Filming a pan

A pan is a camera move. The camera moves horizontally from left to right or right to left.

Here’s an example. I shot it handheld on my iPhone. The camera moves from left to right, following the flow of the water down the River Taff.

The shot is around sixteen seconds long. In fact, it’s potentially three shots. There’s the whole sixteen second pan and there are two static shots at either end.

If you decide to shoot a pan, follow this example. Hold the start of your shot for at least 5-10 seconds. Then do the move — at the same sort of speed as you see here — and then hold the end shot for another 5-10 seconds.

Why? If you decide not to use the pan itself, you’ve still hopefully gathered two useable shots.

It can be very tempting to shoot lots of pans when you’re out filming, but I’d encourage you to use them sparingly. Camera moves get boring very quickly if you use too many of them. There should be a reason for the pan — something that justifies the move and that you can develop in the script. In this case it was following the flow of the river away from the bridge. Don’t just shoot a pan because you can. Remember, the vast majority of your shots should be static and stable.

Here’s another iPhone pan. This time at Paddington station in London. I wanted to show how long the line of waiting taxis was. Again, a good reason to use a pan.

Here’s another example. Again shot on my iPhone. This time vertically. And as you can see there’s a good reason to do the pan. I wanted to show that some buildings are much, much taller than others in Shanghai.

Activity: Go and shoot a pan on your phone. The most important thing is that there is a reason why what you’re filming needs a pan. Send it to me on WhatsApp.