Remember the end of a film, where the camera moves further away with the happy family in front of their house? While the narrator says "And they lived happily ever after." Well, that was most likely a crane shot!
Crane shots are executed by shooting from a moving crane or a jib. It's either controlled manually by an operator on top of a crane or by remote control. Taking the crane shot is a two-person job, one is running the camera while another handles the crane.
Crane shot versus jib shots
Another convenient tool for this shot is a jib instead of a crane. A jib is an extension pole attached to a tripod and can achieve the same task, depending on how high you want to go. The terms jib and crane are used interchangeably and follow the same purpose. A jib can get very low while having a stable shot, proving difficult for a handheld camera operator. Using a jib instead of a crane is cheaper and more compact but doesn't reach the heights a crane can. The use of a jib is otherwise known as a jib shot. You can see tips and techniques here.
Why use crane shots?
The benefit of using a crane or a jib is moving the camera in every direction from various heights. You don't need specialized training to operate either. Giving the audience an elevated vantage point has a significant cinematic effect. A feeling of omnificence over a character when you see something he doesn't. It's used in suspenseful scenes and to bring forward emotions and a sense of grandeur. Shooting landscapes or crowds are incredible with a crane shot. Crane shots are most common in the beginning and endings of films.
Read more about jibs and cranes here.
Plus, crane shots go back to when films were silent and have stood the test of time!