Shane Hurlbt covers the wide variety of cranes on the market as well as the aesthetic considerations when employing a crane shot.
I go to so many movies and I find that I have no idea where characters are in a scene. The coverage is so tight that you lose the sense of space. A good cinematographer educates an audience on the space in which the characters live, their possible peril, their sanctuary, their happiness, their sadness, and the emotions that they are feeling. Using a crane can do just that. The fundamentals of moviemaking. Wide shot, medium shot, close up. Simple, right? It is important not to lose sight of these core building blocks.
Let’s take this shot from Terminator Salvation. We wanted to educate the audience on the setting, the tone, the peril, the horror of what these innocent people are about to witness, experience. What kind of shot would help deliver these emotions? How about one that views the peril of people on the ground who are being pushed by this wall with spikes and bright lights, and then we push past their faces in fear and boom up? Not only to see their transporter but another one landing in the distance. How does this make you feel? Small and insignificant. What else does this simple move achieve? It shows scope, that these machines are ruthless, controlling and winning this war. What else does it tell you? It shows the space that the poor humans are now in, and this is one scary place. It shows that this group is just one of a 100 ships that are entering this huge processing facility.
This is all done with one simple push and boom up. See how powerful the WHY is? I know that many of you want to go out, get your hands on a camera and all this cool stuff, and create. But it is so important to understand the theory about storytelling. THE WHY. I know that people throw this word around like it is hot dogs and peanuts at a baseball game, but understand why you are doing it first. How it can take your actors and your story that much higher is the power and the art of cinematography. Knowing that you are not just doing a crane move because it looks cool, but that it is specifically there to help the audience feel the emotions of your characters, is paramount.
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