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What is a dolly shot in video production? 

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A film manipulates your emotions using multiple technical tools to make sure you’re engaged enough to be moved. These elements usually go unnoticed as they fit in seamlessly in the process of storytelling. It can be the music, shot placement, camera movement, subtle expressions by the actor, or the way the shot has been lit. All these factors play a huge role in creating an impact on the audience. Ever noticed the camera slowly moving towards the actor when they’re trying to say something important for the plot to progress? These are little tricks played by the DOP to create a scene. Many shots utilize movements to tell a story. One popular shot that is often used in films is a dolly shot. Dolly shots can be stitched to other shots using a quality video editor. So, what is a dolly shot? Why is it important in video production? Let’s find out. 

Cameraman dolly stands on rails mounted at children playground in courtyard

What is a dolly shot?

A dolly shot in video production is taken to add depth to the storytelling. In a dolly shot, the camera is mounted on a dolly platform that is attached to wheels on a rail track. If the camera moves towards the subject then it is called a dolly in, if it moves away from the subject it is known as dolly out and lastly if the camera moves sideways on the track it is called dolly track. These movements capture smooth and controlled footage. It creates a cinematic camera effect that enhances the feel of the scene.

Why is it important to understand a dolly shot in video production?

Dolly shots often form an integral part of creating an engaging video or a film. It is important to understand the types of dolly shots so that you can inculcate them in your video production to improve the way you tell your story. Let us go through the types of dolly shots that you can apply in your production-

Dolly in 

While shooting a Dolly in the camera moves closer towards the subject. While doing this movement the focus puller needs to constantly shift the focus accordingly. 

Dolly out

While shooting a dolly out shot, the operator moves the dolly away from the subject while the focus puller adjusts the focus. This movement is opposite to that of the dolly in the shot.

Double dolly

Spike Lee’s signature shot is known as a double dolly shot. To create this shot both the actor and the camera are placed on dolly tracks to create a cinematic effect that shows the character moving through space rather than forward or backward.

Dolly zoom

The dolly zoom shot is created when the camera zooms out while the dolly track moves in towards the subject or away from it. It creates a great optical illusion of the subject remaining the same size but the background can move closer or further away. The dolly zoom was used in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and later became a signature Hitchcock shot. 

Dolly tracking

Dolly tracking shot tracks the movement of the character across the frame. This means that the camera moves left and right on the dolly as opposed to front and back. 

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When to use dolly shots in video production?

We are tempted to use cinematic shots in every scene but they can’t be used across the film until there’s a motive to do so. When can you use a dolly shot? 

Trying to create intimacy

The actor and the camera already do have intimacy but to establish that in a story with the character is a challenge that is fulfilled with the use of camera movement. The folly shots are useful to create intimacy and an emotional bond with the audience. The movement can be extremely slow for emotional scenes and often goes unnoticed but  unconsciously creates a great impact on the way the audience receives a particular scene. 

Highlight isolation

Dolly zoom can be used to create the feeling of isolation for the character on screen. This can be achieved by focusing on the character while moving the camera in one direction and zooming in the opposite direction.

To highlight the psychological state 

The vertigo effect or double dolly effect can take us closer to the mental state of character. These shots are often used to highlight paranoia and drug use. 

If used smartly a dolly shot can create the magic of surrealism while uplifting the scene. 

Establishing the environment 

Dolly shot can be used to reveal the environment after the plot progresses in a single take. The shot can start from a close-up of the character followed by the gradual pull out of the camera revealing the environment extremely slow. 

Want to learn more about working in film production?

The dolly shot has been used to add drama, create effects and enhance storytelling across cinema history.

Learn more about the basics of video and film production in Clipchamp's Video Glossary. If you want to find out how to use diffused light on set

or what is a green screen spill
, we have you covered. When you're ready to edit, just drag, drop and edit your video or film by signing up to Clipchamp.

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