One of the biggest challenges for filmmakers is smooth camera movement. The right gear is important, but using it properly is essential. Here is our breakdown of the key points to make sure you get the smoothest possible movement in your video and timelapse photography.
Proper camera settings are the first step to smooth video. A slow shutter this enables the frames to blend together more naturally and makes the transition between frames smoother. While recording video, the shutter can only be set as slow as about 1/30 second, but timelapse photos can be captured much slower. A neutral density filter can help you get slow shutter speeds in bright conditions. Also, a wide angle lens delivers the smoothest video because more magnification compounds camera shake. A wide lens provides more dramatic camera movement also. Lenses with image stabilization can also improve video smoothness.
One of the most effective ways to achieve smooth camera movement is with a dolly, a rolling camera platform. All dollies are certainly not created equal; soft wheels and smooth, quite bearings are crucial to provide a smooth roll. Three wheel dollies can create small radius arcs and rotate in perfect circles. Alignment of the dolly’s wheels is important so that there is no shudder during the roll, and any dolly shot is limited to the surface it rolls on. So a smooth surface or track is necessary.
Camera mounts are another tool for capturing smooth video. A camera suction cup mounted to a car can nearly always capture something interesting. For a suction cup mount, a secure connection with minimal vibration is key. Multiple contact points offer a secure connection. Flexible mounts offer a wider variety of mounting options, and rigid ones can hold more weight. Getting the camera to have a low center of gravity in relation to the entire mount minimizes vibration. If you are mounting your camera to a vehicle, you are limited to the smoothness of the ride, so a smooth road can go a long way.
The best way to get smooth repeatable motion is with a quality motor control system. With motor control, you can move your camera at a constant speed and smoothly ramp into and out of a move. Motor control can provide smooth movement for live video and fire your camera at intervals for timelapse photography.
After taking care to record your video as smoothly as possible, you may find that it still is not as perfect as you want. Careful editing can go a long way. The first step is clip selection. Take time to find the smoothest clips, then you can work to perfect them further. Final Cut Pro has a filter called Smoothcam that does an excellent job, and other video editing softwares have similar features. Retiming clips can also have an impressive effect, usually by speeding them up.
Image Credit: The Director by Joe Penniston