Cameras in Motion

GPS, or global positioning systems are very much a part of our lives now. Our smart phones have the ability track our moves in ways that were the stuff of science fiction only a generation ago. It is not only the satellites in the sky that watch over us though. Modern smartphones and fitness trackers, amongst other devices contain a tiny but remarkable little integrated circuit called an IMU, or inertial measurement unit. This diminutive chip (typically 4x4x1mm) accurately measures which way it is facing and how quickly it is moving, on multiple axes. The two electro-mechanical devices in the IMU chip are gyroscopes, to detect changes in angle and accelerometers, to detect movement. If you have ever played one of those balance games on your phone, for example, the ones where you roll a ball through a maze, or used your phone’s spirit level app, you are witnessing this technology in action.

IMUs are being adapted to an ever-increasing range of practical uses. One that is starting to have a great impact on the way we see things is the precision tracking and control of camera movements. Shaky footage from a camera in a moving vehicle, or in the hands of a walking cameraman no longer has to be “the nature of the beast.” Cameras can now move smoothly and freely. What used to be done with a dolly on a set of tracks, to move a camera smoothly on a single plane can now be achieved with a hand held camera “gimbal” mount which has the freedom to move in any direction, at any time. If you want the view from above, the camera can be flown in a drone. The makers of the upcoming “Lily” camera have taken this concept a step further with all of the flying tasks being handled by a very clever computer. Just tell it your subject, the position you want to shoot it from, throw the camera into the air and it will do the rest. At this point the Lily camera is still in development though.

Will this technology put videographers out of a job?

There are some incredible video production tools coming out now. There are just tools though. There are many steps to telling a story in video, not least the story itself.

Why move the camera?

The best way to give the viewer the experience of being in your world is to make the camera “their eyes”. We observe things constantly, more often than not, when we are moving. We walk and drive through scenes and we move in to get a closer look, or step back to take more in.

After taking still photographs for years, with the aim of putting the viewer in the scene, I get excited now that I can make videos that have an emphasis on the viewer actually travelling through the scene, with free flowing camera moves. It is a very powerful way to connect with your audience. Composition, lighting, timing and a good soundtrack can all add to this. Web videos of just a few seconds can draw a viewer into a world you have created and leave them wanting to see more. A static, bland video can do exactly the opposite of course. If a video is well planned and well shot it can do so much more than one just made with a camera on a tripod.

Sit back and think of the most impressive way you could show what you do. The chances are the tools and knowledge to do it are already with us.

Chris Bennett

Professional photographer and video producer. Born in the UK and calls Australia home.

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