Camera Movement in Filmmaking

Camera movement is an important aspect of filmmaking. Filmmakers make use of camera movement to create meaning to their films. Filmmakers use different camera movements to shape the significance of the film, and the most common movements include; crane shot, tracking shot or dolly shot and panning just mentioning a few. The different camera movements have the potential to function in different ways that shape the meaning of the film differently. For instance, the movements may bring about direct the viewer’s attention, reveal off-screen space, create expressive effects or provide narrative information. The most common camera movements involve reframing or following a shot depending on what is happening in the scene. For instance, a camera operator may initiate reframing when a sitting person stands up. This will help fix the viewer’s eyes on the most important part of the film. On the other hand, following a shot will help in pursuing the figure from behind, afloat, above, below or alongside. In essence, camera movement plays a significant role in shaping the meaning of a film and hence forming an important part of cinematography. We will have an in-depth analysis of the film ‘’Vertigo’’ to help us understand how camera movement help in shaping the meaning of the film.


As aforementioned, camera movement is one of the essential tools used by filmmakers to bring life and a unique quality to the vast number of shots that comprise a film. The concept has been effectively used in the film ‘’Vertigo’’ by Hitchcock. Although most viewers fail to understand the concept, camera movement helps in improving the quality of a film, and this is evident in the film ‘’Vertigo’’. Camera movement has been used effectively in the film to ensure that the deathly object of desire is fully incarnated. The filmmaker has been able to use the camera to bring out the ghostlike Madeleine and bring the youthful image of Carlota gives the character a sense of timelessness of mask like immortality. It is a film about love where male perversion is dominant. It is, however, essential to note that the filmmaker has fully implicated the viewer in perfect view of Judy, not only through identification as a character but also orchestration of camera movement that brings about beauty in cinematography.


The film Vertigo is an excellent example of a film where expertise in camera movement is evident. Hitchcock’s camera movement in this film is world class and as a result, the film is classified as one of the most thrilling arts in the history of cinematography. The camera operator has effectively employed different camera movement to give meaning to the film. For instance, the scene at the restaurant that initiates Scottie’s pursuit of Madeleine; Hitchcock has effectively used the famous zoom in/track out the point of view shot that evokes Scottie’s acrophobia. Also, the camera operator has equally effectively made use of the 360-degree pan that enables the viewer see Scottie as she embrace Judy Barton re-transformed into Madeleine. The scene at the restaurant begins with a camera movement towards a doorway of radiant red glass, which has the force at once of a barrier and a lure.  It is also imperative to point out, in the same scene, there is a shot that consists of a languid, fluid camera movement that tracks back from Scottie at the restaurant through the partition that separates and connects the bar and the dining area. The camera movement enables the viewer see Scottie as he glances screen-left to the back of the restaurant. It is prudent to note that the camera operator takes the time to pause momentarily give a  glimpse of the dining room which graces the film with its glorious  and formal white floral arrangements. The camera movement continues towards the object that Scottie gaze seeks out, Judy Barton as Madeleine Elster, shining in an emerald green gown.

This shot is of great significance to the film in emphasizing its meaning. It is worth noting that much of the film is structured as an alteration between a forward-tracking shot and a backward-tracking reaction shot that makes the film enhance its meaning. The camera movement is evident as we can be able to track Scottie as she walks on foot and also as his cars follow her through the streets of San Francisco. For instance, the forward tracking camera movement in the restaurant is a suggestion of forward tracking shot the camera operator employs throughout the cinema to imply Madeleine’s obsession to Scottie. On the same note, the backward tracking movement in the restaurant evokes the backward tracking shot used in the whole film to register the manner in which Scottie is bonded to his object of desire.

Another effect of camera movement in the film Vertigo involves moving the camera either closer or further from the object. This technique is usually referred to as ‘Dolly zoom’ and is also prevalent in the film Vertigo. It is a process whereby the camera movement ensures that the adjusting zooms angle in order to keep the same size in the frame. It is prudent to note that dolly zoom creates a stationary view while the background size changes. In the film Vertigo, the camera man has effectively used this technique as we can see Scottie being led up the garden path. It is prudent to note that Hitchcock objectively traces the structure that the rest of the film traces subjectively. In the scene at the restaurant, Scottie does not see Madeleine directly, but instead it is the movement of the camera itself that traces the connection between Scottie and the object of allure. In essence, the camera movement stages the relationship between the looker and the object of his look, creating a subjective shot structure but with the subjectivity removed. The camera movement enables the viewer to see both Scottie peering at Madeleine and Madeleine’s reflection in the mirror. Camera movement has resulted in the creation of the double image. In this double image, Scottie’s looking literally contains Madeleine as a picture. Madeleine frequently evades Scottie’s point of view, disappearing like a ghost beyond the frame’s borders which creates a deeper meaning of the film.

Distance and different camera angles also play a significant role in creating the meaning of a film. Hitchcock has been able to use these cinematography tools to bring out one of the most thrilling films in the history of cinematography. There are different scenes in the film Vertigo where the sense of far distances seen from high angles and different camera distances. We can see Scottie following Madeleine in different scenes of the film, and this is made possible by different camera angles and distances employed by the film maker. It is also imperative to point out that the different angles and camera distance has also been used to fulfill some narrative needs in the film. The camera distance and angles are essential aspects that enable the continuation of the drama. The different camera distance and angles enable the filmmaker to make a narrative without necessarily involving the characters. For instance, throughout the film, Scottie is locked in the frame of his perspective and desires. The film uses different camera angles and movements to tease and mislead us with what we and Scottie cannot see. Scottie watches Madeline in a long shot, distanced and mysterious under the Golden Gate Bridge. The use of frequent close-ups is important in continuation of the narrative, and we can see him rescuing his lover from a different camera view.

As the film culminates, the 360-degree camera movement is evident and is likened to a spiral movement. The forward tracking point of view shot, backward tracking reaction shot structure of a film creates a movement in which the object of sight and desire, the lure of the gaze, keeps, as it were, receding from the view. For instance, as she moves as she moves to visit Carlotta’s grave,  the camera operator makes different camera movements that enables the viewer to see Madeleine  appear and disappear severally as she moves towards the graveyard. The different camera angles enable the filmmaker to fulfill the narrative.

In essence, camera movement is an integral part of cinematography as it helps bring uniqueness and quality of a film. Use of different camera movements such as tilt, pan, tracking and dolly has constantly been used by filmmakers to improve the quality of the film. The Film Vertigo by Hitchcock is a good example of how different camera movements and angles can be used to enhance the quality of a film. Camera angles are critical inception and provide depth into the shot and help the audience become engrossed in the film as they become intrigued with the happenings of the film.  In essence, in “Vertigo” Hitchcock masterfully manipulates camera in a way that sometimes hides or emphasizes certain emotions and actions.

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