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Friday, February 1, 2013

To Pan or Not to Pan

Zooming is a pretty common concept most of us a familiar with. Another camera move that goes hand in hand with zooming is called panning. This simply means moving the camera from left to right. It's something you do all the time instinctively. But there are some aspects of the concept that need to be examined in order to shoot better video.

And are you ready for what I'm going to say? Shoot as the eye sees. The eye never zooms, but let's examine panning with an experiment. 

First, choose two objects on opposite sides of the room you're in. Now look at one of the objects. Quick! Look at the other object. Do it again. 

Did you notice anything? You probably didn't pay much attention to the room whooshing by as you moved your attention to the other object. You probably even blinked. If you did notice the room whooshing by, then you are very much in the minority. 

Now, this might be a little harder. Imagine somebody throwing a football or another object across the room. The subject is the ball. Notice anything this time? You very much followed the action of the ball and "panned" your eyes across the room. 

When it comes to panning while shooting video, follow the action. Luckily, you're going to find that most of what's interesting in life is action and is always moving. So the pan comes in handy almost every time you press record. 

Well, with that being said, when do you not pan? Simply put, when there is no action. When the subject is static. This is one of those concepts that very much comes down to taste and also has a lot to do with editing. If I were shooting video of a house, I would generally not pan. Some videographers will use panning as an effect to add movement to an otherwise static scene. If that's the case, you can even get better at panning by following a simple rule: make the pan very steady and make sure it's the same speed all the way through. 

In a real world situation, you're probably going to be shooting and following action the whole time. If you don't plan on editing your video, then it may sometimes be necessary to pan to get a reaction or another action...and even though the eye doesn't see this way, it has to be done. 

But let me address those who do plan on editing their video from here on out. 

You're going to get the best end product by not shooting any pans. Don't even leave them in there to be edited out if at all possible. 

Let's say you're getting video of two people talking to each other. The simplest thing to do is to get a "two shot" of both of the people and just let the conversation play out. Our instinct will be to pan back and forth as they take turns talking. In the end, don't just leave the mess of whatever is in between them in the video. Edit it out. If you're in a situation where you have control, then don't even shoot the panning to begin with. This can be used for artistic effect, but mostly it's jarring to the viewer. 

Get an idea by watching almost an movie and see how they handle conversations. Yes, the filmmakers have all the control over the environment, but watch closely and see how much panning goes on. 

Getting better at eliminating those pans in quick, real world situations is a skill that has to be developed by videographers called anticipation. This is in news shooting or even reality show shooting. But they are always looking to shoot how the eye sees. 

Pan to follow action. And keep us all from getting dizzy.