Chapter 8: The Camera

When determining how a camera is placed, one must consider four key concepts: essential area, lookspace, walkspace, and headroom. Essential area includes all key information in the shot. Lookspace refers to the room that should be left in the frame to allow space for the subject’s gaze off-screen. Walkspace is the additional space allotted into which the subject moves. The walkspace should be placed in front of the subject. Headroom is the space above the subject’s head. Not enough headroom makes the shot feel confined and too much headroom makes the subject appear small. When composing the shot, one should keep in mind the rule of thirds. The shot is divided into three parts horizontally and vertically and the placement of the subject should fall on those lines at the intersections to create the most visually pleasing shot.

One should avoid moving the camera midshot, so as not to distract the viewer. Any camera movement should be bookended with a still frame so that it can easily be edited and intercut. Dolly shots are created when the camera moves toward or away from the subject. These shots give the feel that the viewer is moving through the scene. Changing the focal length of a zoom lens creates zoom shots. Trucking shots involve physically moving the camera horizontally or laterally. Pan action shots are created using a stationary tripod while the camera slowly rotates from side-to-side from that fixed point. Tilt action also uses a stationary tripod, but the camera moves up and down. This action is helpful in capturing a shot of a subject moving from standing up to sitting down.

Different mounting devices can be used to create varying effects. A body mount involves a shoulder harness and a Steadicam that minimizes camera vibration. Bodycams have an elaborate system of counterweights and springs to smooth out otherwise jerky movements of the operator. The result is a shot similar to one created using a dolly or crane. Tripods, the most frequently used single-camera supports, secure the camera on top of its three adjustable legs. The camera can pivot on top of the tripod with a fluid head. There is usually a bubble device on top of the tripod to level the camera horizontally. Dollies are another camera support system and can be moved around the studio on wheels.

Lens control involves manipulating the lens, a curved piece of glass that causes light rays to bend. The degree of the curvature in the lens and type of glass it is made of affects determines its purpose. There are two types of simple, single lenses: concave and convex. Concave lenses are thinner at the center than the edge. Convex lenses are the thickest at the center and bend light toward the center, causing light to converge at the focal point. Lenses are classified related to their focal length, the distance from the optical center of a lens to its focal point. Wide-angle lenses have a short focal length.

 

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