Restructuring the classroom
Blog N° 19
Having defined the movements of the body in space with a universally recognised language, the scientific language of medicine, we will now provide some basic definitions of film language, in order to better understand how communication through a video camera works.
A camera movement refers to the way a camera moves to visually tell and shape the viewer's perspective of a scene.
Although the camera in a video conferencing is integrated into the communication device itself, at least in most cases, and there is a tendency to use it as a window rather than an eyeshot, there are camera movements in a video conferencing as well.
In the world of film and video, there are several basic and advanced camera movements that are used to enhance the story being narrated. In filmmaking, these camera movements are the director's signature.
When you position the camera in a certain way, you have a certain narrative of the story you want to tell, in our case a narrative of our dance class is presented to the participants.
Effective and well-positioned camera movements make for a professional quality end product. Even in video conferencing, although camera movements are few, spontaneous and often followed by adjustments, it is necessary to remember that each change of shot will change the dynamics of our class. Here we need to remember that sharing the screen also involves camera movement, a new perspective on the narrative we are presenting.
In a video conference both the teacher and the participants are alone in front of the monitor and hold all the positions related to the production of their image. They are actors, directors, cameramen and sound technicians. This precludes them from having full control over all these positions, having to choose which one to prioritise each time.
From the analysis of the videos of the lessons I have archived and from the analysis of my own experiences it can be said that the substantial difference between teachers and students lies in the roles they choose. While the participants are mainly actors and only partly cameramen, especially if their space does not allow it, and sound technicians if they are asked. Teachers are actors, directors, cameramen and sound technicians.
The dance teacher will have to master this new language by juggling different roles.
The aim of this blog is to show the possibilities that this language offers, in order to be able to master this language in the classroom.
How is camera movement useful?
Special camera movement can serve several purposes:
Creating dynamic scenes: As the camera is the audience's eyes on a story, the use of camera movements can make scenes more interesting, add a naturalistic element to scenes and mimic human movement. You can also make static scenes seem active with certain camera movements. Here the dynamism of the lesson can be created by a skilful use of monitor sharing, or the use of whiteboard or breakout sessions to provide additional information, and by a skilful and sparing use of the camera movements needed to show the exercises. Later we will see how.
Influencing audiences' emotional reactions: Camera movements can mimic a person's point of view during various circumstances.
This is one of the most important aspects to take into account.
A video conference is tiring both for the conference director and the participant. Offering clear images and perspectives is the basis, but this is not enough to create emotions, the camera must move with you without disorienting the participants. In addition to this, a clever use of external tools such as whiteboard and monitor sharing can be used to create expectations and/or excite the participants.
Directing the audience's attention: Camera movements that obscure certain elements can focus the audience's attention on the screen. It should be remembered that in a video conference each participant decides for himself how to organise the viewing of his monitor. That is, whether to pin only the teacher or to have a gallery view. Having said that, you can try to direct the participants' attention by linking camera movements (whiteboard and monitor sharing included) to the introduction of each new exercise or topic.
Controlling reveals: Adding camera movements is also a great way to provide narrative information, reveal new subjects that were once off-screen, and even foreshadow or create ironic tension that characters are unaware of.
Again, the use of the shared screen to provide additional information or the whiteboard may prove decisive.
Types of camera movements
The use of a variety of camera movements allows you to personalise the way the lesson is delivered, to promote information and content to participants allowing them to fully immerse themselves in the dance.
- Let us consider as a standard situation a user in possession of basic hardware, i.e. laptop, desktop computer, or mobile phone.
Of course it is possible to make a video conference with advanced hardware: external camera, projector as reference monitor, external microphone etc... apart from the costs in this case it would be better to use a real dance studio at least for the class leader.
- The camera movements we describe are part of the action and create the dynamism that makes cinema such a fascinating and complex language. This also happens during the filming of a live event.
Here it is useful to remember that the camera movements in a video conference do not often accompany the action but precede it, one could almost call them visible cuts. Remember that the actor and the cameraman are the same person, so camera movements do not take place when the actor is acting in space, unless he is using a mobile phone and intends to create a specific effect, more related to an artistic intention than to a didactic one.
- Very important! The camera is at the same time the control monitor, this means that some of the camera movements do not have a narrative function but a functional one, i.e. they are used to enhance the vision of our monitor.
Here there are different types of camera movements, some of them are already present in the normal course of the video conferences, others can be inserted to enrich the dance class.
When you tilt a camera, you move the camera view up or down without changing its horizontal direction. In our case this is done by simply tilting down and up the laptop monitor or moving the mobile phone.
Even if the camera remains stationary, you have control over the angle at which it is located. This vertical movement in most cases accompanies the exercise demonstration. Tilting the camera means widening or narrowing the camera angle to provide an effect ranging from a (wide shot) to a (close up) on a lower part of the body. For example, to move from a position close to the laptop/mobile phone to a position at least 1.5 metres further away.
This camera movement is almost always linked to a movement of the actor approaching or moving away from the camera. This is the most common camera action in a video conference, also because it is the only one to be performed by a laptop with a classic screen, placed on a flat surface. In addition, it is important to remember that the participants also perceive corrections to their monitor's vision as camera movements, so they should be used sparingly and made conscious. If used well, they will increase the participants' attention, because they will be a visual reminder of their attention.
When you pan, you're moving your camera from left to right or vice versa, all while keeping the camera base fixed on a certain point. Even if you're not moving the camera, you're changing the direction it's facing and capturing a panoramic view. This movement uses a continuous shot to show the audience what you can't fit into a single frame.
Panning can help you establish the position of a scene or allow you to follow a moving character. Panning can also help reveal things that were previously out of view. For example, if there is an uninvited guest in a party scene, you can build tension while panning to reveal his presence, instead of using a quick cut.
Pan is not widely used in a video conference unless you need to show a space in the room with different characteristics to the one being framed. For example you want to use a wall to the right or left of the room to perform an exercise.
Zoom is used to bring a certain area in the frame into focus and is commonly used to switch between a long shot and a close-up of the subject being filmed. It also allows you to zoom in and out of a subject in a frame. There are several ways to use this camera movement creatively, such as zooming in on a fast-moving scene to add more drama and energy or zooming in on a character's face to emphasise a humorous expression or a look of terror. It is important to use this movement sparingly to minimise distraction or overuse.
As this is not an action normally expected from the video camera of a device used for video conferencing, it cannot be considered a camera movement that can be used in video conferencing.
A zoom effect can be created by tilting the monitor screen downwards and thereby reducing the angle and distance of the camera from the object, creating a close-up effect.
Vertical tracking is the movement of the camera along its vertical axis, as opposed to tilting the camera angle. During this movement, the camera is fixed to a position, such as an adjustable tripod. To use it effectively, move the entire camera up or down on a tripod relative to the subject. This movement is also not possible in a normal video conference situation.
This movement moves the camera towards or away from a subject, often placing it on a track or a motorised vehicle. When "dolly in", the camera moves towards the subject, while when "dolly out", the camera moves backwards and away from the subject. Placing it on a stable track can help you move the camera with a smooth range of motion.
If we can call them so, dolly out movements occur to adjust the view of the present image, as long as the surface on which the devices are placed allows it. In other words, to gain more field and allow more space to show the exercise.
Like dolly movement, trucking involves moving a camera along a fixed point, often on a stabilised track, but to the left or right instead of forward or backward. Running a dolly allows the camera to stay with a moving subject in the frame. This movement maintains the same distance between the camera and the subject and is most effective when used with a smooth motion track to avoid shaky shooting conditions. The tracking shot is often used during action sequences when you want to keep the camera on a moving character.
This type of shot, which cannot be used for the type of video conference user we are considering.
On the contrary, it would be an ideal camera movement to describe a dance combination performed in a large space of a suitable studio, for a video conference with a moving camera a track and a cameraman to operate it.
A handheld shot allows you to bring the camera into motion while following the action of a scene. With this camera movement, the operator takes control of the camera and holds it while performing various basic camera movements. As opposed to the stability that comes from being held by a tripod, a handheld camera makes the shot jump around.
Shooting handheld can help you tell a story differently and make your production more authentic. To do this effectively, relax your body for greater stability, plan how you want to finish the shot and be creative about how you hold the camera.
This is the natural movement in a video conference where all movements, apart from tilt movements, which are performed on the axis of the computer monitor, are performed freehand. It is advisable not to move the main image positions except to completely change the perspective of the room, for example by moving the transmission device from the table to the floor or vice versa. It is better if the changes are not frequent.
Steadicam, floating cam or stabilised shot
A steadicam is a wearable device that brings stability to the shot while giving you the flexibility of a handheld shot. The operator holds the camera mounted on the device while capturing a smooth, flowing shot around a central subject or character. When performing this camera movement, be sure to use the range of motion you have to your advantage. This shot can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including following characters over uneven terrain.
As with Trucking this type of movement requires a cameraman to perform it, so is ideal for a video conference that allows for the use of complex camera components.
Crane or jib
A jib is the protruding arm of a crane, but both terms are used to describe this type of shot in which the camera is raised into a high shooting position by a crane or jib in motion.
If you want to take the cameras to great heights, you can use a drone which can provide an aerial perspective.
Although rack focusing is not technically a camera movement, it is a camera technique that changes focus from one point to another during a single take. You start by focusing on an element in the foreground and then quickly move the focus point to another element in the background, or vice versa. This technique allows you to more subtly shift the audience's attention between two characters, for example one standing in front of the other.
Both of these movements are not relevant to our type of filming.