Pro Tip: Natural Camera Movement with a Tripod

PhilWesson Posts: 241 Enthusiast
edited November 2012 in Practical Filmmaking
Hey everyone!
So this is a tip that my buddy gave me, and I thought it was brilliant, and wanted to share with the rest of you.
The Problem:
If you happen to be filming yourself using a tripod (ie: i couldn't find any actors, and I wanted to do an effects test), You usually have the camera sit on a tripod whole you act in front of it. This is fine of course, but it's static, and there's no real motion to it.
I'm sure that you can use Shake to get some good movement, but if you want real natural movement, do this:
The Solution:
1. Get a post-it note, or something similar, and draw a dark black dot on it. Attach it to a wall with a solid color.
2. Pick up your camera and record the black dot at varying distances (this is important later).
3. Import your footage, and track the black dot at each distance. Apply that motion data to a point (or null if you're using AE).
4. Import your static tripod footage and parent it to the motion tracked point. You'll have to slightly scale your stable footage to compensate for the camera move.
The trick is that the natural movement of your hand while recording is being applied to your stable footage. By tracking at different distances, you can get varying levels of natural camera movement.
Try it for yourself!


  • spydurhank
    spydurhank Posts: 3,193 Expert
    Nice. Thanks man. :D
  • Yep, I use a similar technique quite a lot.
    Normally I film the wall of my house with tracking markers on it, and various objects in front of the wall at various distances with tracking markers.
    I then take this into Syntheyes for a 3d track and export the resulting camera for use in 3ds Max.
    This helps give a much more natural camera movement (especially when trying to emulate hand held footage or even steadycams, dolly and pans, ect.)
    The great thing is that because you're just trying to get the basic movement, your track doesn't have to be super accurate and it's affordable. Makes it a very quick process with great results.
    Also if I find the movement isn't perfect (maybe I panned a bit too far off target or move too far forward while filming) in 3ds Max I can add an animation layer to fix what I need and kind of "blend" between the original track and and the fixed animation.
  • StormyKnight
    StormyKnight Posts: 2,722 Ambassador
    Great tip, Phil and friend. Thanks!