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The Shaky Camera - Crash Zooms, Extreme Close-ups, Swish Pans


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#1 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 04:09 PM

I know this has been discussed a fair bit on other threads, but after tonight I can't help feeling its got out of control.

Just been watching 'The Path to 9/11' on BBC2 tonight, (which I assume will be aired in the US in a few hours) and I couldn't actually watch it all the way through - I was developing motion sickness. It makes Traffic and The Constant Gardner look like an Ozu film.

The docu-drama incoporates, jumping from fish-eye lenses to long lenses, moving hand-held camera on extreme closeups (sometimes of somebodies eye!), constant swish pans, hundreds of crash zooms, conituous cutting, cuts jumping geographicly and deliberatly crossing the line and usually never shooting any body wider than a medium-close-up (unless absolutly necessary). Oh and quite a few flares.

In chase scenes and crowd scenes, the style actually works quite well - which is to be expected, but in the majority of scenes - conversation scenes, its actually very distracting and sickly. Its as if its constantly trying to retain a constant tension - which is actually non-existent in the writting and drama.

I know everyone blames this current trend in 'gritty' or 'kinetic' camera work on the rise of MTV and for the kids programing but as I was watching this it occured to that actually this style is more prevalent in more adult orientated TV programming - 24, Bosten Legal, etc, while kids shows like Smallville and The OC are very much the opposite.

Anyway just wonderd of other people views when they see it, and other examples of this type of style or as i'm now calling it - cinema extremé.

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 10 September 2006 - 04:12 PM.

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#2 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 04:37 PM

Actually I think its given me my first headache in over a year. :(
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#3 Dan Goulder

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 07:51 PM

I know this has been discussed a fair bit on other threads, but after tonight I can't help feeling its got out of control.

Just been watching 'The Path to 9/11' on BBC2 tonight, (which I assume will be aired in the US in a few hours) and I couldn't actually watch it all the way through - I was developing motion sickness. It makes Traffic and The Constant Gardner look like an Ozu film.

Egad! After all the bickering over whether this movie should have even been shown, the one aspect that never came up was the quality of the cinematography and editing. The Dems can probably relax after all, as people across the globe that are trying to sit through this disaster of a film are most likely fighting to hold down their dinner. I had to tap out after a half hour, despite having a great desire to see this thing. This could very well be the technically worst, most unwatchable production I've ever seen. 40 million dollars? Puhleeze. (I'll bet only a fraction of the initial viewership will be able to make it through the whole five hours.)
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 07:54 PM

Egad! After all the bickering over whether this movie should have even been shown, the one aspect that never came up was the quality of the cinematography and editing. The Dems can probably relax after all, as people across the globe that are trying to sit through this disaster of a film are most likely fighting to hold down their dinner. I had to tap out after a half hour, despite having a great desire to see this thing. This could very well be the technically worst, most unwatchable production I've ever seen. 40 million dollars? Puhleeze. (I'll bet only a fraction of the initial viewership will be able to make it through the whole five hours.)



I haven't seen 911 yet (and probably won't), but I though the "kinetic" shooting and editing style really worked well in The Bourne Supremecy. If done correctly for the right reasons, I don't mind it at all.
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#5 Dan Goulder

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 08:00 PM

I haven't seen 911 yet (and probably won't), but I though the "kinetic" shooting and editing style really worked well in The Bourne Supremecy. If done correctly for the right reasons, I don't mind it at all.

The Bourne Supremacy looked like a still picture compared to this thing. Go ahead and check out a bit of it, then post back. You'll see what I mean. One warning: Don't watch it on a full stomach...no kidding.
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#6 Michael Collier

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 03:15 AM

I think the whole technique smacks of inexperienced (or talentless) direction/DoP. If you can't put a classy image on the whole thing, lets make it all crazy. I have seen the technique used on everything from bad movies to bad local political ads (I'm halcro running for govenor...please stop me. any alaskans in this board will know what I am talking about....wait, are there any alaskans?)

Its tired and useless look (since it doesnt tell a story, but rather makes you parallel some really bad work) I feel like the only people who could call for this look (apart from those who call for it to contrast the scene prior, which was dolly/jib smooth motion) can only be people who want to add a lot of 'wow', but don't have the ability to look at the options subjectivley and find the best approach to convey the mood of the story to the audience to make the response an emotional response, not just a wow (they hired parkinsons camera ops. good on them).

and if your making your audience sick, well you have done something wrong. I remember hearing about people puking while watching blair witch in the theaters and thought 'this movie will rock!' little did I know WHY they were puking. I have yet to walk out on a movie yet, but movies with that sort of look tempt me.
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#7 Thomas Bays

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 05:23 PM

The Opening of Narc almost put me in the hospital. :D

I definitely can see some uses, it should be used with some context.
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#8 James Erd

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 09:51 PM

While I do find allot of the shaky bakey camera work on television annoying, there are some case where it seems to work. So I don't feel it is necessarily always a bad thing....

[ unless your shooting a wedding :blink: ]

The problem seems to be that successes breeds imitation, and, imitations rarely do justice to the original. If this were a high wire act the problem would soon take care of itself. Sadly it is not and we will undoubtedly see far too many productions where the technique has been used inappropriately. This I imagine will go on for some time until the vast majority a viewers refuse to tolerate it any longer. When that day comes filmmakers won't dare use it even when it would be just the thing.

Just look what happened to corduroy, and paisley neck ties. :unsure:

I don't believe too many generalisms but one that does seem to fit is "don't use all the toys at the same time"
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#9 Adam White

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 02:14 PM

I cant imagine any DoP choosing to have this specific style, such is the loathing most have for it.

Shame as it can be very effective, if used correctly.

I can see some inexperienced director who sees himself as "Edgy" yelling at the operator to go "FASTER/MORE ENERGY/GIVE ME MANIC!!!!!!" while the DoP rolls his eyes. . . .


question: is there anyway this style wont simply continue to prevail? do you see mainsteam projects moving away from this? I havent seen much hope out there. . .
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#10 Jon-Hebert Barto

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 03:07 PM

question: is there anyway this style wont simply continue to prevail? do you see mainsteam projects moving away from this? I havent seen much hope out there. . .



We are witnessing the breakdown of theory and the build-up of "form". We've always had "style" over "content" directors, but the build-up of "form" or structure without any theory as a foundation results in this sludge we're force fed on the TV and in the cineplex.
DePalma, for example, has been called a style over content director but he's always had a firm handle on theory to back him up. Thats why we still watch his films. If you are all style with no theory to begin with, your work won't last the test of time. If the problem is compounded by lack of content.....boy, I hate to be that director....of course these directors are making all the money for hollywood right now, so who the hell am I to comment?

Adam, I'm with you. I don't see much hope either. There are films that pop up every year flying in the face of this type of filmmaking, however the consumption of these films pales in comparison.

People don't seem to study theory anymore. I know many people who have graduated from film schools (USC, NYU, UT Austin, etc.) and theory is barley touched upon....where is the education? I would say a backround in film theory is very, very important. Not only in giving the artist tools to help solidify their personal philosophy but also the discipline to help shape the liberal art within.

Of course a great popcorn movie is not excluded from this at all. Great entertainment also comes from an understanding of theory...Hence the epic starwars debate that has been going on in another thread.. :)
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#11 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 04:53 PM

I haven't seen 911 yet (and probably won't), but I though the "kinetic" shooting and editing style really worked well in The Bourne Supremecy. If done correctly for the right reasons, I don't mind it at all.


Well it depends on how effectively they can use the style and if they know when to restrict it or not. The Bourne Supremecy director is a pretty talented guy and even though he is big on 'tense' handheld camera work, he knows when it should settle and when to hold a shot. I have also seen a lot of films use handheld work nicely and not always for a tense atmosphere - The Squid and the Whale, Friends with Money

The problem with Path to 9/11 it was like a piece of classical music played interly on the drums - so the whole thing is trying to be tense and brash for hours on end - so its completly emotionaly mono-toned, perhaps the director was trying to cover up for the pretty lifeless and characterless script.

In the end a films like a piece of music needs to vary say drums, with a flute solo, perhaps some brass and some strings for the right emotional peakes and trophs, and also to slow and increase the pace.

Good filmmakers like Steven Soderberg or Alfonso Curan also use this hand-held and/or extreme close-ups style a lot too, and sometimes get a little caried away but they understand that some times you need to hold a shot or go on a wide shot for emotional impact and rythem.

question: is there anyway this style wont simply continue to prevail? do you see mainsteam projects moving away from this? I havent seen much hope out there. . .


Well I guess like all fashions it will reach saturation (which it probably is now) and something else will seem fresh and become popular. But in the end its just another wave, I remember at filmschool I met loads of wana-be directors, often woman who were obsessed with Wong Kar Wai (from other filmschools too) - I've never heard the expression 'Make the frame look beautiful' so many times - and even now traits from his films are become incredibly popular.

The ridiculously shallow depth of field can now be seen everywhere now. For instance showing a man and a woman who are supposed to be 'connecting,' yet one of them is out of focus - its just plain silly.

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 12 September 2006 - 04:55 PM.

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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 05:38 PM

The Bourne Supremacy looked like a still picture compared to this thing. Go ahead and check out a bit of it, then post back. You'll see what I mean. One warning: Don't watch it on a full stomach...no kidding.


The only time I remember getting physically sea sick in a movie was watching that piece of **** movie with the kids in the woods (see, I hated it so much I can't remember the name). There's a difference between making the audience "feel" tension and giving them a feeling of nausea. :blink:
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#13 Jon-Hebert Barto

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 07:57 PM

BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. A lesson in form clouding theory. You should read interviews with these guys. I know people on this forum have worked with them so I don't want to be absurdist, but it is quite clear that they use form as an end, not as a means to find it. This is when form becomes nothing but "cinematic trickery". But, I digress, no insinuation as to the merit of their filmmaking is implied. :)

In all fairness, it was a student film...
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#14 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 01:47 AM

In all fairness, it was a student film...

Actually, it wasn't. But they were all pretty new to the business when that film was made.
Personally, I think the filmmakers had a great idea and great marketing plan. I thought it was an interesting experiment that happened to be very successful.
Whether you liked the movie or not is personal preference. Just because some people don't like it doesn't automatically make it bad.
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#15 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 12:20 PM

BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. A lesson in form clouding theory. You should read interviews with these guys. I know people on this forum have worked with them so I don't want to be absurdist, but it is quite clear that they use form as an end, not as a means to find it. This is when form becomes nothing but "cinematic trickery". But, I digress, no insinuation as to the merit of their filmmaking is implied. :)

In all fairness, it was a student film...


I was working with a bunch of folks just out of the 'music video business program' at the ********** Art Institute, when this came out. They were constantly talking about the web site and other ancilliary films that gave the back story.

Which lead me to believe that it was not so much a movie as a web site addenum.
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#16 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 12:39 PM

That show "Mad Money" with Jim Cramer on CNBC is the craziest thing on tv. It's just a constant barrage of jibbing snap-zooms....disorienting and hilarious at the same time. A half-hour of that and his yelling will give anyone a headache.
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#17 Jon-Hebert Barto

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:05 PM

Actually, it wasn't. But they were all pretty new to the business when that film was made.
Personally, I think the filmmakers had a great idea and great marketing plan. I thought it was an interesting experiment that happened to be very successful.
Whether you liked the movie or not is personal preference. Just because some people don't like it doesn't automatically make it bad.



Oh, I thought it was a UCF graduate film. I swear I read that in a newsweek article of the time...Oh, well. My mistake. Yes, the marketing plan, by Artisan, was a good one. It kinda ushered in this type of online film marketing, although it was inevitable.

Of course it is personal preference. I am but one human being with an opinion, as we all have. That is hopefully obvious , hence using "I"....But it being "successful" doesn't justify "good" by the same token. This film came out about the same time EYES WIDE SHUT was released and made more money...."successful"! I reject the idea of the formula being "successful", ...."I". Apparently I'm way out of touch with the american film going public because I walked on Blair and saw EWS 4 times in the theatre. I actually asked for my money back and the ticket guy said he couldn't refund on the account that it was a "pre-paid" ticket. I returned only to witness a woman throw-up in the ailse directly upon the films conclusion. Never have I seen a more disgruntled group of movie-goers in my life. I actually saw a man in his fifties tell the usher, " ....you guys otta be fu**in' ashamed of yourselves for showing this poop..." It was the Angelika. I disagree with his statement wholeheartedly! But it was fun to see a crowd turn on the basis of percieved fraud. My perception, of course, my hypothesis as to the unruly behaviour by some. A garbage can was also overturned by another.......Small shades of the paris riots in the late '60s actually. Quite fun to have been there. IMHO, only "my" opinion, the art was in the marketing. Geniuses, I tell you.
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#18 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:35 PM

They may have been recent graduates of the UCF program but I know they were involved with the school as one of their instructor's/producer's on the film eventually sued them and won a substantial amount of money. I actually really enjoyed that movie. Oh well.
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#19 Josh Bass

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 04:06 PM

I'm DPing a short film for a friend, and we've decided to use this "style" for certain parts of the movie, for humorous (hopefully) effect. Characters in the movie are competing against each other, the nature of the competition being very lame. To emphasize the lameness, we thought it'd be funny to have the camera work be all crazy, like the event/sport was the most exciting thing in the world. Imagine watching a movie about dudes playing chess, but with the frenetic camerawork.
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#20 Jon-Hebert Barto

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 09:24 PM

They may have been recent graduates of the UCF program but I know they were involved with the school as one of their instructor's/producer's on the film eventually sued them and won a substantial amount of money. I actually really enjoyed that movie. Oh well.


That is a crappy deal. Money, money, money. If it was one of those things where they came up for the idea in his/her class, and the instructor is sueing for partial credit, hence a cut of the cash, he/she is an a**hole and shouldn't be involved with the shaping of young minds. That is very interesting, I never heard that before....
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