#FilmSchoolFriday: The trick to snap-zooms.
At our second location for this shoot, we found ourselves in a covered foot bridge on a college campus. While we could go into all sorts of discussion about the aesthetics of the location, what we’re interested in is how, as a shooter, to deal with the constraints of the workspace and still get useful footage.
When you’re not the primary shooter, you find yourself having to constantly make due with whatever is available to you. In this location, I found myself as a second shooter in what is essentially a long tube. That means that my primary and secondary subjects, the model (primary) and Amber (foreground/secondary) will be defining my shooting lanes.
I know that Amber is going to position the model, and although she may move a little, she’s not going to be moving a lot. In other words, her focal plane will stay consistent. Amber will move towards her and side to side. This means that if I want to utilize a snap-zoom move, all I need is to set my own focal plane line, set my focus on the model, and then snap-zoom away. As long as the model doesn’t move fore or aft, and I don’t move off of my line, I can snap in and out all I want without fear of losing focus.
The simple technique, then, is to set your camera’s zoom to manual by turning off the zoom control motor (or disconnecting it). Now, find yourself a toe line. In an urban environment, a sidewalk seam will work great. This is your line that you must keep your feet on – your focal plane. Now, set your focus to manual and then focus on your subject. As long as your subject doesn’t move closer or farther away from you, that focus plane is now a constant. Now, every snap-zoom into or out of your subject will remain focused on the subject. It’s a simple as that.
Although the snap-zoom has fallen out of vogue these days, it’s still an effective way to add a kinetic element to an otherwise static shot, especially if you’re shooting coverage for a fast-paced, short promo.