4 Uses of a Camera Dolly in Movies

Having a camera dolly for your movie can make a world of difference in terms of production value. Movies are motion pictures and that means that they require motion. If there isn't motion happening in the frame, then a slight dolly move can make a world of difference in making a talking heads scene more interesting. A camera dolly is one of the most powerful tools at a filmmaker's disposal. Here are four uses of a camera dolly in movies. 

1. Tracking Shots

Tracking shots refer to shots where the camera moves on dolly with the subject. One example of this is feet that are walking. The dolly is set up parallel to the actor with the camera framed up on the actor's feet. The dolly grip pushes the dolly at the same pace of the actor's walking speed for the camera to capture a shot of the feet walking. A tracking shot can be used for almost anything; it's meaning comes from how the director decides to use it.

2. Pushing In and Out

The look of a shot that has the dolly pushing in and out looking similar to a zoom, yet it is much different. The actual movement of the camera creates a feeling that the viewing audience is physically traveling with the camera. A zoom is a cheaper version of this shot that an audience will see right through.

A dolly push in can be used to attract special attention to an actor's line to show that it has more importance over everything else they said. He could give his lines and then the dolly would push in on him for an extreme close up as he delivers the last one. A dolly pull out can be used to distance the audience emotionally from a character. This is typically used in movies that have tragic endings where the main character has done something horrible. The final shot is a long dolly pull out from the character leaving him alone with his guilt. 

The pull out can also be used to reveal new information to the audience as well. For example, we could open on a close up of a dead body and then pull out to reveal where the body is located.

3. Slight Movement

Slight dolly movement in scenes where characters are sitting and talking can help pick up the pace of the scene and just in general make it more interesting to watch. 

4. Booming Up and Down

Higher end dollies made by companies like JL Fisher and Chapman have boom arms that enable the camera to travel up and down on a straight line. The ability to do this creates another axis of camera movement at the filmmaker's disposal.