How to Move the Camera and the Actors Like Spielberg

It's difficult to watch a Spielberg film and at the same time try to dissect it from the point of view of a filmmaker or a cinematographer, because you are immersed in the story by the ingenious camera movement and actors' blocking.

If you are like me, you probably stop and watch a clip from a Spielberg movie a few times, because you are captivated by the way the action is presented. Like with many successful artists, we try to find a pattern of their success, assuming we can repeat it and be successful too. This video from the wolfcrow's YouTube channel is a humble attempt to reveal one of the secrets of the director's interesting way of choreography within the frame. A pattern in Spielberg's films is found where sideways or forward and backward movements are involved in every other cut or within the same take. The movement is either by the camera, by the actors, or both. The cuts alternate those directions, and for that reason, the author of the video names it "The L System." Combining those two basic principles and repeating them over and over again is a simple, yet powerful technique that could be one of the secrets of Spielberg's way of keeping the viewer interested.

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Spy Black's picture

"How to Move the Camera and the Actors like Spielberg"

David Love's picture

So is he literally standing over the camera mans shoulder saying "Now pan left and then zoom out" and location scouting by saying he needs a road to turn to the left for his L or is he simply saying "Actors will do this so camera follows?" A lot of his stuff is from storyboards that he didn't draw. I think he's more concerned with the mood and the actors than camera movements though I could be wrong. Never seen him talk about it.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The L-system thing is just a guess. This could be something even Speilberg never thought of, but we need to explain things to ourselves somehow. That's why this speculation is a good start, I think.

And yes, it's not just the camera movement. There was another post that emphasized on the eyes:

For sure it's not a simple formula.