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Blank Slate: Walking Shots
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Blank Slate is a new 16-part instructional series from PBS Digital Studios with the production team Video Dads, made up of Emmy-nominated video producers Travis Gilmour and Slavik Boyechko. This week Senior Editorial Associate Alex Duckles shares his tips on an especially challenging shot- the walking shot.  

Filming a subject’s movement, especially walking, is a big challenge for filmmakers. When it’s done right, the motion on screen feels organic and seamless; with the wrong camera motion or editing style, however, a sequence can easily fall flat.

So what’s the secret ingredient that makes a walking sequence work? 

First and foremost, as mentioned in the new video from Blank Slate, a filmmaker must anticipate a subject’s movement. Plot out a path for your subject to walk and make sure all your gear is in position before starting action. Never shy away from doing multiple takes; even if it feels like extra effort for a simple sequence, you’ll be much happier when cutting the footage later.

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Recording a healthy amount of extra footage is also crucial for filming any sequence, especially one with lots of motion. Recording your subjects walking fully into and out of frame will help give you clips to introduce and close a segment — these are just as valuable as showing the actual movement itself.

Once in the editing stage, the best sequences come together by embracing continuity between shots. Unless done deliberately to break convention, always keep the linear motion of your on-screen subjects heading in the same direction. Even if the motion is subtle, keeping that direction continuous helps add an authenticity to the edits. The last critical key is to cut on action: if your subject is making an action, like reaching for a door or turning a corner, use this action to time an edit. Even subtle motion like footsteps are key to synchronize between different camera angles.

And with that, any filmmaker is prepared to start filming walking shots like a professional. Lights, camera, walking!