5. Film grammar
- So far in this lesson, we've broken down a story into scenes and shots, talked about how to stage your characters within their environment and how to use the camera to create different kinds of shots and framing. The camera so far has been locked down. That is, using a fixed position and direction throughout the entire shot. That's a static shot. Static shots offer simple and direct framing. They don't really draw attention to themselves. We don't have to stick with static shots though, we're free to move the camera to create a dynamic shot. Using dynamic shots, you can get a variety of effects, such as a sense of speed or a change of focus. There are lots of different kinds of dynamic shots, including a pan, where the camera rotates either horizontally or vertically to reveal additional information. Dolly, where the camera moves parallel to the ground, as if moving on tracks. A zoom, where you push into or pull back from the action within the frame, or a tracking shot, where the camera follows a particular subject as it moves within the environment. - So there are the times that you're moving the camera because you're trying to hold the action of the shot within your frame, but there also times that you want to move your camera to give a certain feeling to the audience. If you have a character sitting in a room and talking and say, talking about something really emotional, impactful that happened earlier in their life, you might want to take your camera and slowly push in on them during their speech and by doing that, it gives a feeling of almost like the audience is leaning in and listening more closely. - So in Up, when we first meet the bird, the camera is moving really slow and the camera is tracking along with Carl as he moves very slowly. So the audience gets the sense of like, oh man, this man's journey is going really slowly and then Russell drags his whole body and comes to a stop, plops on the ground and needs to go to the bathroom and so the journey stops and so does the camera. - So one reason to move a camera would be to sort of reveal information to the audience when you want it revealed. When Bob and Frozone are sitting in the car listening to the police scanner, where you see the car and we pull back into Mirage's car, where she's watching them, to show that this third character that's watching them, that we didn't know was there at first, it's her point of view, watching them. - You know, there are times where you want to have the camera like, really locked down as if it's on a tripod and there are other times where you might want to have the camera handheld. In Monsters Inc, we had a sequence where the CDA, the Child Detection Agency, bursts onto the scare floor, because you know, a child's sock has accidentally been brought back into monster world and the scene where the CDA breaks in, I chose to shoot entirely handheld. We made the cameras all handheld throughout that scene because I wanted to give this kind of unsettled, spontaneous feeling. We likened it to as if a documentary crew happened to be filming on the scare floor that day and they weren't expecting this to happen and they were all just kind of responding spontaneously and whipping their cameras around and looking at whatever new action that was happening and that gave a very different feeling than if we had just put the camera on a tripod and shot it kind of static. - Always keep your audience in mind. It's not just about making an action sequence, it's about letting the audience know, you need to feel what this person is going through and as soon as that moment is done, you need to re-anchor your scene into that character again and where he's at or she is at. I think it's really easy and fun to get distracted by moving the camera around, because once again, that's super energetic and it makes things all of a sudden dramatic but it has the ability to lose your audience and you never, ever, ever want to do that. - As we've just heard, you can use a moving camera in all sorts of ways. Unlike a static shot, a moving camera can draw attention to itself, so you have to be careful not to use it as a gimmick. A moving camera can't fix a broken story. Okay, now you're ready for the next exercise. Good luck.