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Let's Make Some Tension with a Dolly Zoom
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I am a big fan of excellent camera work in movies.

Google "a Touch of Evil opening shot" and you'll see some of the most famous footage ever shot. That, my friend is at least three minutes of continuous, no edits, movie that takes you from a guy placing a bomb under a car, to following the car down the street, to engaging in not two but three conversations, to the bomb actually going off. It involves an incredibly complicated choreography of camera, vehicle, and actor movements in a beautiful swirling dance of mystery and ramping tension. Google it, or YouTube it. You won't be disappointed.

Another of my favorite shots is in the first Jaws movie, when Roy Scheider realizes that he shouldn't have let people go back into the water on the 4th of July after all. His face gets larger in the shot, while the background falls away at the same time.

All at once, in one three-second shot, you see his panic and isolation as he realizes that someone is getting killed by the shark because of Roy's bad judgment. It's a terrific shot, and shoots the tension right through the roof. Now we feel the panic, and we feel his angst.

Wait, what? We zoom in on his face, but zoom out on the background? In the same shot?

It's called a dolly zoom. The camera is mounted on a dolly, and rolled directly towards the actor to make him larger in the frame. At the same time, the cameraman zooms out on the shot, making him and the background smaller in the frame. Since we're focused on the actor, and since the dolly moves in concert with the zoom, the background seems to fall away.

You can do the same thing with your own video. You can park your cameraman in a wheelchair. You can lay track for a legitimate dolly. It takes some planning, and burns a ton of footage until you get it right, but it's a cool shot.

You can, as we have done here, also do it in post production. This was done with inexpensive software (Movie Edit Pro 2015, which cost around $50 in 2015), and two still shots taken from Google.  Both are stock photos, clipped from a browser without permission.

To make the shot, the actor and his chair were cut from their background and placed on a green matte. The finished composition was laid over the still of the living room, and then chroma-keyed to release the green.  By increasing the size of the composition, and reducing the size of the living room, you get that same dolly zoom effect. 

You might be able to do this in Microsoft's Movie Maker, although you would probably need to make a PNG of the actor with a transparent background instead of using chroma key.

This effect works great in a still shot, but needs more sophisticated software for moving video. You can use After Effects to mask out the background in the chair shot.  With After Effects, you can actually do the same effect in a live shot against even a moving background. To do it, you make a copy of the shot and place it over the original on your timeline. With a mask, you eliminate the background of the copy, leaving only the foreground. Using the same technique as above, you slowly zoom in on the copy while zooming out on the background. 

No matter what method you use, the shot is a great one, and will truly make your wedding video memorable!



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