How to Emulate a Robot Camera Movement in Premiere Pro CC

“Humble” by Kendrick Lamar is undoubtedly one of the most visionary and well-crafted music videos of 2017 mainly due to the massive talent and exquisite work of the seasoned DP Dave Meyers and his team. In the video, you’ll notice multiple cinematography techniques alongside some impressive choreography setups and improvisations, but there’s a specific part in the middle of the video that really grabs and holds attention.

Yes, I’m talking about the shot where a robotically motion-controlled arm is moving around Lamar in a fluid manner with sudden starts and stops. While the move could be easily pulled with the right gear, not everyone may be ready to shell out thousands of dollars for a robot camera arm.

So, if you’re someone who is looking to achieve the same effect without breaking the bank, Jordy Vandeput of shows off an effective and much cheaper post-production technique as an alternative. All it takes to get the job done is a combination of proper shooting techniques and some unconventional Premiere Pro CC tricks.

The first step into emulating the robotic camera effect is to shoot your footage properly. You need to decide how you’re going to move your camera from Point A to Point B, whether it be a crane or a slider. For the video, Vandeput and his team opted for using a mini camera crane.

When shooting the footage, one key thing you need to make sure you do is to re-enact the slow motion in real time. In other words, when the camera moves from Point A to Point B, your subject has to move simultaneously in slow motion in order for the effect to look correct. This may take a couple of tries to accomplish so make sure to leave plenty of time in production for trial and error.

Once the footage is shot, bring the clip into Premiere Pro CC and place it in the timeline. Create a cut just before the camera move starts and then one more right before the camera move ends. On the leftmost clip, right-click and enable Time Remapping.

Afterward, create a keyframe and drag it to the maximum value. Now, drag the keyframe to the left to open it up so that the speed progressively goes from normal to maximum speed. Do the same for the right-hand clip, except this time your keyframes should start fast then return to normal speed. For the middle clip where the camera movement occurs, use the Rate Stretch Tool and reduce the duration so that the speed of the video is increased.

To further sell the effect, you need to add some artificial motion blur to emulate the visual aesthetic of a fast moving camera. This is done by creating an adjustment layer and placing it on top of all your clips. In the Effects panel, look for the Directional Blur and add it to the adjustment layer. Just as the movement begins, add a keyframe for the blur length. Move forward in the timeline and once you’re at full speed, increase the blur length to your liking (in this case the video says to make the value 20).

Next, move forward in the timeline just before the camera move ends and add another keyframe of the same value. Lastly, head over to the point when the move ends and then set the blur length to zero. Also, adjust the Direction value to whatever angle your camera moved in. If you need to deal with a different direction, you may have to manually animate the Direction value.

The last step in emulating the robotic camera movement is to isolate the subject from the blur effect so that only the background is affected. You can do this by creating a mask using the pen tool found in the Directional Blur effect. Draw a mask around your talent and increase the feathering to make the mask blend properly with the shot.

The goal is to try to get your mask outline and the feathering values right so that the dotted lines are almost outlining your subject. Lastly, animate the Mask Path so that your mask follows your actor for the duration of the move and you’ll be good to go. If this workflow is too complicated for you, you can always use Jordy’s video tutorial as a guideline. Just make sure to follow his instructions closely.


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