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Film and Media Studies

Film and Media


Panning consists of a horizontal or a vertical movement of the camera to shoot the film.The pan turns the camera to the left or right, focusing attention on an object or subject being followed. The pan is also commonly used to survey surroundings, revealing what is beyond the confines of the original frame and to place characters or objects more firmly within their environment. 

Tracking Shots

A tracking shot (or dolly shot) is the movement of the camera towards or from an object or subject. Dollies are often used in point of view shots to give the audience the impression of approaching someone or something with the character. The dolly in creates a sense of moving towards an object. In contrast — though they look very similar at first glance — when zooming in on an object, by simply enlarging part of a frame, the object seems to be propelling itself towards the camera.


Zoom doesn’t really move the camera at all, it simply enlarges or reduces the proportion of the frame taken up by a person or object. In doing so, the zoom can focus attention on a particular detail, but over-use of the zoom is often distracting. A good use of a zoom might occur during a documentary interview, between actual shots, so that you have different frame sizes to cut to and create some visual variety.


In a tracking (or trucking) shot the camera moves to the left or right, often on a prelaid track or on a specially designed truck. Tracking shots are conventionally used to follow movements across a frame, often moving parallel to characters, and can help to involve the audience in characters’ actions and discussions. 


In crane and helicopter shots the camera and mounting are free from the ground and can be maneuvered quite precisely. Crane shots have traditionally been used at the start of films to move into the action, drawing the audience with it, and at the end of films to draw the audience out of intimate relationships with characters, returning them to their wider environment. Crane and helicopter shots can survey wide areas and create an extreme sense of movement, again affecting the audience’s sense of time and space.


The tilt pivots the camera upwards or downwards, often to survey surroundings, and frequently mimics the sight of the character in point of view shots. Very small tilts and pans are used to keep a subject in the desired part of the frame as he/she makes small movements. This is known as reframing. Often unnoticeable at first, reframing is most easily spotted by looking at the corner of the frame.


With handheld shots the camera is carried by the operator, often creating an uneven movement. These shots allows the operator to follow action very closely, creating a greater sense of immediacy for the audience, and may mimic the movement of a character in point of view shots. Due to its traditional use in documentary filmmaking (with no time to set up tracks etc. when reacting to a live event), the use of handheld camera shots in a action film can create a sense of “reality” about what is being filmed. A common visual metaphor in movies is also created by handheld cameras creating a shaking, trembling effect in horror films. 


A Steadicam is a camera is placed in a harness worn by the camera operator which “suspends” the camera in such a way as to remove the jerkiness of handheld shots as the operator moves across the ground. Like handheld shots, the Steadicam allows characters to be followed through complex surroundings, but it creates a floating sensation, often providing an eerie or dreamlike effect.