Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out, according to director Martin Scorsese, who asserted that when describing his life's work. Getting the perfect shot can turn an otherwise ordinary scene into something great, both on and off screen.
One of the most recognizable scenes in my all-time favorite movie, Goodfellas, tracks Henry through the kitchen of a nightclub, where he effectively seduces Karen with his popularity on screen. Off screen, it highlights his yearning for the lifestyle he's trying to attain.
In the video below, Scorsese and director of photography Michael Ballhaus discuss how they filmed the iconic Copacabana scene.
The use of a Steadicam in a one-shot tracking scene creates the sense that the camera is really just part of the action and puts the viewer right in the scene, side-by-side with the actors.
While big names studios never have to worry about having enough camera rigs or affording the right equipment, at-home filmmakers have to get a little more creative for those tough-to-capture angles. One of the more difficult shots to get without a rig (or having Yao Ming hold the camera for you) is the over-the-shoulder (OTS).
Director Darren Aronofsky and his DP Matthew Libatique use the same technique in many of their films to convey claustrophobic tension—but mostly from the front, not the back.
The scene below, from Pi, was shot using a body-mounted camera rig attached to the actor's chest instead of the back.
In Requiem for a Dream, they used it again.
Who wouldn't want a close up of Jennifer Connelly's face?
This particular rig is called a SnorriCam, and the average person definitely couldn't afford to buy (or even rent) one.
Luckily, there are a few creative DIY workarounds to achieve the same effect with inexpensive, easy-to-find materials.
Instructables user CourtneyGaudet created a lightweight and very affordable OTS rig using PVC pipe and two sleeping bag straps.
The build is pretty simple and shouldn't take more than an hour or two. You'll need several different types and lengths of PVC, along with one cap and a few connectors.
Two long pieces of PVC hold the rig on the chest or back, with two more protruding out to bring the camera to eye level.
The sleeping bag straps are threaded through to hold the rig onto the wearer's shoulders. On top of the rig is a PVC cap with a hole for the camera to sit on.
Take a look at the complete guide for more details and photos.
Griffin Hammond from Indy Mogul put together an over-the-shoulder rig that's even simpler and super cheap to make. The project was inspired by the video below, which shows footage shot with a GoPro that looks like it came straight out of a first-person shooter.
This build is purely PVC. Griffin built the rig to capture some unique footage for an obstacle race (The Warrior Dash) he was going to participate in. It needed to be both light and sturdy enough to run in, and easy to remove in case he had to take it off mid-race.
This diagram shows all the different pieces he used, which are color coded so it's easy to follow and put one together yourself.
Take a look at the video walkthrough and a little in-race footage showcasing some cool effects with the finished project.