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#1 Paul Bruening

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 07:50 PM

Hey all,

Low budget movies often suffer from a lack of camera movement. A smooth moving camera can add production value to any movie. However, moving the camera drives up costs, slows productivity and forces up a higher take ratio.

Is it worth it? How often do you think the camera should track, crane, or pan/tilt to give enough production value without going overboard?

What are some examples from specific movies that you thought moved the camera well? What are some that you thought used camera movement badly or indulgently?
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#2 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 08:45 PM

Low budget movies often suffer from a lack of camera movement.


The ultra low budget choice has been to go hand-held, which actually creates more camera movement than the average film.

Is it worth it? How often do you think the camera should track, crane, or pan/tilt to give enough production value without going overboard?


Will a distributor be more likely to buy a low-budget film that has multiple crane/dolly/steadicam shots? I'm not so sure thats what they are looking for in a low-budget film at a festival. Festival films that get a buzz get a buzz based more on story concept and characters rather than camera movement.

In answer to your question: Its not worth it if you are only doing it to increase apparent production value. If a producer or director is dedicating precious dollars towards a dolly just because it will raise the production value, then I feel he/she is doing a disservice to the film - the money could be better spent. If however, the film really needs a smooth look as a necessary element to tell the story, then of course, one should try and make it so. But that is an issue related to story rather than production value.

Just my opinion,

AJB
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#3 Mitch Gross

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 08:50 PM

Watch the Godfather movies. The camera hardly ever moves. But boy, when it does...
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 09:20 PM

Watch the Godfather movies. The camera hardly ever moves. But boy, when it does...



Bingo. Camera movement isn't the kind of thing you should be thinking about to add commercial value to a production, unless it's the kind of story that really lends itself to a slick moving camera.

I also don't think you should even ask how often the camera should move. It should move when a shot and the story calls for it to move in a way that you have resources to do, no more, no less.
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#5 Dan Goulder

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 10:12 PM

Sometimes a static frame can make the strongest statement. Forced camera moves that call attention to themselves and pull the viewer out of the scene can become an annoying distraction. Some of the best camera moves are virtually invisible, especially when they keep the viewer focused on the content. It's hard to imagine a movie such as 'Stranger than Paradise' being nearly as entertaining if it was shot on a large budget with lots of fancy camera moves. Bottom line, do what best serves the shot.

That said, when it comes to camera moves, the opening shot in 'A Touch of Evil' is generally considered to be the "gold standard". Paul Thomas Anderson, Brian de Palma, and others have also tried to top that one. Boogie Nights, The Player, and the Copacabana scene in Goodfellas have all exhibited masterful use of the Steadicam. For some of the most dynamic and entertaining camera work in comedies, check out almost anything shot or directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, especially Raising Arizona.
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#6 Ahjudah

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 10:38 PM

For some of the most dynamic and entertaining camera work in comedies, check out almost anything shot or directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, especially Raising Arizona.
[/quote]


Can't resist this chance to shout out one of my all time favorites:

3 O'Clock High


Anyone care to second?


Jon Barr
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#7 Craig Knowles

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 11:47 PM

Keep in mind there is also a BIG difference between "camera movement" and "motivated camera movement". Movement for the sake of movement does not add all that much.
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#8 David Sweetman

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 11:57 PM

Watch the Godfather movies. The camera hardly ever moves. But boy, when it does...


Kubrick's films as well, I believe. (ignore 2001, those whacky effects shots...)

Sure, camera moves can add a production value, but they should not be used for the sole purpose of adding production value. It always depends on the story you're telling.

The cheapest way? Stick a guy in a wheelchair.
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#9 gregorscheer

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 12:28 AM

observe how our eyes move and how we perceive things. Our eyes switch from one to the next still picture, fix just one piont in there, never pan, never zoom. Even if we dolly because we are in a helicopter or riding a bike our eyes still make only sense of single still shots. Often in a very fast sequence sometimes in a contemplativ way. I believe this should be the starting point for flm making and whenever we use camera movement we should know that it takes us away from conveying "natural" impressions as we see them and we should apply them only when they are needed to create this distance to our perception.
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#10 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 03:22 AM

observe how our eyes move and how we perceive things. Our eyes switch from one to the next still picture, fix just one piont in there, never pan, never zoom.


I believe it is the opposite. Our eyes and our bodies make up the ultimate moving shot constantly (unless we are standing still and looking at a painting, for example). If I'm walking down the street and I watch someone pass me, my eyes are moving in coordination with my body to create the ultimate moving shot - even though my eyes are fixated perhaps on one point - it is not a still picture - it is most certainly a moving picture, where the perspective of the subject is constantly changing - and that my eyes (the camera) are following perfectly.

we should know that it takes us away from conveying "natural" impressions as we see them and we should apply them only when they are needed to create this distance to our perception.


It depends on the moving shot. A steadycam shot that smoothly passes another person can actually be very close to the example I stated above - and can be very natural and close to how we perceive things as we walk past things and people. On the other hand, a running steadycam or dolly shot that thrusts forward towards a screaming pedestrian and stops right in front of his face would convey something different and perhaps unnatural. So, moving shots, in my opinion, do not by definition convey unnatural impressions (if I understood you correctly). Whats important in a story/chacter driven film is that the decision to use moving shots be based on story and character, not the desire to increase production value.

Just one opinion,

AJB
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#11 Micah Fernandez

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 09:56 AM

I caught a couple minutes of Armaggedon the other day. The camera wouldn't stop moving! You definitely don't want that for your films, unless it's supposed to be the POV of a camera operator who rides cranes everywhere.
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#12 Paul Bruening

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 01:31 AM

Hey Micah,

I agree with you on Armageddon. That was indulgent technique from front to back. I felt the same with Narnia. I've come to a loose distinction about camera moves: if it serves the story- fine. If it is just showing off- that stinks. I'm aware that that is a bit of a kindergarten level definition.
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#13 David Sweetman

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 03:22 AM

I agree that we, as humans, are constantly moving, and constantly percieving things that are moving.

However, there are circumstances where we stop and stare at something. Perhaps when we are in awe, when we see a powerful happening or a powerful image. I think that sometimes there is nothing more powerful than a rock-steady long shot.
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#14 Paul Bruening

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 12:20 AM

Heya,

I wonder about the psychology of the veiwers. Does a dolly shot involve the cerebellum of the brain? Is a dolly shot satisfying merely because it involves the moving centers of the brain?

As well, does moving the camera in a pan or tilt awaken a sense of seeking in the veiwer? Is this a different state of mind compared to concentrating in a locked down shot?
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#15 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 09:29 AM

'If you want people to listen, don't move the camera' - Alfred Hitchcock
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 09:40 AM

Hi,

I think we like moving camera because it gives us much more 3D information about the scene. The brain is capable of extrapolating depth information from temporally as well as spatially distributed samples, that is we can see depth in two images from a slightly different angle seen sequentially. Predatory animals such as owls move their heads sideways to gather more accurate range data on distant objects in exactly the same way.

Phil
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#17 David Gottlieb

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 05:39 PM

I use the ideology of moving the camera with your characters. If all the action fits the frame then you should have no reason to move the camera unless something in the shot demands it. Nothing distracts me more (at least on a visual level) when a camera is swirling and panning and dollying like crazy for no apparent reason. My personal rule is that you should always move the camera when you need to follow the characters: great examples besides the opening scenes of Boogie Nights and Touch of Evil of following the characters include Run Lola Run and The Good The Bad and The Ugly. These movies move the camera to follow the characters and keep them in the same position in the frame rather than to show off their dolly eqiupment. If the camera didn't move with Lola in Run Lola Run we would have not felt like we were sprinting with her but rather that we were more like the pedestrians she bumps into, watching her. The camera movement makes us relate to her and helps us stay involved. However, fancy editing aside, when she stops running so does the camera. All of these directors also know when to choose a shot and keep the camera still and when to move it: if you want to see a difference between similar scenes watch the moving showdown in Once Upon A Time In the West and compare it to the static showdown in The Good The Bad and The Ugly. I believe in moving the camera, but not superfluously. Don't use it for the 'money shot'; use it when the script demands it. If you don't move with your characters, you remind the audience they're sitting in a theatre watching a movie and make them feel disconnected from the experience - if you keep the camera with the characters it helps the audience feel like they're on the screen with them, and will help any production tremendously.

Just don't break the bank. :D
I second the wheelchair comment but remember that not all wheelchairs are created equal and some made me wish I had used a shopping cart instead. A moving car is my favorite for outdoors, and for smaller spaces, you can sometimes get someone who is good at rollerblading to get some really good shots holding the camera if the pavement is smooth enough (or you can just bring a wooden board and lay it down). For below the belt shots skateboards are ok but i prefer holding baskets with the camera inside and one side cut out. Some people have started using that steering-wheel-like bogen-manfrotto thing or homemade steering wheel pods that you hold and supposedly are pretty steady with the camera in the center. And then there's handheld, which you shouldnt try to hide is handheld: trying to make your handheld look like dolly work is near impossible; instead, make it look natural and it gives a recognizable and different (and some say more organic) look. Just don't make people too nauseous (The Bourne Supremacy). For indoors take a skateboard and slide it across a desk or other flat surface; just know it will make some noise unless you cover the wooden surface with a towel or something of the like. This also works well on carpet, but for lower shots.

Just some tips and suggestions, but if you have the $$, you can get a real dolly; just remember when to use it ;)

Edited by David Gottlieb, 20 January 2006 - 05:40 PM.

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#18 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 04:09 AM

My personal rule is that you should always move the camera when you need to follow the characters: ..... If you don't move with your characters, you remind the audience they're sitting in a theatre watching a movie and make them feel disconnected from the experience - if you keep the camera with the characters it helps the audience feel like they're on the screen with them, and will help any production tremendously.


In my opinion, such a rule (If I understand you correctly) would limit the language of cinema. I see the camera as a character independent of the other characters in the film.

So, to me, the camera need not be pinned down to the characters' movements - only to the story. It is the story, and the moment that must demand the movement. The character that is the camera, must have its own motivation - and thats not always dictated by the other characters in the scene and how they physically move around. I'll bring up Hitchcock's "Rope" again. There are times when the camera is moving to keep people in frame, and then there are times when it breaks free to discover something on its own. The camera is clearly has a point of view. In fact, it seems to have something invested in the story above and beyond just keeping characters in frame. To me, thats what moving the camera is all about. And it is also what differentiates between camerawork that is strictly technical and that which is inspired. And clearly, the choice not to move the camera at a given moment can be just as strong a choice - but I don't believe such a choice should be made strictly based on whether or not characters' action can fit in a frame. The story itself and the mood of the moment should dictate it.

Just one opinion,

AJB
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#19 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 01:40 PM

Low budget movies often suffer from a lack of camera movement. A smooth moving camera can add production value to any movie...What are some examples from specific movies that you thought moved the camera well?



Two films low budget film directors should study for motivated camera movement- Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets" [how can we talk about this subject and not mention Scorsese?! He's a master!] and Nick Gomez's "Laws of Gravity" a film heavily influenced by Mean Streets. It was shot handheld by the incredible Jean de Segonzac. And as David suggested earlier, they used a wheelchair as a dolly.
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#20 Michael Collier

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 04:46 PM

I made a cheap dolly with 8 roller skate wheels some angle iron and PVC. If you drill holes in the Angle iron and put bolts through to hold wheels on they form a V. have 4 groups of at least 2, 3 is better, but have those mounted to two peices of angle iron bolted to some partcle board. Then run that on 1" PVC. I made one for under 30 bucks and perfomed as well as a doorway dolly. Check online there are great resorces. Moving the camera should not be expensive.

I did a news story once and was shooting inside a bagle shop. They had glass table tops on every table. I set my betacam (with 2 small flat metal bottoms, where the tripod plate normaly engages) and pushed the beta accross the table. It took a few takes to get a smooth one, but by the end I set a wine list in front of the start of the dolly and had the subject reveal and combined a slow zoom out to sell it. Great shot that looks like I spent hours, and it was for local spot news.

Be creative. Move the camera when it should, not because it can.
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