Bringing movement into your b-roll shots is important as it makes your travel videos look a lot more professional and cinematic.
Of course, you want your movements to be stable. Otherwise, it just looks like you want it but you’re not capable of doing it. But carrying a gimbal around all the time can be a bit heavy. As a traveler, you want to save as much weight and space in your back as possible. So here are four basic handheld b-roll camera moves that I do most of the time without using a gimbal.
Stabilization is important for camera movement in your b-roll
Even if you don’t use a gimbal, you need some sort of stabilization. If your camera is completely unstabilized, your shots will get shaky. To do that you have multiple options.
1. Stabilized sensor (IBIS, Sensor-Shift, etc.)
The very best option is to buy a camera with a stabilized sensor. My recommendation for that is the Panasonic GH5. It has by far the best sensor stabilization. Cameras like the A7ii have sensor stabilization as well, but it doesn’t work as good as the one on the GH5. What makes the GH5 even stronger is, that the sensor stabilization works together with the lens stabilization of native Panasonic lenses.
If you’re on a tighter budget, you could also have a look at the G85 and G95. They are also great cameras with good sensor stabilization, but they have fewer features as the GH5.
2. Lens stabilization (OIS – Optical Image Stabilization)
A stabilized lens can also help a lot against shaky footage, but it’s not as strong as a stabilized sensor. If you don’t have a stabilized sensor, you want at least use a stabilized lens. Best is to have both.
3. Electronic image stabilization (EIS)
Electronic stabilization is what you find on cameras like the GoPro Hero cameras since version 6 or the DJI Osmo Action. But also cameras like the Canon M6 mark ii have it. It crops in the image a bit and then shifts the image around to compensate for camera shake. Especially on the GoPro cameras that works extremely well.
It’s an alternative to sensor stabilization, but on normal cameras (not action cams, like GoPro) it’s not developed enough to give impressive results. However, it is good enough to make handheld movement possible. So especially if you use it together with a stabilized lens it gets your very good results.
4. Camera strap
Your camera strap can also help to stabilize your camera movement. Just hang it over your neck and push your camera away from you. So that the strap stretches. Now do your camera moves while keeping the strap stretched.
Especially if the stabilization of your camera isn’t that good, you should make use of this technique as much as possible.
5. Slow-motion (by using higher framerates)
Using slow-motion makes your footage look smoother. So shakes are there but it makes it less visible. You can do that by recording your videos in a higher framerate as you export it. For example, if you record your video in 4K with 60fps and you edit/publish your video in 24fps, you can slow it down to 40% of its original speed. if you shoot in 1080 with 120fps and you edit/publish in 30fps, you can slow it down to 25% of its original speed.
Slow-motion makes it easy and has a very nice look to it. But it’s overused on YouTube and it also slows movements of people, vehicles, etc. down. So you can’t always use it.
My personal favorite is a combination of sensor stabilization, lens stabilization and slow-motion (if possible). If it’s really hard and additional electronic stabilization can help as well. That’s why the GH5 is my favorite camera. It has sensor stabilization, stabilized lenses, electronic stabilization, and 4K60. And the best thing is that all its stabilizations work together.
But let’s come to the b-roll camera moves and how to do it.
Slide movements mean that the camera moves to the left or right as it would slide. So the camera doesn’t change its angle to keep an object in the center or anywhere else in the frame.
I do use this move a lot in my videos to bring slight movements in it. It works especially great when you have a foreground object. In this case, the foreground object moves fast and the background slow.
To do that, you simply hold your camera and your arms as steady as possible. Then you use your legs and hips to move your upper body to the side. It’s important to don’t move your arms or at least not to move them if it’s really needed to get a longer movement. Because using your arms makes it a lot more likely to generate shake.
This takes some training. So go out even if you’re in your hometown and train it until your footage gets stable enough.
At rotation moves, you also move your camera to the left or right side. But at the same time, you rotate the camera against its main direction. So if you move the right you turn your camera to the right and the opposite.
By doing that you keep your foreground subject in the same position in the frame all the time. That causes the background to move fast while the main subject stays in place – parallax effect.
There are two variations of that. You can either move your camera on one straight line while rotating it, so basically a sliding movement while rotating your camera slightly. Or you can move the camera around the main subject like a circle. The last option makes the background move even faster.
The way you do it is the same as the normal slide moves. Just that you rotate your camera while doing that. Also, make sure to generate the movement as much with your body as possible instead of using your arms.
Up-/ & Down Moves
You can do all the left and right side moves also up and down.
I personally use the up and down slide move mostly for close up shots to make it a bit more interesting. Rotating up- and down moves are nice for revealing shots. So your camera first points down to the ground, basically showing nothing. Then it turns up and shows whats going on. But you can also do the opposite (up to down) to transition into other shots if it fits.
To do the slide moves up and down, you can actually use your hands and arms as in this direction you get less shake by doing so. If you want to make a longer movement, bent your knees to go down and then come up. Use your full body.
Rotating up and down is very easy. Just do it with your hands and make sure that your camera doesn’t shake to the sides. If you have a long lens like the SIGMA 18-35, you can grab the lens as much at the front as possible and then only move the camera up and down.
Forward-/ & Backward Moves
Forward and Backward moves are really nice. It’s a great way to show that your subject is important.
You can do short forward and backward moves buy just pushing your camera forward and backward using your arms. Make sure that your grad your lens as much at the front as possible to avoid shake.
This only creates small movements. If you want to do bigger forward or backward movements, you have to hold your camera and upper body steady and then walk with small steps at a constant speed to avoid shake as much as possible. Also, hold your lens at the front to avoid shake.
I would absolutely recommend using your camera strap when doing this kind of movement. It really helps a lot, especially with small moves.
Extra tip for transitions:
If you want to create some nice in-camera transitions, you can simply move your camera a bit longer as you would usually do at the beginning and the end of each shot. You can then speed-ramp the clips in post at the beginning and the end and you get some nice speed-ramp transitions.
Oftentimes it’s enough if you just rotate your camera quickly in the direction of your movement at the beginning and the end of each shot.
The shots itself are quite obvious as they cover most angles you can move your camera in to get b-roll footage. So the challenge is really not to find out what moves you can get but to learn how to do them without getting too much shake.
So even if you’re in your hometown right now and your next trip will be in a few months, go out and shoot videos. Train these moves as much as possible while you do it. The shoot for your travel video doesn’t start at the beginning of your trip. It starts now!