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Mathew Collins

Psychological meaning of Camera movement/ Character movement

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Hi,

I have few questions about camera and character movement which psychologically communicating to viewer,

1. Camera moving towards while Character is moving (image size is increasing and depth-of-field is decreasing).

1. Camera moving away from Character while Character is moving(image size is decreasing and depth-of-field is increasing).

2. Camera moving along with character and Character moving towards or away from camera(image size increasing/decreasing).

3. Camera is moving along with Character (any type of camera movement)(no difference in image size).

3. Camera is moving along with Character(dolly vs panning).

4. Camera is static while Character is moving (image size increasing/decreasing/no difference).

5. Camera is moving while Character is static (image size increasing/decreasing/no difference).

-Mathew Collins

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You seem to be doing a whole series of topics on the meaning of characters/camera/vehicles doing this or that. .

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I think you are looking at this technically, but need to look at it from a story telling perspective.

For example, when you dolly into a face, you are starting with a character in their environment and then emphasizing their reaction/emotion.

The opposite is true also.  Starting close on a character shows their emotion, but moving back then reveals the environment and the reason for this reaction or emotion.

Tracking on a close up of a person running allows one to concentrate on their emotion, while simultaneously showing speed and urgency.

In general, one needs to think of camera movement as "editing in the camera" to tell a story.  Sure, one could also use cuts to tell the story, but that, to the audience, feels like a manipulation by the filmmaker.  Continuous movement allows the viewer to believe that they've discovered the story for themselves, and is therefore more powerful.

Because the moving camera is more powerful, it's often best to reserve camera movements for the most important parts of a scene, so that they create the biggest impression.  In other words, keep your powder dry, until the ultimate time and let em rip!

The same can also be said for composition.  I usually leave symmetrical and/or centering a character in frame for special moments and this brings particular emphasis to these shots.  If I did this for an entire movie, they would loose their power... unless I was Wes Anderson, of course!

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It really always depends on context I think. And as Bruce said, keep it in reserve and then it will be more powerful. Also, sometimes less is much more. In Deliverance (1972), when the cars first pull up at the isolated community to get directions and fill up, close to the start of the film, the camera does a subtle forward dolly shot towards the cars as they pull up directly towards camera. I don't know why the cinematographer did that, it wasn't an obvious move (to me), but it has a subtle charm to it. It just looks good. But you hardly notice it. Put a few subtle moves like that into a picture and it can be a big thing in my opinion. I can't even say though what the psychological effect of such shots is. Just slightly upping the coolness factor?

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10 hours ago, Jon O'Brien said:

It really always depends on context I think. And as Bruce said, keep it in reserve and then it will be more powerful. Also, sometimes less is much more. In Deliverance (1972), when the cars first pull up at the isolated community to get directions and fill up, close to the start of the film, the camera does a subtle forward dolly shot towards the cars as they pull up directly towards camera. I don't know why the cinematographer did that, it wasn't an obvious move (to me), but it has a subtle charm to it. It just looks good. But you hardly notice it. Put a few subtle moves like that into a picture and it can be a big thing in my opinion. I can't even say though what the psychological effect of such shots is. Just slightly upping the coolness factor?

I'd say an unmotivated dolly move like that is voyeuristic. It suggests the audience knows more than the protagonists- or is about to find out more.

Kubrick uses it in Paths of Glory. The camera follows Dax and Mireau up a staircase, they stop, and the camera move continues for just an instant before stopping, as if it's an eavesdropper caught by surprise.

Kubrick's a master of camera movement. OP should study him, then ask questions.

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I tried to understand few things while watching movies.

1.      Camera moving towards or away from character, makes the image size big/or small create some impression on the viewer. When the size of the character fills the frame viewer may feel that the character is superior and when and when character is isolated in frame, he is inferior.

2.      When camera is moving along with character the support is given to character from story point.

3.      I could not really understand the situations to go for Dolly Vs Panning.

4.      When camera is static and character is, no support given from story point, but character is trying to do something on his own.

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