Knowing Your Track From Your Truck…

A working knowledge of camera motion, shot size and angle is essential for all skilled matchmove artists. Read this essential guide to camera metrics written to help demystify some of the more common terminology used in film production

When directors, editors and cameramen refer to particular types of camera shots it can often sound like a foreign language. ead on…

Core Camera Motion Types

In this first part of this two part article, we will take a look at some of the more common terms we use to describe how a camera moves through a scene.

Camera motion is a fundamental part of how we narrate a story visually and have become defining moments in the films that we watch, such as the contra-zoom in Jaws (1975) or the steadicam shots from The Shining (1980).

For matchmoving, camera motion is an essential component to help us determine the correct scale, position and orientation of the camera within a 3D scene. By the end of this article you should be able to identify the types of camera motion that make up your own shots.

While this is not a complete list of camera movement types and terms, it does provide the core essentials which are widely used in every production.

Static / Lock off

The static shot sometimes referred to as a lock off has no intentional camera movement at all. While in principle this would seem an easy shot to Matchmove as there is no camera movement to match, it can be tricky to match perspective exactly when integrating CGI. However you can eliminate the guess work and position a static camera accurately with an application like PFTrack using it’s unique ability to use multiple cameras to solve a scene even if a camera isn’t moving.

Pan

A panning shot will involve lateral movement of the camera to the right or left of a given starting position. The relative position of objects that are near and far to the optics will be exaggerated depending the choice of focal lengths. Wide angle lenses will make distant objects move slowly and seem far away, longer focal lengths will make objects in the distance seem closer and will appear to more quickly. With good Parallax Matchmoving a panning shot can be relatively easy.

Nodal Pan

Nodal pans involve the same lateral movement to the left or right as the standard pan. The difference here is that the with a nodal pan the camera will pan around the entrance pupil of the optics. The intention with this particular type of camera movement is to eliminate the parallax in the shot.

This type of movement would be useful for stitching plates together for visual effects shots or generating a large digital matte where parallax would be an issue. This move was sometimes used in the past to disguise foreground miniatures in forced perspective shots. These shots can be tricky to generate a virtual camera from as there are little to no clues for the depth of a scene.

Tilt

A tilt is the a vertical movement of the camera up or down, usually from a fixed starting position, whilst keeping the horizontal axis consistent. Tilts are used often in establishing shots or in a reveal. Depending on the lens used and position of the camera on the tripod these shots can be more tricky to matchmove than a pan.

Pan & Tilt

This is a combination of both horizontal and vertical motion from a fixed point. An example shot may be following a character as they walk from one end of a room to another panning and tilting the camera as they go to keep the framing consistent.

Track / Dolly

A tracking shot or dolly shot is the forward and backwards motion of the camera. Commonly used to follow a character as they traverse a scene. While these shots can seem quite daunting to matchmove, with suitable masking they “can” actually be quite easy to find a solution.

Lateral Track / Crab / Truck

Similar to a standard tracking shot, Lateral tracking or crab is the sideways movement of the camera, depending on the scene this type of shot can provide a large amount of parallax which is useful when calculating depth and solving a camera. Some good examples of Lateral tracking shots can be found in the films of Wes Anderson and Steven Spielberg.

Crane / Pedestal / Jib

This is the vertical raising or lowering of the camera, and normally will remain in relatively the same position while motioning up or down. On some rigs the camera can be boomed out to make for a more complex motion. These types of shots are quite often used to establish the geography of a scene starting high and lowering to eye level. Crane shots are sometimes easier than others to establish a good ground plane when matchmoving due to the elevated perspective.

Handheld

Handheld is as it sounds, the camera operator is hand holding the camera usually shoulder mounted or slung underarm. Movement of the camera is completely free due to the fact there are no mechanical axial restrictions. Some good examples of handheld camera work can be found in the films of Paul Greengrass. Motion blur can become a factor when attempting to matchmove handheld shots. The motion can also be hard to predict due to its non linear nature.

Stabilised

Usually mounted on a Steadicam, gimbal or a combination of the two. A stabilised camera will move through the scene being able to perform many if not all of the camera moves as handheld but with the ability to remove the high frequency movement. Smooth, stable shots with linear motions are “generally” much easier to matchmove.

Aerial / Drone

Aerial shots taken from either a helicopter or drone allows the camera to be at a greater elevation than crane / Jib whilst being stabilised via a gimbal to remove high frequency movement. Usually combined with other camera moves and tracked forwards or backwards through scene to establish an environment or to follow action from a greater elevation. Due to the vertical perspective, these types of shots often provide plenty of trackable detail and parallax when matchmoving.


Conclusion

Of course shots can be a combination of many of the techniques above and there are also many more complex camera movements, but it’s good to be able to identify the basic components that make a shot. In part two we are going to be taking a look at the common terms used to describe the framing of a scene in both size and angle.

Further reading on the subject

For many other articles focused on the art of matchmoving head over to our dedicated PFTrack publication here.

Other directly related articles;

A Matter Of Perspective

What Every Matchmove Artist Needs to Know About Lenses

Keeping Track: A Look at Cameras and their Influence on Matchmoving


Become a matchmove pro

This article is part of the extended learning for The Pixel Farms brand new PFAcademy course, Foundation — PFTrack.

If you would like to learn more about matchmoving with #PFTrack and gain an industry accredited certification, signup to the PFAcademy here.