Improve Your Video and Animations - Vary Your Camera Shots

A lot of first time video digital camera owners don't have access to a tripod and vary what their camera films through their own natural movement when filming a scene (and going overboard with the zoom function).

However once they start to learn technique and story telling they soon discover that fixed (usually tripod camera mounted) shots with minimal use of panning the camera and using the zoom function are how stories are more conventionally told through the lens.

On GoAnimate the camera is replaced by the scene stage and how it is framed using the CUT, PAN and ZOOM frame tools. Whilst this article is focused on GoAnimate, the principle applies to almost any film medium.

Below are two videos of the same 'Where's your Helmet?' joke animation. The first uses a single, fixed camera shot to film the entire scene, with a panning shot at the end (which is needed so as not to spoil the joke). The second uses variable (or multiple) camera shots to tell the same joke. This is the version that I originally published.

Where's your Helmet? Single Camera Shot by etourist on GoAnimate

Fixed Camera Shot

Where's your Helmet? by etourist on GoAnimate

Variable Camera Shot

Which do you think is better from a story telling point of view?

The first is the equivalent of fixing the camera to a tripod and only moving it when the panning shot is required. The joke still works and, because this is a short animation it doesn't become too tedious. However imagine if the conversation went on for five minutes or more with the same camera shot. Never changing.

In the second version it starts with an extremely wide shot (known as an 'establishing shot' to familiarize the viewer with the whole scene). The wide shot shows us one character standing with a second walking towards him.

It then cuts to a medium wide shot that brings us closer to the characters and makes us feel part of the conversation as the first begins to talk. This shot also establishes that the first guy to talk is actually talking to the second guy because they are both in shot.

After the second guy answers the question the shot then changes to a close up of the first guy as he continues to talk. It's not absolutely necessary to do this (as indicated by the Fixed Camera example) but what it does is focus the viewers attention on just that character as he speaks - in much the same way as the second guy would also be focused on the first guy. The change in camera shot also gives your eyes something new to look at as this conversation progresses.

We then cut back to a medium wide shot so we can see the second guys reaction to what the first guy is saying - as you would if you were actually standing with these two as they spoke. As soon as the first guy said something that you know is going to get a reaction from the second, you'd want to see him react.

Hopefully you're getting the idea. Almost any video or animation can be improved by varying the camera shot between wide shots, medium shots and close ups. Use the choice of shot to focus the viewers attention on the most important elements of the scene or the things you need them to notice.

Usually it's the characters talking that you want to focus on but, provided you've set up your scene with a good establishing shot, you can focus on almost any other part of a scene, even whilst a character is talking. As demonstrated in my GoAnimate tutorial, The Scene, that I created for GoAnimators several years ago (below)(Note that GoAnimate's PAN, CUT and ZOOM tools have changed since this video was made).

1. GoAnimate Better - The Scene by etourist on GoAnimate


Learning this simple technique of varying your camera shots can dramatically improve the professionalism of your videos. Although flashy special effects can really grab attention nothing beats a good story told well. Learning to move the camera around is the first big step in telling a story well.

4 comments:

  1. You taught me this trick right away when I first got on board with GA....didn't know nothin bout zooms, cuts or pans. I remember that very well. Best advice I ever go on GA. Gonna go learn some more tricks.

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    Replies
    1. Knowing how to use the ZOOM, CUT and PAN tools well makes such a huge difference that, even if you learnt nothing else, you could still tell a fairly professional looking story that would stand streets apart from a complete beginner.

      It's the main reason why my GoAnimate Better: The Scene was my very first tutorial.

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  2. Came by to try and find the blog post about the 12 shots of moving making (Title was something like that.) Found this instead. I don't have time to read it now, but I'll be back. Here is the link to forum if you want to check it out.

    http://goanimate.com/thread/6120665

    ReplyDelete
  3. These days, video cameras can be discovered for under $20 and go all the way up to $150. The distinction between the high end cameras and the beginner web cameras are usually due to the quality of picture that is put out.

    ReplyDelete

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