The use of camera movements

There are many great resources out there on how to move the camera for a great camera shot. Here I share a few videos introducing the basic concepts and then get into when to use those concepts.

Basic camera shots

Bloop Animation shared this video on The basics of camera shots (most common ones you should know)

To summarize the shots listed in the video

  • Wide shot (WS) – see complete character and a lot of their surroundings
  • Medium shot (MS) – see character from waist up with a reasonable amount of background
  • Medium closeup (MCU) – see the head and shoulders
  • Closeup (CU) – see the entire face of the character, making emotions easy to see
  • Extreme closeup (ECU) – focus on the eyes or mouth (a part of the face)
  • Two shot – two characters in the same shot (facing each other, one in front of the other, whatever dramatic story you are trying to reinforce with their positioning.
  • Insert – close up on a prop or similar, to support the story
  • (I would add dutch to this list, where the camera is put on an angle to add a feeling of unease to a shot)

Then there are also camera movements

  • Pan – camera turns left or right
  • Whip pan – camera turns left or right very fast (typically with motion blur)
  • Tilt – camera rotates up or down
  • Dolly – camera moves sideways without rotating
  • Push-in / pull-out is where the camera moves forwards/backwards instead of sideways
  • Zoom is where camera lens is adjusted to change the area of focus
  • Crane move – a more sweeping movement of the camera, for example from high to up close, or from up close to distant, often used in establishing scenes or endings
  • Camera focus – focus the lens on what is most interesting in the shot
  • Rack focus – where the focus changes from one object in the shot to another object in the shot (e.g. two characters)

Cinematic movement

The next step is to decide when to use a different camera shot. The next video from Tomorrow’s Filmmakers does a good job of this. For example, if you want to move the camera, can it follow someone or something? A motivated camera movement is much more pleasing than a movement for no apparent reason.

The video starts out (once you skip past the ads for courses they sell) that every movement of the camera conveys a message to the audience. So know when to use the different movements.

  • Avoid handheld shots – no movement is better than handheld movement (it looks cheap)
  • No zooming – it’s so easy to overuse zoom with a physical camera
  • Use smooth movements – rough movements are annoying to viewers
  • Depth / foreground – putting objects in the foreground can increase the sense of depth
  • Motivated movement – if the camera is going to change direction, it looks better to follow an object or character to motivate the purpose of the movement
  • Rack focus – changing focus between two objects to help the viewer understand what they should be looking at, and add depth to a shot
  • Shoot for the edit – plan your shots out before you take them to make your life easier at editing time
  • Plan out your movements – every movement conveys a message, so know what the message you want is and plan the shot for it

Camera movements in Anime

Mamoru Hosoda – The Use of Camera Movements by RC Anime is another great resource. It uses examples from anime to decide what sort of camera movements you should use.

Some key recommendations from the video include:

  • Don’t move the camera too often
  • Use movement to support an emotion
  • Lateral pan (sideways) – conveys time, introduces a character off screen (sideways pan so they move into the shot)
  • Panic – wild chasing, darting through crowd (short shots for action sequences, they are fast)
  • Zoom in to emphasize facial emotion
  • Wide pan of wide nature shot to show space
  • TV shows / movies use lots more camera movement to convey the location they are in – not done in anime so much


I find it useful to look at advice from different people on the best forms of camera movement, remembering a common answer is “don’t move the camera” (unless you really want to). Use camera movements to reinforce emotions, otherwise avoid them. If the camera is moving in every shot, the movement no longer reinforces as it is commonplace. It is better to intentionally use camera movements to reinforce a feeling.

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