Principle of tracking with a handheld camera.
The effect created by a tracking shot can also be obtained by manually moving the camera (on the shoulder or with a Steadycam). The idea is to make the camera completely mobile: movement is no longer constrained by the rails or by a crane, because the camera can be directed as freely as the operator can manipulate the device.
This is the typical movement for capturing a plane for instance: the camera is transported from one point to another, all the while passing over various objects, characters, etc. In a sequence sweep, you can get in as much meaning as you could by piecing together a series of cut shots.
Don’t hesitate to let the objects it meets guide the camera’s movements by following, for example, a character moving impromptu across a space. A handheld camera’s movement conveys a notion of subjective perception: the director shares his or her vision as the character while contributing a unique dynamic and esthetic quality.
But a handheld camera also conveys “realism”: there may be some imperfections in the movement, and issues of stability lend a sense of immediacy to the shot, so the film takes on the style of journalistic reporting, rather than cinematographic fiction.
1 – Rigs or Shoulder Pods
The Shoulder Rig is a must for your stabilization needs. It also lets you perform rotations and turn while you maintain perfect positioning; the cameraman achieves movement by becoming “one” with the camera. Combined with adapted equipment, simple tracking movements are possible: an operator outfitted with a shoulder pod and sitting on a tracking platform or in the basket of the crane will in fact be able to make stabilised movement shots.
By using a shoulder rig, it is easier to adapt all the necessary aspects of the shot, the structural approach of the operator, and the operator’s position.
The Sympla Rig for HDSLR or Mini Genus for the EOS Cinema line are my two personal choices. Compact and light-weight are words that perfectly define them.
The original article was written by the author in French and has been translated for the purpose of the MSoX website.