Poll Question: How much camera motion is appropriate?

by planetmitch12 Comments

Just a question for fun and maybe a bit of learning for those of us still trying to become smarter about making movies… just how much camera motion is the right amount?

I've been watching and studying movies lately to learn from the masters and in some cases, just about every single scene has some camera motion.

So, what's your answer (and don't be shy about sounding off in the comments!)

planet5D poll question

[poll id=”13″]


this sample has the camera moving about 100% of the time… too much or just right?
[tentblogger-youtube eC4fLk-XeeI]

Found this post by Tony Reale over on NextWaveDV and it includes a segment on camera movement that is pretty interesting – starts at 17:25 [tentblogger-youtube JnnwqE-mAE8]

(cover photo credit: snap from this flickr photo which has a creative commons lisc.)


  1. Just how much camera motion is the right amount? My answer over many decades has always been “as much as necessary but as little as possible”.

    But then I grew up with the ‘nouvelle vague’.

    In the interim directors, cutters and DPs have been seduced by technological advances. The Arri could be hand-held but at worst gave us wobbly-scope. Then came NLE and MTV and cutters inflicted upon us something approaching sea-sickness.

    Then it was the SteadiCam and those beefy operators needed the work… sure!

    We then swooped dramatically with remotely controlled JimmyJibs.

    And now we have little HDSLRs and a whole bunch of clever sliders.

    To stand out today the director needs to turn his back on most of those toys and move the camera minimally… and give the audience beautifully composed imagery they can linger upon.

    Films by Eric Rohmer should be watched…

  2. Billy Wilder disliked camera movement because he felt it drew attention the fact you were watching a movie. Stanley Kubrick (who was a LOOK photographer) also tended not to move the camera.

    I would say… Look for an appropriate composition and stick with it. Don’t move the camera unless you have a good reason to do so.

    A classic example of a “good reason” is the opening of “Touch of Evil”.

  3. Kubrick did his fair share of zooms didn’t he? Which, I realize, isn’t physically moving the camera, but it’s something no one does and he made it work. It’s funny, you see a different kind of camera movement on TV, and within a month, everyone is using it. Case in point, MTV, I won’t say they invented quick pans, but even today clients will say, “I want my MTV.” Oh, you want some quick panning movements. Michael Bay moves his camera very well, but, what he’s shooting almost calls for it. So I guess part of the answer would be it depends on what you’re shooting. You wouldn’t shoot a birthday party with some Saving Private Ryan shots, you’d let uncle Bob do that!

  4. Different directors, different styles, different mood or emotional reaction trying to be achieved based on all the above and the script.

    There’s no one-size-fits-all anyone could really put to it. Take one script, hand it to Martin Scorsese, Michael Bay, Francis Ford Coppola, John McTiernan, and Stephen Soderberg, and you’ll have 5 VERY different movies just from a camerawork standpoint.

    The question is, what do YOU want the camera to do for your scene?

  5. Take a look at Ozu and you may determine the answer is none. Perhaps 2 or 3 movements over an entire career. Beautiful treatment of his subject matter.

  6. I don’t remember Kubrick ever using a zoom shot. It not only draws attention to itself, but it looks cheap, cheap, cheap.

    1. 2001: A Space Odyessy. They may not be a zoom, it could be a very slow dolly-in, but he’s used them, I’m sure.

  7. There’s a time and place for everything – camera movements or lack thereof can convey so much. One of my recent shorts has only a few shots that are entirely locked down – and the one at the end (if you can last four minutes) absolutely needs it. vimeo.com/33606996

  8. Zooming is a change in the lens’s focal length without moving the camera. It looks much different from camera movement, because there is no change in perspective.

  9. I understand, but sometimes a very slow creeper dolly in can look very similar to a creeper zoom in, depending upon the length of the take. Do a google search on Kubrick and zooms, apparently he used them extensively.

  10. “The question is, what do YOU want the camera to do for your scene?”

    The “logical” answer is… something the acting, dialog, lighting, scenery, etc, can’t do.

  11. I’m tired of every photographic medium including some sort of motion. Still shots on news programs are either slowly zooming in or out, or panning from left to right. Cable news shows….you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. Up down, all around. It cheapens everything.

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