Today we're gonna talk about camera positioning.
Let's state some obvious facts, movies are a visual medium. Stories are told through images and sound. We see a zombie attack Shaun. Shaun bashes the zombie's head with a cricket bat. Zombie dies. This is how movies work. But what else is going on outside of the obvious action and story?
The answer is, a lot. Where you place your camera has a HUGE impact on your story and it's almost completely subconscious to the viewer. The average audience member will not consciously notice the angle you have chosen for a shot. They will be so caught up in the story that they won't even recall the camera angle in most cases. You may be thinking, if the audience doesn't notice then why the hell does it matter where we place the camera? It matters because it has a massive affect on their subconscious. You can elicit a wide range of reactions with camera movement and placement. You have the ability, though camera placement and movement, to make you audience physically ill... CLOVERFIELD... Hand held footage on a big screen = vomiting.
Okay, how do we use these techniques? Let's start with camera angle. This is something easy that you can start doing today. We'll begin with angling up. If you want to make something or someone look mean, scary or generally bad ass, put your camera low to the ground and point up at them.
Check it out...
This is a door, yet the extreme up angle makes it look creepy as hell. Would it look as creepy if it was shot straight on? What about from above?
Now let's do the opposite...
What does this angle do? The cat looks helpless, fragile, weak.
To amplify either of these effects, zoom your camera out. When zoomed out you're shooting at a much wider angle which causes light to distort. The distortion of light can make objects appear to go on forever, look again at the door above form The Shinning.
There are many other ways to angle your camera but these two tactics can get you started and get you thinking about the choices you make.
Next let's talk about camera movement. I don't imagine any of you have a dolly, jib arm, crane, stedicam or any other such expensive gear. What you should have is a tripod. If you don't have one it's worth investing in one. Placing your camera on a tripod is the safest and most reliable way to capture solid video. This should be your go to setup in any situation. A good technique is to shoot your scene from a tripod then shoot again and experiment with other camera placements. This gives you more choices when you begin editing.
Hand held. I personally love to shoot handheld. It's fast. It's fun. I can move the camera with the action. It's great for documentary style zombie flicks. If you're shooting something for the Lost Zombies project you will probably be shooting hand held. Having said all that, shooting hand held requires some practice to perfect it. As mentioned above, jerky handheld will make an audience ill. If that's not the effect you want you need to do a few things. First, the more zoomed out you are the more steady your handheld footage will look. Additionally by zooming out you get a deeper depth of field, which means more of what you are shooting will be in focus. Focus, however will still be an issue. In general You should learn to manually focus your camera. Auto focusing causes the camera to constantly shift focus. If you are shooting with autofocus you've probably seen this effect. If you do try to zoom in and go hand held you need to be super steady in your movements, unless of course you want a jerky look. In that case zoom in and jerk the camera to your heart's content.
Steady tracking shots. These are shots that move forward or back through space and do so very smoothly. You may think you can achieve this effect by simply zooming your camera, but you are fooling yourself. When the whole camera moves it reveals parts of your set which zooming cannot. There are a few DIY ways to achieve a shot like this. If you have access to a wheel chair simply strap your tripod in then start shooting and pushing the chair. I've also used a stroller, roller blades and car. Almost anything with wheels will get you some form of this shot.
We've hardly scratched the surface, but that should get you started. Keep in mind there's a whole range of creative ways you can move your camera, so don't be afraid to experiment.
Next post I'll talk about shooting for Lost Zombies... And I'll basically encourage you to ignore everything I've talked bout so far ;)