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FREELessons: 2Length: 9 minutes

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1.2 When and How to Pan

The pan is a simple camera move, but as a result it's often overused. In the first part of this lesson we'll look at some of the reasons filmmakers and videographers pan a camera. In the second part you'll learn how to do a pan shot well.

1.2 When and How to Pan

[SOUND] Welcome back. The pan is one of the simplest camera moves to do. As a result, though, it's often overused particularly by beginners. Remember, pros use camera movements sparingly, and they do so with a purpose. So let's take a look now at why film makers and videographers might use a panning movement. The first and most obvious reason is to establish a scene. Especially one that's vast in size. Here's an example from my recent trip to Peru. We stopped by the side of the road for a view of the Colca Canyon. It was absolutely huge. And the best way for me to show that, was by panning slowly from left to right. So that's one reason we use a pan, to show vastness or size. It doesn't necessarily have to be a landscape. You could pan left or right to show the length of a building or how far a set of railroad tracks stretches into the distance. It all depends on what you want to communicate to your viewer. Pans can also be used to show the distance between two objects or points of interest. For a video I did about sand boarding on a volcano in Nicaragua, I wanted to show how far we would be sliding down. So I panned left and down from the top of the volcano to the bottom to show our route. On a different volcano in Guatemala, yeah, I know, I've got a thing for volcanoes. I got a shot of red hot lava, and then panned left to show just how close we were to it. I could've, just given you a shot of the red hot lava, and then cut directly to a shot of people walking by, but you wouldn't have had a sense of just how close we were. And trust me, we were really close. It was so hot, I melted the soles off my sneakers. We also used pans to follow a subject or object in motion. Take a look at this next example. It starts on a static wide shot of a waiting room. Then as a patient enters, it pans left to follow her to the receptionist's window. In this example, I'm panning to track the movement of my niece as she rides her horse around the arena. It's just a little more dynamic than a static wide shot of the arena. It adds energy to the shot. Fast pans are used to create drama and a sense of chaos or confusion. Especially, if they are done handheld. Think of fight scenes or half the disaster movies out there. Panning is also a way to direct your viewers' attention. For example, in this next clip, I'm panning to follow the girl walking. In the background, you can see another girl. But I continue to follow the first girl, forcing you to focus on her. But, if I want to shift your attention to the second girl, I would stop my pan at the car, and let the first girl continue walking out of the shot. Pans are also a way to reveal information. Remember, the viewer sees only what you, as a filmmaker or videographer, show them through the window of that frame. A pan can be an effective way to control what your audience sees and when. For example, this girl is enjoying a snack, seemingly by herself. until we pan left to reveal the dog begging for a bite. So, just to recap, a pan can be used to establish a scene, show vastness or size, track movement, focus a viewer's attention, or reveal information. That's the why of panning, now it's time to learn how to pan. A pan looks simple, but don't be fooled. A good pan is harder to pull off than you might think. Now, you can do this move handheld and I'll have more on that in a moment. But I highly recommend that you use a tripod. Ideally, one with a fluid head. This will help ensure that your pan is as smooth and steady as possible. Once you've attached your camera to the tripod and you've made sure that it's level, you need to adjust the tension on your tripod. Find that little nob that allows you to swivel the camera from side to side. Now generally speaking, you want less tension for fast pans and more tension for slow pans. The looser the tension is, the easier it is to move the camera, and the more quickly you'll be able to pan. The tighter the tension, the more difficult it is to move the camera, and the more slowly you'll be able to pan. Now, decide where you want the pan to begin and end. Do a couple of practice runs to get the feel for it. One thing I like to do is to pick out an object or landmark near the end of my shot, so I know that once it appears in my viewfinder, that's a signal that I need to be prepared to stop. The goal, is to pan smoothly, and confidently without over shooting the spot where you want to finish. It's tougher than it looks. Okay, so you've practiced a few times, once you're ready, hit record and hold your opening shot for several seconds before you begin to pan. Then, start panning slowly, gradually speed up then slow down again before stopping. Hold the shot for another couple of seconds before hitting stop. Creating these handles on either side of the camera movement allows for greater flexibility when it comes time to edit your video. And speaking of editing, one of the basic principles is that any camera movement should stop before you cut to the next shot. So, if your pan lasts for 20 or 30 seconds for example, you'll have to stay on that shot for it's entire duration before you cut to the next. So keep this editing principle in mind when you're determining how long your pan should be. One of the biggest challenges of panning is to create a smooth, even movement with no sticking or skipping. One little trick you can try, especially if you have a cheaper tripod, is to loop a rubber band around the handle and use that to pull. The rubber band will help even out the tension at the start and end of the shot and it absorbs any small movements on your part that might cause shakiness. A few other tips, pan only once per shot. Don't ping pong back and forth from one side to the other. That's a sure sign of amateur video. And don't pan too quickly. You need to give the viewer time to absorb what they're seeing. So, that's how to pan with a tripod. Of course there may be times when it's just not practical to bring along a tripod. Like, I don't know, climbing volcanoes. [LAUGHS] And of course if you want to do any camera moves you have to do them handheld. So here are a few tips on that. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, and keep your legs straight. Hold the camera close to your body, use both hands, and tuck your elbows in to help keep it steady. Then, swivel using only your hips to make the panning movement. Remember to hold the shot for a couple of seconds before you start the move. And hold again for a couple of seconds when you finish the move. So there you have it, you now know what a pan is, why it's used in film and video, and how to do it well. There's also a more advanced technique called a whip or swish pan, which I'll cover in another session. I'm Cindy Burgess for tuts+, thanks for watching.

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