One of the most important things that I’m thinking about when I go on a video shoot is how I’m going to give shots life by showing depth. One way to do this is simply by adding some camera movement to your shots. Pushes and pulls (or zoom-ins and zoom-outs) are okay and sometimes necessary, but I rarely use them because the human eye doesn’t zoom. Our eyes move and they focus. Camera movement is a BIG DEAL and my favorite is using very subtle and slow movements.
Think about depth this way. While riding in a car down the highway have you ever looked at objects closer to you racing by? Like maybe a guard rail to a bridge or even just tall grass close to the road? Next time notice how everything closer to you moves very fast and the further you move your eyes in the distance it appears like everything moves slower. It isn’t that everything further away is actually moving slower, it’s just that your eyes have a wider range to look at when looking further away so it seems slower.
The same is true with video. If I want to show depth to a shot I may do a slow side to side movement. Everything close to the camera moves faster and the further away the background is the slower it moves. The technical term for this is called parallax. Parallax is the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer. This is also why a normal tripod pan may not be as effective in showing depth. The position of the camera isn’t actually changing, but rather rotating on an axis from the same position.
So the next time you’re shooting experiment with your position. Move your camera and notice the parallax. Notice the relationship between the foreground and the background of your shot and have fun with it!