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Steady Handholding Technique -- Your Opinions Please


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#1 Paul Vanderhoof

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 10:21 PM

Hello -- I was reveiwing some of my S-8mm footage and was unhappy with most of the handheld stuff. I like camera movement -- the freedom of handheld camera -- but I was getting way too much of the annoying kind of "jittery" bouncy kind of movement. Shots on the tripod looked very good and smooth, so no problems with the carts.

Other than some really expensive "steadicam" type thing, what are the best ways to get smooth camera movement when handheld? The worst stuff was when trying to move myself for better angles and camera placement or to follow moving actors. I find that handholding 16mm cameras is steadier because of the greater weight of the camera. It seems the bounce and jitter from S-8mm is in large part because the cameras are so light and I've found this to be an issue with DV cams as well.

I'd consider a home-brew stabilizer if they were actually any good. Any experiences to share??

Thanks,

Paul
Los Angeles
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#2 Gordon Highland

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 01:03 AM

Use the wide end of the lens if you're gonna move the camera, or at least zoom out before you do and then back in again when in position. I prefer to stay wide all the time and move the camera instead. Feet wide apart. If not zooming, I like to put my left hand on the side/top of the camera for support. Of course, the simple answer is to plan out your action when possible instead of just following or reacting to it.
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#3 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 10:12 AM

i use what i like to call the nypd blue technique, i.e. moving the camera constantly but smoothly and quite slowly. try to draw ellipses or eights over the scene for example. this way i can shoot smooth handheld footage up to at least 25mm or so.

/matt
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#4 Erdwolf_TVL

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 11:16 AM

Hello -- I was reveiwing some of my S-8mm footage and was unhappy with most of the handheld stuff. I like camera movement -- the freedom of handheld camera -- but I was getting way too much of the annoying kind of "jittery" bouncy kind of movement. Shots on the tripod looked very good and smooth, so no problems with the carts.

Other than some really expensive "steadicam" type thing, what are the best ways to get smooth camera movement when handheld? The worst stuff was when trying to move myself for better angles and camera placement or to follow moving actors. I find that handholding 16mm cameras is steadier because of the greater weight of the camera. It seems the bounce and jitter from S-8mm is in large part because the cameras are so light and I've found this to be an issue with DV cams as well.

I'd consider a home-brew stabilizer if they were actually any good. Any experiences to share??

Thanks,

Paul
Los Angeles


I've seen pictures of the "poor man's steady cam". It appears to give satisfactory results, but you end up pretty tired after carrying that thing around a day!

Ever considered a monopod or a chest-pod*?

Chest-pod has a strap around your neck that supports the foot of a monopod on your chest. These are fairly compact. I've never tried one.

* What is the proper name for this thing, by the way?
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#5 David Gottlieb

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 12:30 PM

If you need to do handheld with the most flexibility, the best methods to keep the camera steady is to place your elbows on your hips and curl your arms up until the inside of your hands meet just below your neck or by your solar plexes (this is where you'll hold the camera). By tucking in your elbows and pushing them against your sides (though slightly in front of you, not perfectly on the side), not only does it reduce the physical burden of carrying the camera, but the shots will naturally steady themselves. Of course it won't be tripod, but it works great for tight spots where you can't fit a tripod or have to move on the fly (e.g small rooms, narrow hallways and the like where you can't set up dollys of any kind).

If you need to zoom, you need to practice moving and zooming first, which takes a lot of time to get used to, and in which case I advise moving and zooming slowly. When I zoom I use the position I described above but also push the eyepeice against my cheek, forehead, or eye to gain added stability. For 8mm you'll have to use your eye but for digitals I prefer cheek because it lines up the viewfinder with my eye. Make sure to keep the other eye open to see your subject(s) and surroundings so you don't trip or lose where the action is.

The most important part is to lock your elbows and push the camera into your chest/face to add an extra layer of stability. When you walk also remember to walk similar to a ballet dancer (can't think of a better analogy), bending your knees at ALL times and stepping with your toes first followed by your heels. It will provide smooth walking and semi-fluid motion. Although this takes time getting used to and sometimes looks ridiculus, try to emulate the way Samurai move in showdown scenes, putting one leg behind the other to move: it also increases fluidity and makes the shot look like a dolly shot. Lastly, always make sure your camera stays at the identical height during all of these steps: everything above the waist shouldn't change height when you walk.

I shoot like this all the time and rarely does it feel like handheld or professional tripod - it looks smooth and organic while making the audience feel like they were there, yet comfortable (not Bourne Supremacy-like at all). I prefer it because there is the most freedom of movement, and if your practice enough you'll get used to it (lifting weights never hurts either :D ). I've used it for anything from digital to 16mm with success so hopefully this will help you.
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#6 Jason Debus

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 03:34 PM

A good cheap trick is to just use the tripod to add some weight. Retract it so you can be somewhat mobile, it definitely helps.
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#7 santo

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 03:38 PM

Actually, proper engineering provided answers to this, and there is a super 8 version of the Aaton "cat on the shoulder". Here's how I get zero jerk and good smoothness with my hand-held super 8 footage. It's always about as steady as my head is, provided I use a 10mm or wider.

Posted Image

For extended shooting, there is also a shoulder stock available to remove fatigue.
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Metropolis Post

CineTape

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Ritter Battery

The Slider

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Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Visual Products

Tai Audio

Technodolly

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

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Opal

FJS International, LLC