This is part of a blog series to cover all of the main types of camera shots. In this post, we are looking at the Zoom shot.
Probably one of the most widely known camera shots, but often misunderstood and can sometimes be confused with other shots.
A zoom shot happens in two ways and both have a very different feel.
- By altering the focal length of the camera, which gives the effect of getting closer or further away from the subject.
- By moving the camera closer to the subject
Okay, it is possible to use both techniques together (the dolly zoom) but that is for another article.
Zooming in or zooming out can also be referred to as going close or wide.
Moving Camera Zoom Vs Lens Zoom
Your camera is the eyes of the audience. With the lens zoom, the viewer’s eyes are not moving closer to the subject, all that is happening is that a part of the image is being magnified to make it appear that way. There is a big difference between a zoom and a moving camera zoom, and this is often misunderstood.
One is simply a magnification of part of the image and one is the view from the camera that is actually moving.
There is a big difference. A zoom is artificial; none of the relative positions will change. Whereas a moving camera zoom will feel very different as the spatial relationships will change in a more natural way. If you think about walking towards an object, the view unfolds and changes as you approach the object. The view does not change if you magnify the image, it stays the same but you just get a closer view.
Here is a crude example that I filmed in my kitchen. While it isn’t going to win any film awards, it illustrates the key differences. Notice that the spatial relationships change on the moving camera zoom, but they don’t on the zoomed version.
Using an optical zoom on your camera changes the focal length and gives the illusion of getting closer to the object. This is probably the easiest and smoothest way to do it. However, you could also do the same type of zoom digitally, either in the camera or in post production. This is not recommended though as a digital zoom will pixelate the image and you will lose resolution. It may work if your raw footage is 4K and your final film is standard HD as you will have plenty of pixels to play with, but generally, the optical zoom is better as you will not have to worry about pixelated video.
A moving camera zoom can be done in a few ways, here are some examples.
- Drone Zoom – Simply fly the drone towards your subject
- Steady Cam Zoom – Moving towards the subject on foot
- Dolly In / Out – This is where the camera is physically slid down rails towards the subject. Not to be confused with a Dolly Zoom, which changes the focal length simultaneously.
There is more science behind this, but I am more interested in the practicalities, what these shots are known as and how to do them. If you have experience in this and would like to add to this post please comment below. Furthermore, if you have a greater knowledge of this subject and if you would like to guest post please get in touch.