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Dalton Patterson

Why I'm sick (Literally)

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"An unsteady camera used to be lambasted as the shoddy workmanship of a bad director. Now, hacks jerk the camera around to up their artistic credibility and are praised for a “realistic” approach."

Shaky Camera's article

 

 

 

"The other day I watched Man of Steel on Blu Ray, and I was really struck by how shaky all the camera work was. I realize this is the modern “hip style.” But personally I can’t imagine how people sat through this film on the big screen without getting nauseous.  

Can anyone explain this to me?"

Modern look of shaken camera

 

 

 

 

"

Several cinematographers believe in hand-held camera for certain shots. It helps put the audience in the middle of the action, rather than a floating god-head simply observing it. To this end there’s often practical reasons for it, a 40lb rig will not fit well between two actors who are fighting, and isn’t agile enough to move quickly through an active battle full of several actors and extras.

It can also provide a documentary feel to a moment, like the viewer is following the lead through a space. This is also handy if the camera is POV in that instant, some shake from walking makes it feel more human.

Finally, it can add tension to a scene. If someone is unstable, or angry, or fearful than their static shot can have a little shake in it. That way the camera has some figurative insight into the mind of the character, it helps them tell the story. Bourne is a good example, the more tense the scene the more unstable the shot."

Why Shaky Camera is a joke

 

 

"Jan. 24, 2008 -- Scan the news and blogs and not only do you see that Cloverfield had a record-breaking opening weekend, but there was an unforeseen side effect: nausea. And it didn't come from the popcorn, or the writing -- but the camerawork."

Cloverfield Illness

 

 

 

 

Dear Camera Department, 

 

Please stop moving the camera and causing motion sickness. Please use your tripods and expensive stabilizing equipment. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Dalton

 

 

 

 

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I don't find that shaking the camera adds anything that people say it does.  To me it's mostly just an excuse for not wanting to or being willing to plan good effective coverage.  I'm constantly pulled out of a scene wondering "why is my pov shaking right now?"  That doesn't enhance the scene, it distracts from it.

 

7 minutes ago, Dalton Patterson said:

Dear Camera Department, 

 

Please stop moving the camera and causing motion sickness. Please use your tripods and expensive stabilizing equipment.

 

+1  

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I have small kids, and I get to watch a lot of kids’ movies and shows. I. Sweden, right now, the biggest producer of kids material is using a lot of small cameras on gimbals. It looks stunningly good, like “I can’t believe it’s not steadicam”. It’s not even a Movi rig. This is also reflected in sports, where recently there was a video from an orienteering competition where the camera person ran along with the contestors, and it too was just stunning work! Amazing. Not a single shake. 

So that whole putting a 40lb rig between actors has to be bs any day now. 

And if anyone is wondering how to properly shoot a tv show I would recommend watching Better Call Saul, which is stunning on all levels, of course including sound. 

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If I notice the camerawork, it means I've left the story.  Too many DPs padding their demo reel, and not doing what's right for the script, like Yngwie Malmsteen soloing in Yellow Brick Road.

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Just saw the "man on the moon" movie (obviously didn't impress me, eh?) and spent the whole time feeling sorry for the focus puller.  It was shot so tight and hand-held that half the picture was out of focus (a pet-peeve, I'll admit).  Ugh!

 

D.

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I blame this trend all on a show back in the mid-90's called Hill Street Blues. I was a commercial production director at the time at a NBC affiliate. The writing was very good. The acting was good. The cinematography was decent. The camera work made me dizzy. "Put the damn camera on a damn tripod, " I would yell at the TV. I now mainly perform location sound and DP duties for commercials, industrials and an occasional reality show. Ever since the 80's I refer to shaky cam as, "you really want me to go Hill Street Blues on this shot or just drift a little from sticks? " The director, who is usually younger than me has no idea what I am taking about.

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22 hours ago, PMC said:

I blame this trend all on a show back in the mid-90's called Hill Street Blues. I was a commercial production director at the time at a NBC affiliate. The writing was very good. The acting was good. The cinematography was decent. The camera work made me dizzy. "Put the damn camera on a damn tripod, " I would yell at the TV. I now mainly perform location sound and DP duties for commercials, industrials and an occasional reality show. Ever since the 80's I refer to shaky cam as, "you really want me to go Hill Street Blues on this shot or just drift a little from sticks? " The director, who is usually younger than me has no idea what I am taking about.

HSB or NYPD Blue? I remember HSB being quite old school and NYPD Blue as the show with that camera work. To me the NYPD thing looked like a gimmick to differentiate in the (crowded) police procedural market. I got the feeling NYPD was shot on long lenses and sticks with loose heads (not hand held). The camera wobble looked quite co-ordinated – to make the edits work (but perhaps not). Either way, very different from the euro style hand held by the likes of Raoul Coutard (who DoP'd for JLG) and who's style became synonymous with the New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague). 

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“I blame this trend all on a show back in the mid-90's called Hill Street Blues. I was a commercial production director at the time at a NBC affiliate. The writing was very good. The acting was good. The cinematography was decent. The camera work made me dizzy.”

 

My recollection of Hill Steet Blues was that the edgy camerawork looked like an operator making subtle rocking motions on a gear head with small back-and-forth movements of the wheels. I was never on the set so I could be mistaken but that’s how I read it at the time. There was a twitchy image but the camera never really changed height as would if it had been hand held. 

 

David

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Well I’ll be the voice of dissent.  I like handheld work, which shouldn’t be automatically grouped with shaky cam.  The movie I most recently saw was “First Man”.  Film was shot with some traits of a documentary feel and the footage had sort of a nostalgic quality to it.  True I think some of the shake was a little excessive.  In my mind I was like poor operator and 1st AC trying to make tight tele shots work - and wasn’t flawless, but was printed and showed a certain commitment to the performance - both in front of and behind the camera.  I don’t feel the film would have been the same film if not shot mostly handheld.  If I have a pet peeve, is the overuse of stabilized shots and then skimping on stedi-cam and using shitty gimbals when it doesn’t really work well (more than 1 axis of movement, or too long, or simply not appropriate).

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Shaky cam has infiltrated local news shooters that do fluffy pieces with a walk and talk spokesperson.  They move just for the sake of moving, or just aren't that good at handheld.  Sometimes I can't tell the difference.  This type of shot has to be handheld as they're usually moving from interview to interview or to a display and I appreciate how hard that can be to pull off.  I don't like it when they move just for the sake of moving and go overboard with it.  Totally distracting and annoying.

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Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, ran a satirical/homey "news" show for several years called the "Rick Mercer Report". One of the segments, "Rick's Rant", had Rick pacing briskly through some back alleys close to CBC home base in down town Toronto. The cameraman, Don Spence, was a master at quickly walking backwards with an eye in the cup for a couple hundred + epsiodes. Love it or hate it, you need to be seriously talented to pull this off.

 

 

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Shaky cam, dutch angles, and it even has a laugh track.  If only they could come up with a few more things that make television unwatchable. 

 

If this were an episodic, what about if the above-reproach good guy gets arrested while investigating a crime and spends 42-1/2 minutes finding the real culprit so he can clear himself.  Oh, and of course, there's the "This Time It's Personal" episode when the less-than-upstanding _brother_father_close friend_ (fill in the blank) is in trouble and our hero is honor-bound to break the law trying to help them. 

 

Don't get me wrong, both a hand-held look and dutch angles have their place, but it should be to serve the story and never to draw attention to itself, pulling the viewer away from a suspension of disbelief while simultaneously inducing nausea.

 

 

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I'm kind of with Tom with this - and quite a fan of the potential of the moving camera (late 1920's before "sound" came along and triggered one of cinema's great regressions especially) - The Last Laugh, anyone?

 

Dan, we're both of the starting out era where production would constantly talk of the NYPD look - but it was very much from the lineage from HSB started a few years before. (Being a huge fan of Hill Street Blues this already irritated me in the late 80s early 90s!)

 

The 'handheld' within HSB was apparently intended to be the style throughout the show but almost immediately it was deemed too extreme and from then on used just for the opening scene 'Rollcall' and on odd shots like chases. Yet the Rollcall was so distinctive anyway that it made a huge impact (on the Emmys at least).

 

. . .

 

Actually my 'fetish era' extends across the late 20s through the early 30s - the end of silent cinema with its newly freed camera and the very start of sound cinema where sound was a great new possibility. Murnau, Lang, Pabst, Vertov, etc. Yet within just a few months after this wonderful experimental period we were churning out mediocre stage drama.

 

Not every day I get to talk crap about not only my favourite TV show but also 90 year old cinema!

 

Jez

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I find deliberate camera shake is often overdone these days, and I find it annoying personally.

But on a film like Bourne for example it really worked quite well (despite being overdone).

Most of the time it just feels like they added it to hide that the film is boring to start with though.

chris

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On 11/2/2018 at 4:55 AM, ronmac said:

Love it or hate it, you need to be seriously talented to pull this off.

Wow, he is good at that. 
And those tilts when he stops give an interesting "spin" on it as well! ha

 

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On 11/1/2018 at 4:55 PM, ronmac said:

Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, ran a satirical/homey "news" show for several years called the "Rick Mercer Report". One of the segments, "Rick's Rant", had Rick pacing briskly through some back alleys close to CBC home base in down town Toronto. The cameraman, Don Spence, was a master at quickly walking backwards with an eye in the cup for a couple hundred + epsiodes. Love it or hate it, you need to be seriously talented to pull this off.

 

 

Reminds of playback performances of bands on German TV shows. I always want to punch the camera people for their angles. Maybe they think they have to make up for the poor performance. Funny thing is, usually what happens in front of the camera is as bad as behind in those examples.

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