Crane Tips

Simply incorporating a shot from a camera crane into your productions can add tremendous value. An inexpensive and easy to use piece of equipment, the camera crane gives you the best bang for your buck.

There are the types of cranes and booms used in large scale Hollywood films in which the camera operator is able to ride on the end of the arm. These cranes are very expensive and not the type we are dealing with in this article. This article's main purpose is to explain the use of smaller cranes made for use with Dv camera's. The operators can be every day videographers , independent filmmakers or even hobbyists.

The motions are simple, and the time taken to familiarize one's self to the dynamics of a camera crane is not long at all. There are a few basic shots to discuss. Tilting shots are usually done with the camera pointed up from a near ground position. Then as the camera crane body is raised, the camera tilts downward keeping the same focal point. This shot can also be done starting high and finishing low. Another shot is the wide panning shot. This is where the camera stays level while the camera crane's body swoops from one side to another. With a steady arm, these shots can be combined to produce dazzling results. Even better is when shots are filmed in conjunction with a good dolly so that there are a total of four points of movement. Just practice doing the motions, and you'll soon find it to be very easy.

To get the most captivating crane shots, and ones that will make the most of the crane's potential, you can't use just any setting or background. Dynamic locations where people or objects are in motion are especially good at making interesting shots. Try to use parallel lines in the background to your advantage. One interesting shot that comes to mind is one in which you may be indoors shooting on a tiled floor. Set it up so that the lines run from top to bottom of the screen. Start the camera low to the ground so that the tiles appear to converge far away. Raise the camera up slowly and the change in perspective will be very dramatic. Also, try to position objects or actors at various depths and work with different motions of the crane.

One point that you need to keep in mind is that objects closer to the camera are greatly affected by the crane's motions while objects far away are not. For instance, if you have an actor seated close to the crane and you raise the camera up, there will be a dramatic change in perspective. However if you are on a cliff looking out into the distance and move the crane up and down, the perspective will not appear to change. So to get the most out of your crane, try playing around with different locations and subject matter. You'll be surprised at its versatility and the dramatic effect it can have on a shot.

If you've tried any of these shots with a standard crane, you may find it much easier with some extra weight opposite the mounted camera to balance everything out. This way your arms won't have to work as hard. If the fulcrum point is at 1:3, then you will need three times the weight of the camera to get an even balance. Standard plate weights available at most sporting goods stores work great and are inexpensive.

If you have any more questions about operation or setup of a camera crane feel free to e-mail us or call the helpdesk.