Aerial Ingredients: Subject Movement

This is the second entry in a series of posts we're calling "Aerial Ingredients."  In this series we'll be sharing some lessons we've learned while filming low-altitude aerials.

Adding movement to your subject is a great way to add a lot of visual interest to your shots.  Even something as basic as a warehouse can be spiced up by adding a moving forklift to the shot.  A moving subject can motivate the camera and copter move.  And this is a tip that applies to all types of filmmaking. 

For an example of subject movement, presented below is a demo we shot last year (can't share any recent material yet).  We had the opportunity to test out the MicroLite HD transmitter from Nebtek, so we contacted our friend Bill Rich who arranged a brief test shoot with his friend Heather Williams.  Heather is incredibly talented, and was so fun to work with.

Heather certainly looks cool next to the bike in the photo above, but she really shines when she's flying through the air, which can be seen in the video below.  It was a fun morning of filming a moving subject.

Catching Air with Heather Williams from Yonder Blue Films on Vimeo.

The movement of the subject motivates the movement of the camera in most of the shots shown in our test video.  And by moving your camera with the subject, you avoid frame jitter.  Have you ever noticed how much jitter you get when quickly panning across a scene?  Some folks also refer to this as a strobing effect.  That jitter is present in a lot of the shots in the video, but by giving your eyes something to focus on, a subject that is moving in sync with the pan, you don't notice the jitter at all.  If you watch the video again and look at the background, rather than the moving subject, you'll see what I'm referring to.  This issue is present in all cameras, and there are ways to combat it, but the most natural way is to give the viewer something to focus on or slow down the pan.  This is especially important when shooting at lower frame rates, like 24p. 

In the world of aerials, following subject movement is much easier when it's a 2 person operation.  One person can concentrate on moving the copter with the subject, and the other person can concentrate on moving the camera with the subject. 

While you can't add women on motorcycles to every shot, you can certainly come up with creative ways to add movement to your subject.  Try it on your next shoot, you'll be glad you did.  If you enjoyed this article, please share it.  More to come...