Cinematography is about using time and motion to explain and record change. And while there are only a handful of fundamental camera movements, choosing which ones to combine and in what way can be daunting.
As a story artist whose job it is to render the first look of a film, TV series or commercial, it helps to know a bit about the world of cinematography. But first, some background information.
Types of Motion
There are two kinds of filmic motion:
1. In-Camera Motion: Any motion in front of the camera. For example:
• Trees branches swaying in a storm
• Cars driving down an urban freeway
• An actor entering a scene from a vehicle.
2. Camera Motion: Any motion of the camera. For example:
• Camera shake due to strong storm winds
• Zooming out from a freeway to reveal the city
• A vertical camera pan as an actor exits a vehicle.
We are going to focus on the second kind of motion, where motion of the camera axis and motion relative to the scene is involved and indicated by arrows in a storyboard. Let’s get to it.
For better or worse, zooming in or out are the two most common camera movements you’ll come across in your career as a storyboard artist. Some will refer to zooming as ‘trucking’ in or out.
It is often represented on paper as a frame inside the frame that is connected by corner-to-corner arrows indicating the direction of the zoom.
Alternatively, it can be depicted by an arrow pointing into or out of the frame—usually the lower half due to the limited amount of real estate the artist has to work with.
A dolly is when the camera and its base is moved left or right (X axis) along a track, or when the same movement is applied to a camera strapped to some sort of motorised vehicle.
This type of camera movement is also known as a ‘tracking shot’ and is depicted by placing an arrow pointing left or right along the top or bottom edge of the storyboard frame.
Panning is when the camera is moved left to right (X axis) while the base is fixed and stationary—so that only the direction the lens is facing changes. A pan can be referred to as a ‘horizontal pan’.
Professional storyboard artists will often use two appropriately juxtaposed frames and draw through the borders to create a seamless illustration with a beginning middle and end to represent the pan.
Similar to panning, tilting is when the camera is moved up to down or down to up (Y axis) while the base is fixed and stationary. Tilts are commonly referred to as ‘vertical pans’ or ‘diagonal pans’.
You can represent tilts in the same way as you can zooms, though keep in mind you will need to rotate the frame-within-the-frame and adjoin the corners accordingly. If there is no zoom, you can simply rotate the second frame and lay it over the original.
Dramatic tilts are difficult to depict through illustration when combined with a pan as the storyboard artist must take into account the warping of perspective that takes place.
While these are the most basic of camera movements, they are used everywhere in film, TV series and commercial projects. And it’s not just directors and producers who like to see them drawn well, but also agencies.
If you set out to master the depiction of these movements, you will improve to no end. For more information or to talk about your next project, contact us.