Motion in the Movies

May 31, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

One of the strongest arguments for using video is signalled in another, more descriptive, term for the medium: motion pictures. The power of motion to catch our attention and lead us through a story is unmatched.

One effective approach, when choosing then editing a collection of clips, is to tie the motion in one clip to the motion in another, whether that motion is the subject moving through the frame, the camera moving relative to the subject, or their combination.

stack o screen shots Illustrated here are 24 screen shots taken from a marketing video I created for AeroMark Images. These represent most of the clips incorporated into the video, with a total runtime of one minute.

Some quick math will tell you that each clip runs, on average, barely two seconds, but because the opening sequence — the time lapse of roiling clouds diagonally bisected by an Airbus airliner speeding through the frame — is on-screen for 8 seconds, and the ending sequence — an MD 530F helicopter peeling away into a fade-to-black plus logo — occupies another 9, you'll not be surprised to see a number of clips appearing for but a half-second.

There is plenty to discuss and dissect, but I'll limit today's examination to movement within and between the clips. The red arrows should help illustrate my decisions.

Notice how the motion in clips 1 and 2 runs along a similar diagonal, while clip 3 — a Southwest Airlines B737 on approach, reflected in the windows of an office building — flattens that left-to-right vector while also providing an interesting graphic effect. That clip actually ends with the airliner in the middle of the frame, which is where the Black Hawk (4) starts. The Black Hawk is a new "target" for our attention, but it appears on screen where the previous target was, so we don't have to hunt for where to look next.

The Black Hawk is indicated as moving right-to-left, but the camera is panning with that movement so clip 4 ends with the H-60 still pretty much in the middle of the frame, the same area of the frame where we pick up the V-22 in clip 5. Again, a new target we don't have to hunt for, and another change of direction, clip-to-clip.

We don't want everything moving in the same direction, which would be monotonous, yet too much back-and-forthing is aggravating. We want energy in the editing, but not too much.

Clips 6 and 7 are but two of the nine clips that run a total of five seconds, so there's some pretty brisk cutting into a sequence that tell its own condensed story. Then, bang! Clip 8 is nothing but billowing late afternoon clouds. Glorious, powerful, mountains of clouds.

Suddenly, we're back to aircraft when a T-34 blurs across the frame, right to left, an MD 600N lifts up to a hover, a Citation Latitude taxis left-to-right, nearby, then an Airbus A320 taxis right-to-left, far away through shimmering heat waves.

So, that was left-up-right-left, but then I calm things down with an Airbus departing Puerto Rico (13) and a Boeing arriving (14). These are an interesting pair, motion-wise, because although I've indicated a left-to-right motion, that is the motion of the aircraft/camera — the background is actually moving right-to-left, which means the change from heat-wave airliner to getting-airborne airliner doesn't feel as back-and-forth as my arrows might suggest. The C-130s that follow Puerto Rico are also stationary, but the camera is on the move and we get the same motion effect but now it's the aircraft standing still while we pass by. So much fun!

At 16 we have another helicopter lifting off, a K-MAX, moving up and out through the top left, then a Bell 407 pointing down left, followed by the shadow of a different 407 moving left across the near canyon wall, capped off by an F/A-18D departing to the left, afterburners on, in clip 19.

Clips 20 through 22 are a subset of the actual seven clips in the video. Each is of people, all but number 22 are still frames that blend from one to another. The final "people" clip is live video of a smiling pilot who moves left in the frame, then leans back to the right, followed by clip 23, the MD 530F that is, at first, traveling to the right, then peels away and heads to the left as we fade to black. Then up pops the logo.

That is a lot going on in 60 seconds, isn't it? But I make the most of it by incorporating a range of aircraft and scenarios, inside and out, with varying cinematic styles, and motion of the subject or the camera or both. And not just motion within the clips, but with energy I impart in the editing. This use of motion, of action, attracts the eye, but by not overwhelming the video with excess or ill-considered edits, the viewer is rewarded without my overstaying my welcome. (In case you missed the hyperlink above, click here to view the video: AMI Reel No 01.)

Music, color, wild audio, transitions, and more are just some of the other factors to be considered and crafted. And believe me, you spend more time editing than shooting. But the result can be the thing you strive for in any medium: you move people.


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