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Camera movement is one of the most evocative tools in a filmmaker's cinematography arsenal. How you move the camera in a scene shapes the audience's perception of the action, controls how the narrative unfolds, and influences the film's stylistic tone.

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13 Types of Camera Movements

These basic camera movements are foundational to cinematography.

  1. Tracking shot: Any shot in which the camera physically moves sideways, forward, or backward through the scene. Tracking shots usually last longer than other shots, follow one or more moving subjects, and immerse the audience in a particular setting. The term tracking shot traditionally referred to a shot achieved with a camera dolly mounted on a dolly track, but modern filmmakers shoot tracking shots using stabilized gimbal mounts, Steadicam mounts, motorized vehicles, and even drones.
  2. Dolly shot: Dollying is a type of tracking shot in which the camera operator moves the entire camera forward or backward along a track.
  3. Truck shot: Trucking is a type of tracking shot in which the entire camera moves left or right along a track.
  4. Pan shot: Panning is a camera movement where the camera pivots left or right on a horizontal axis while its base remains in a fixed location. A camera pan expands the audience's point of view by swiveling on a fixed point, taking in a wider view as it turns.
  5. Whip pan: A whip pan (also called a “swish pan”) is a quicker type of pan shot in which the camera pans so fast that it creates a motion blur effect. Directors use whip pans to move back and forth between different parts of the same location, to increase the energy in a scene, to transition between scenes, or to indicate the passage of time.
  6. Tilt shot: A camera tilt is a vertical movement in which the camera base remains in a fixed location while the camera pivots vertically. Tilting is useful for establishing shots that contain tall vertical scenery or introducing a character in a dramatic fashion.
  7. Crane shot: A crane shot is any shot from a camera mounted on a robotic crane. Cranes are capable of lifting the camera high in the air and moving it in any direction, meaning a crane shot may also incorporate all other types of camera movements (like a dolly, truck, pan, tilt, etc.). A cinematographer may use a crane shot to sweep up and over the action in a scene. Crane shots are sometimes called "jib shots," although a jib is smaller than a crane and more limited in its movement.
  8. Aerial shot: An aerial shot is a shot from extremely high in the air, giving the viewer a bird's eye view of the action in the scene. Filmmakers originally had to use helicopters to capture an aerial shot, but today, filmmaking drones are a more affordable and popular option.
  9. Pedestal shot: A pedestal shot is a vertical camera movement in which the entire camera raises or lowers in relation to the subject. A pedestal shot differs from a camera tilt because the entire camera moves up or down rather than just pivoting from a fixed point.
  10. Handheld shot: A handheld shot is an unstabilized shot in which the camera operator physically holds the camera and moves it throughout the filming location. Handheld camera shots are often shaky and create a more frenzied, hectic feeling. A Steadicam shot is a sub-type of handheld shot where the camera operator uses a stabilizing device to create a smooth, fluid tracking shot while holding the camera.
  11. Zoom shot: A zoom shot is a camera shot in which the focal length of a zoom lens changes while the camera remains stationary. A cinematographer may choose to zoom in for a close-up or zoom out for a long shot (also called a wide shot).
  12. Rack focus: A rack focus is when the lens focus changes mid-shot in order to shift the viewer's attention to a different part of the frame. For example, if a cinematographer starts a scene focused on a character in the foreground, they may rack focus mid-scene so that character becomes blurry and an important object in the background becomes clear. A rack focus is similar to a zoom shot in that the camera does not actually move.
  13. Dolly zoom: A dolly zoom is a shot in which the camera crew dollies backward or forward while simultaneously zooming the lens in the opposite direction. This causes the subject in the frame to stay the same size while the foreground and background are distorted. A dolly zoom is also called a "Vertigo shot" in tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's famous execution of this movement in his 1958 thriller Vertigo.

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