Geared heads on the tripods operated by cranks . . . . at least that was the standard for the big 35mm studio film cameras.
Would great gear, years of shooting experience, video stabilizing software (like SmoothCam in FCP), and a whole lot of takes explain it?
That's what my experience tells me 🙂
. . . . of course, slow pans will look a lot better the wider the lense. very very hard to do with a longer lense.
It does take practice, a decent head and tripod, but here are a few more tips (1) Practice to get the right speed – at first you will tend to move too fast. Slow right down. Tighten head friction if available so you're pushing against it a bit. (2) Try to hold your pan handle as lightly as possible – I often use just finger and thumb. (3) Find a stance that affects your panning hand as little as possible so you're not transferring weight to the tripod. (4) Try to zoom out as wide as poss for maximum smoothness (5) Look at what you're seeing in the shot as you pan – there's no point in panning past stuff just for the sake of it. Take it in and this will help you to slow down. The pan should tell a story. Pan from one composed shot to another – beginning/middle/end. Think about what your pan is saying and practice it a few times. By defining your movement in advance you will be able to get your body positioned in the best way for the shot you want. And it'll be a better shot. Hope that helps…