Camera Motion

Conceptually simple, yet artistically profound, camera motion is, as the name suggests, creating motion with the camera. When placed in the context of videotaping the moving dancer, we’re then talking about adding motion to motion. The complexity and creative possibilities begin! People depend greatly on vision as one of their five senses. In video, the lens of the camera becomes the eye of the audience, and that which is included in the frame is the only visual information an audience sees. Camera motion offers a means for altering the audience’s perspective over time. The power of where the lens travels, when it moves, and how the motion of the camera is executed cannot be underestimated!

Modern Dance pioneer Alwin Nikolais once said, “The choreographer is the champion chooser of motion.” It is true that the technically trained dancer/choreographer imbues a bodily knowledge rich with qualitative sensitivity and, as a dance artist, should be the expert at selecting effective and appropriate kinetic action. Dancers understand the spatial (Where), the temporal (When), sculptural (What), and most importantly the dynamic (How) energy component of motional vocabulary. Nikolais referred to these as the Space, Time, Shape, and Motion, a.k.a. “The Big 4.” The dancer may bring this keenly developed awareness of movement to the execution of camera motion. Striking similarities exist between the body’s anatomical joint action and locomotion capabilities, and the mechanics of camera supports such as tripods, dollies, and cranes. Let’s take a look at some commonly used camera motions and their relationship to movement analysis, dance performance, and choreography.

“Because the subject of the frame is human movement, video dance invites – even demands – the camera to be in motion. How the camera moves in relation to the dancer or dancers, and the space they are in, has great impact on the viewer’s experience of the movement.”
Making Video Dance by Katrina McPherson

Refer to Section 11 – Camera Motion of Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll for additional examples of camera motion.