Some of the most memorable cinematic moments can come down to the technique used in capturing such shots. Knowing how to acquire that epic shot requires a lot of experience, a good understanding of the camera in use, as well as other technicalities like lighting, camera lens quality, and post production effects.
Today, cine cameras are becoming less cumbersome while at the same time becoming more technologically sophisticated. There is so much more that today's pocket cameras like the Sony a7R IV and a7S III S-Cinetone, BMPCC 7.3mm, RED KOMODO 6K, URSA Mini Pro 12K, etc.
One trick is to stick with wider lenses. For example, it is more effective to use either a 35mm or 14mm lens for handheld work. The reason is that the wider lens reduces the impact of camera shake. If you have ever tried working with a super-telephoto lens without stabilization you know how jumpy and bad it can be.
Even with a plethora of gimbal options available to filmmakers at nearly every price point handheld shooting is a valuable skill. Handheld camera moves are a different aesthetic and don’t require any additional equipment to perform. This last point is a big advantage. Gimbals require you to pack a heavier, larger bag and take time to configure properly. Handheld is just grab and go.
Move #1: Push Forward
Sounds straightforward enough by the name, but the technique here is benefitted by the use of a camera strap around the neck. By slightly pulling down on the strap you will get some extra stability as you move forward. Leaning forward can help a bit here as well.
Move #2: Pull Out
Pull out is basically the exact opposite as the push forward. Pull down on the strap as you move backward. To be extra stable the move is to lean forward and then transition to leaning backward. It doesn’t have as much range as actually walking, but it is very smooth.
Move #3: The Track
Side-to-side moves are executed this way. What you will do is lean all the way towards the side you want to start with. Then slowly shift your weight from one foot to the other as you move the camera on “the track.” Again, use the camera strap around the neck as an extra contact point.
You can walk for this move and gain more range of motion, though it will be a bit shakier.
Move #4: The Tracking Pan
Elevating the basic, somewhat amateurish-looking pan is the tracking pan. What you’ll do is a similar move to the track above and just add a little bit of a pan movement at the same time. It looks a good deal more interesting than just a basic pan.
Move #5: Push Into Focus
Pushing in to bring your subject into focus is always a good stylized move. It’s quite simple to pull off handheld too. You’ll want a lens that can create a shallow depth of field. Using a similar technique to the push-in you’ll want to find your ending point, set your focus, lock it there, and then go back to the beginning and perform the move. You can also do the reverse and pull out into focus.
Move #6: Follow Over Shoulder
The first of the intentional handheld shots is the follow-over-shoulder. To start, you’ll actually
want to turn off the stabilization of your camera. This is a great technique to learn in general. Holding the camera stable with your elbows tucked in close to your body and then with your knees slightly bent you can compensate for much of the problematic movements while keeping some natural handheld shake. Then just walk forward carefully and at a slower pace to make it look good.
Move #7: Tracking Backwards
This is the reverse of the follow over shoulder. You will be walking backward so you’ll need to be careful, but with knees slightly bent and arms in towards the body you can keep it just stable enough. Slow-motion can improve these shots a ton as it’ll smooth the footage a tad without eliminating the organic shake.
Move #8: The Dutch Spin
The Dutch angle can be combined with a spin move for a fun effect. Handheld you’ll again want to rely on a taut camera strap around the neck for extra stability and control. Having one foot in front of the other you will want to put your weight on one and then while spinning the camera you can shift your weight to the other foot. This gives you either a forward or backward move along with the spin.
Move #9: Whip Pan
This shot is a setup for a bigger effect. By pushing in and then whipping your camera to the side for a pan you can use that as a fun cutting point for a transition. In the next shot, you’ll obviously start with the pan in the same direction.
Move #10: Object Tracking
Meant to be the second part of the whip pan transition, a fun effect is to start with a whip pan and then immediately do an object tracking shot. Basically just following the movement of an object in the next shot. By keeping a lock on the action you can make transitions feel smooth for the viewer.
Practicing these handheld techniques will help both the professional filmmaker or amateur videographers to carry on quickly with video shooting even where stabilizing equipment are not available; plus, it affords the videographer or filmmaker to shoot angles that larger, stabilized cameras may not have enabled them to do.
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