What is a Pedestal Shot in Film? Definition and Usage Examples.

Published:
Updated:

In a pedestal shot (sometimes called a boom shot), the camera moves vertically up or down while maintaining a fixed horizontal axis. It maintains the camera-subject distance throughout the shot. Unlike tilting, which alters the camera’s angle, a pedestal shot ensures the lens remains parallel to the ground. It is often achieved using a hydraulic boom arm or jib attached to a dolly or tripod and uses a counterweight system for smooth motion. For large productions, it’s also created using a crane.

Common Uses of Pedestal Shots

Pedestal shots are one of the basic camera movements. In the strictest definition, the camera only moves vertically up and down. In reality, they are often combined with other camera movements, such as subtle panning and tilting.

Here are some common uses of the pedestal shot.

Emphasize Scale: Moving the camera vertically can highlight the size or height of objects or characters, making them appear more imposing or significant.

Example: In Toy Story (2005), Buzz Lightyear is slowly revealed by pedestalling up, making him seem more imposing and confident than the gasping Sheriff Woody.

Reveal Information: Pedestal shots can unveil new elements of the scene. For example, pedestalling slowly from one point of view to another can create suspense.

Example: In Inglourious Basterds (2009), Tarantino uses a boom-down shot to reveal the frightened Jews slowly hiding below the floorboards.

Tracking shot: Pedestal shots can be used for tracking, especially if that character is moving up or down stairs, on an elevator, or changing environmental levels.

Example: In True Lies (1994), we are pedestalling up as the camera follows Harry Tasker on a horse and the bad guys moving up in separate glass elevators during the chase.

Shooting Large Crowds: Boom shots are ideal for capturing large crowds or expansive settings. For example, they can show the scale and scope of a large concert crowd or demonstration.

Example: Disney’s Enchanted (2007) uses several pedestal up-and-down shots in the Central Park, N.Y.C. scene to transition from focusing on Giselle, Robert, and the crowd to show the size of the larger and larger crowd and even to track Giselle’s movement, as she’s carefully put down to the ground.

Closing Shots: Boom shots can be used effectively for close shots. The camera can ascend or descend to provide a final, sweeping view of the scene, creating a memorable and impactful ending that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.

Example: Casablanca (1942) ends with a nice boom-up shot of Rick and Renault walking away into the fog, signifying the unclear road ahead of their “beautiful friendship.”

Stress Emotions: Boom shots can emphasize an emotional moment in a film.

Example: Shawshank Redemption (1994) uses boom shots in several places. For example to stress the liberation and catharsis when Andy escapes through the sewers and into the rain, but also in this famous rooftop scene. When Hadley grabs Andy and pushes him to the edge of the roof, it not only shows the aggressiveness of the prison guards but also signifies the dangerous living-on-the-edge path Andy is about to take:

Summing Up

A pedestal or boom shot is a camera movement in which the camera is moved vertically up or down along a fixed axis without changing its angle. It can be combined with other camera movements.

A pedestal shot is often used to reveal information gradually, emphasize scale, or vertically follow a subject’s movement. Pedestal shots often create a sense of discovery, highlight different elements within a scene, or emphasize a specific emotion, such as danger, liberation, uncertainty, or loneliness.

Author

  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.