What Is A Pan In Film?

When comes to talk about camera movement role in filmmaking, perhaps you may know some basic camera movement shots. Pan is one of them. But, do you elaborately know what a pan in film is? Why pan shots are used in a film? If you consider yourself as a future filmmaker then you need to know which shots called pan and where to use it.

Well… I am going to discuss in this article about pan shots A to Z. There are many choices to move camera which is considered as an important visual story telling tool. I will not discuss all of those rather I will only focus the pan shot, the reason behind it to use it in films and some ideal film example which used pan shots perfectly. Let’s begin.


The pan shot or panning shot defines when you move or rotate your camera horizontally from a fixed position either left to right or right to left. It is the simplest camera movement. You are not moving the position of the camera itself, simply turn the head of the tripod. Just as you would turn your head to any specific location or object.

Brief History

The panning is a word that is derived from the panorama. It is suggesting an expansive scene and forcing the scene to turn there in the film at the head.

D.W Griffith began to practice panoramic panning shots not only to provide visual information but also to engage his audience in the total environment of his films. Later he would prominently employ the tracking, or traveling, shot, in which the camera and therefore the audience participates in the dramatic action by moving camera.

Panning is almost as old as the motion picture. In the early days, it was incredibly hard to move the camera, so filmmaker used pans all the time to convey movement through a scene.

Why Use a Pan in Film?

There are some specific primary reasons behind the use of pan shots in films. Such as,

To Reveal New Information

Suppose in a film any character is going to reveal a new object, this shot can be captured by pan shots. It is the most acceptable shot among camera movements other dynamic shots. It is simple to use and audience gradually can understand the new information given by this shot.

As an Establishment Shot

Pan shot is mostly used as an establishment shot. When you want to introduce a specific location that matches your sequences or story plot then you can use a pan shot to establish your location. These types of shots are great for establishing a sense of location and its environment.

To Get a New Perspective on a Scene

This shot also helps to get a new perspective on a particular scene. If a cinematographer wants to rotate our attention to a specific person or object, he might use a pan shot in his/her film. This shot is so effective to convey a new perspective.

Follow a Subject or Motion

You often notice in films that characters move and the camera follows them. These shots are commonly used as a pan shots. It is the most adaptable shot within camera movements to follow a subject or its movement.

Experiment with Speed

A pan is also a good opportunity to experiment with speed. You could spend an entire minute slowly panning from left to right to discover a room or a landscape, or you can do a whip pan, in which the movement happens so fast that it becomes a blur.

Transition of Time

If you want to explain time transition visually in your film then a pan shot could be a better option for you. Before capturing it perfectly you can have an idea of early filmmakers using pan to illuminate the transition of time.

To Transform Simple Conversation into Extraordinary

Some brilliant filmmakers can transform a simple conversation into an extraordinary conversation using pan shots. Instead of cutting shot by shot one may use pan shots in two or three people conversation. It looks different and adds value in film scenes.

Ideal Film Examples

There are so many good film examples available in YouTube which have used pan shots already so accurately. Films like Citizen Kane, 400 Blows, The Seven Samurai, The Shawshank Redemption, Blow Out, Fight Club etc. are the idea film examples where audience can find out some excellent pan shots.

End Words

Pan is one of the essential camera movement shots. To execute it properly in a perfect place and time in your movie, it may become powerful film elements. To aid in capturing pan shots, cinematographers use aids such as tripods, monopods or stabilizers.

So, keep in mind that you need to use advance technical support to capture a smooth, accurate as well as nice presentable pan shot.

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