Camera Movement: Understanding the Arc

Doing an arc shot requires camera movement around the subject. It's not a full circle around the circle, but it does cover half of the subject.

Definition of an Arc Shot

An arc shot is a movement of the camera that covers a semi-circle around a subject. The definition is similar to mathematics where the definition of an arc is a segment of the full circumference of the circle. This type of shot is also thought to be doing a tracking shot while dollying at the same time. In layman's ter,ms it means that it's a simultaneous movement done by the cameraman from side to side and in and out.

Uses of an Arc Shot

This arc shot can be accomplished in a very simple way, and that is to imagine a length of string connecting the camera and the subject. The camera does a semi-circle of the subject, and in the process is able to reveal new details about the background that the subject is standing in front of.

Though a still object would be best for doing an arc shot or practicing it, using an arc shot is actually most effective when you're shooting a moving subject. This makes the shot more complicated, but it pays off when the audience can't take their eyes off the screen.

Tips for an Arc Shot

Getting just the right arc shot is difficult. This type of shot really requires that you stay in a constant rate of movement while circling the subject at the same distance.
The camera should be handled on a smooth and even surface and should be transported on system that can keep it at a steady distance. If you do not have the equipment like a dolly at hand, it's fine. Using improvised dollies can be done; remember that dollies are essentially equipment that can transport you around the subject on wheels to provide you an even shot. These dollies can be a wheelchair, or even your own car.

When you first attempt to do the arc shot, it makes sense to practice it on a subject that's standing still. Think of an object in your living room and place it at the center of the room, then get your camera and walk around it at a constant distance and speed. First, start at a low angle, then while walking. gradually go up to a higher one. That is one way to do an arc shot on your own. The next thing to be done is to practice. There's really no way around it; in order to perfect the arc shot, more practice is really needed.

After you're done practicing on a non-moving subject, you can proceed to filming an object that's moving. To do this, you can ask a friend to be the subject walking along a stretch of road. This is an ideal way to practice the shot as you only have one object and the area you're shooting in provides a level surface.

Why an Arc Shot?

The arc shot just adds that level of drama to the film sequence. Think the arc shots in the movie Matrix--that type of arc shot just makes the audience go "wow" when they view the movie.

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