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Camera Movement in Television Today

by Jeremy Butler

A traditional camera crane or boom looks just like a crane on a construction site, except that there is a camera mounted on one end. In television studios today, a variety of smaller devices—most of which are remotely controlled—are used to achieve similar effects. A camera pedestal is the vertical post of a camera dolly. Cranes and pedestals are the technology that permit the upward/downward movement of the camera, and those movements—craning and pedestaling—take their names from that technology. Thus, in a crane shot, the camera is swept upward or downward. In one shot from the studio portion of America’s Favorite Home Videos (AFV), for example, the camera moves from near the studio floor, up and over the heads of the audience, to find host Tom Bergeron in their midst. Additionally, since the crane is mounted on wheels or suspended from a wire grid above the set it can also be moved in all the directions a dolly can—as in the AFV shot. A pedestal shot is one in which the camera is raised or lowered straight up or down. The crane or pedestal movement is different from the tilt: in a tilt, the tripod head is twisted up or down—as if the camera were nodding—while in craning and pedestaling the entire camera body is moved higher or lower.

Crane shots serve a variety of functions. Typically, a crane down may be used first to establish a location with a wide angle shot from up high, and then particularize one element of that location by craning down to it (or, rarely, up to it, as in our AFV example). And cranes up are often used to end sequences or programs. Craning up and back from characters at the end of a program, we are literally distanced from them at a point when we are about to leave the characters’ story.

America's Funniest Home Videos: Studio Crane Shots

A "simple" crane shot in America's Funniest Home Videos (the studio section) illustrates how crane shots are used in TV today.

from America's Funniest Home Videos (2010)
Creator: Vin Di Bona
Distributor: ABC
Posted by Jeremy Butler