't bother with lighting, which further leads to gimbal shots all looking the same.

    On a shoot I was on over the weekend, the director kept complaining that he hates sticks, but that the shots looked good... apparently he didn't make the connection. I don't like moving camera shots that aren't motivated, so I rarely use moving camera shots, because most directors have no motivation for them other than that they don't know how to make the shot interesting if it isn't moving.

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