Why the subtle camera movement in the "Do It In a Dress" interview?

Kramer O. asked: I noticed that the camera was being very subtly moved back and forth throughout the entire interview. This is something that I have done from time to time but haven't had much thought or reason behind doing it. What is your reasoning to do that the whole time the interview is being conducted?

Also, how do you decide how much of an angle to shoot at? I've done interviews with people and have them look off camera but I vary a lot in my angle and sometimes it really doesn't look good. How do you go about making that decision of where to position yourself as the interviewer and how much of an angle the interviewee should be at in proportion to the camera?

Joyce answered:

Before we jump into this particular example let's step back and look at camera movement in general. When you watch something like Bourne where it's super handheld and shaky vs. something like a Michael Bay film that's super polished and epic, there's an entirely different feel - and part that comes from the way the camera is moved. Yes there are many other layers to consider but let's stick with just movement here.

The audience is an observer and they are essentially the camera - so where you place it and how you move it directly relates to how they perceive the scene.

Realize that how you move your camera is how you move your viewer.

There is a full spectrum of camera support and movement choices to pick from. Here are a few common ones to consider.

  • Handheld is raw - it's shaky, something that may represent instability or nervousness.
  • Monopod is real - it has a very human-like hover that's similar to how people move their bodies
  • Slider is pristine - it's slow and precise, very calculated in its move that could represent planning, thoughtfulness, beauty
  • Tripod is solid - it's stable, also precise and unwavering
  • MoVi / Steadicam - it's fluid, adds a ton of energy to the movement
  • Jib - it's epic and grand, brings a larger than life feel to the scene

Whether you realize it or not, the camera tool used is saying something (right or wrong) about the story, so the more intentional the filmmaker, the more impactful the scene can be. Often it's easy to use what we have handy or what we're used to using, but it's critical that we evaluate each scene and how our choices affect the scene.

The best way to determine what camera tools to use is to refer to your keywords.

So let's take a look at this particular example. In our keywords here we have Dress, Movement, Excitement, Enroll and Education.

Of the five, the two that relate most to how we want our viewer to feel are Movement and Excitement. That is most easily seen in the rest of the piece, particularly as we reach the crescendo of the film where we really move a ton for the energy. But since the narrative is driven by an interview, we absolutely need to consider movement here as well. By moving the tripod slightly, in a slow and deliberate way, we are generating a more human-like movement in the camera to move with her as she is speaking — and that is especially important when she gets excited or passionate about something she is speaking about.

As an added benefit, this also mimics the movement of a person (like Patrick or someone else in the room) who may be sitting and listening to her tell her story. People don't always sit perfectly still like a tripod all the time — we do and can sit still to some degree, but we also lean in and shift our weight from time to time.

Now everything in this film was shot by Muse attendees, so the movement is slightly off from what I would have liked to have seen, which is less of a side to side (as that feels somewhat repetitive) and more of a random mix of figure-8s and circular moves (as humans we don't rock back and forth to the exact same spot each time). Additionally, the shape of the movement should be more of a S curve with rounded corners rather than an M shape with hard edges. This takes a bit of practice to nail down well.

One last thing to note is that we need to consider the lens choice when we choose our camera movements. There were two angles in this interview: a wide and a tight. The wide was a 24-70mm with the focal length somewhere in the 24-28mm range, and the tight (the one shown here) is an 85mm.
Long lenses compress (makes things feel closer together) and wide lenses exaggerate (pulls them apart), but realize that exaggeration also applies to movement as well — the wider the lens, the less you have to move to make it FEEL like it's moving a ton.

The subtle movement in the tight angle here works because it's, well, subtle. We want to move with her, but we don't want to make our audience nauseous either, which is why the wide angle remained static. The 24mm lens on the wide angle really exaggerates motion and it would be much harder to control those same movements there.