Cinematography For Directors [Ep 5 – When To Use A Spinning Shot]

Cinematography For Directors [Ep 5 – When To Use A Spinning Shot]

Cinematography For Directors is series of short videos dissecting the shot selection and framing used in nine specific scenes in the movie Drinking Games. HUGE thanks to Cinematographer Andrew “Tank” Rivara at and AC Chris Falkowski for making it all possible!

My hope is that the ideas expressed in the videos help your decision-making process on your next film. Remember, these are just ideas, a jumping off point, a way to start thinking about picking and framing shots. Hope it’s helpful!

***Ep 5 – When To Use A Spinning Shot***
I discuss how and why we used a spinning camera- moving at a uniform speed- to create the sensation of being wasted in the film Drinking Games, and some ways you can apply these specific techniques to your own projects! Full text below.

***About me***
I’m an independent producer/director with award-winning features distributed in theaters, online and internationally. When I have a new project, I do a lot of Q&A’s and with my new feature Drinking Games, I took a lot of questions about the cinematography and shot selection. I thought this type of breakdown would be helpful to other directors like you, so I put in video form. You can check out my films below, they’re all available on Hulu, iTunes and Amazon.

Drinking Games

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

The Graduates

***Full Video Text***
Two main camera movements here. Both are designed to reflect what it feels like when you’re really fucked up.

The energy is bouncing around the room, causing it to spin, no one really has control. But another thing that happens when you’re fucked up is you’re often really, really in your own head and then suddenly you’re communicating with everyone around the room, being too big, too vocal. So we also filmed the scene with the camera dollying in and out while people start to pontificate, express themselves, connect.

To achieve the constant, even spin, we put the camera on a rotating time-lapse tripod, about two feet off the floor. Because of the lack of space in the room, no crew members could be in the room. We pressed record, called action and left.

We knew going into the shoot that we wanted to do this, so for this reason- and a million others- almost all of our lighting was practical. Shooting on the RED, this was a concern- how could practical lighting generate enough light to really read. Tank and Chris figured it out, but it was a challenge.

The dolly-in and dolly-out moves were easier, though focus was a challenge of course.

When cut together the scene plays as if we (the camera) are the energy being passed around the room haphazardly. We’re as fucked up as the people in the room.

But it all comes to a screeching halt when the camera stops moving. It’s like a moment of sudden, unwanted sobriety- the truth is revealed, there is no real energy, nothing being created, just a handful of idiots getting high.

We (the camera) go from being just another partygoer to actually being the kid down the hall who peers into the room before deciding to go back his room and get some work done. We’re a source of judgment for a second, and we have to- ideally- go back and ask wait, was I just getting sucked into this party because of the music and the quick editing? Am I really that malleable, that susceptible to being manipulated.

Hope this was helpful!

Post any questions in the comments or email me at
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