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Half Nelson (Andrij Parekh) & The Squid And The Whale (Robert D. Yeoman) - technique used in their films


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#1 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 08:10 PM

Rob Yeoman has shot some of my favorites (Rushmore, Royal Tennebaums, Bottle Rocket, CQ) and I just watched Half Nelson in the theatre (genius).

In Half Nelson and The Squid And The Whale both cinematographers employ what seems to be this hand held technique which lends the camera an instability, organic, feels like the camera is moving (which it is, almost like it is shaking).

Is this accomplished through literally a slight moving of the camera or is there some secret here?

Any help?

Rod
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#2 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 03:06 PM

I saw half nelson, it looked like a shoulder cam to me and yes the camera op would just move the camera. I personly dident like the camera work, I found it to distracting, i know what they where going for i just wished they toned it down a bit . the movie lost in translation had the same technique, but it worked so much better in that movie alot more sudtle,
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#3 isaac_klotz

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 03:26 PM

i just saw this film last night. the story was a nice break from the hollywood norm, but i wouldnt list it as one of my favorites. the acting did impress me, and it had some great comedy at a few key moments, but the overall arc of the story was a bit tired and predictable. the shooting style seemed to work for the film, as they were able to get excellent performances out of everyone in the film. but it seemed like they shot 95% of the film handheld on a 105mm lens... perhaps there were just too many close ups?
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#4 Vincent De Paula

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 12:27 PM

I saw The Squid and the Whale the other day. I didn't particular love the handheld camera too much.
I found it distracting and many times unnecessary.

The film was shot on S16mm with an Arri SRIII and blown up to 35mm.
They used 7218 and 7246.
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#5 Matt Irwin

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 12:02 PM

I just read an article in InCamera about Half Nelson...

Perekh shot "almost entirely handheld" on 7229 with a Canon 11.5-165 zoom.
He mentioned that he likes the "light the room, not the faces" approach. Not my favorite style (isn't it about the faces?), but I thought it worked for this film, though I agree-- a little toned down would be nice. The deliberate shakey-cam thing is a little much for 100 minutes straight.
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#6 Ryan McMackin

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 01:17 PM

I haven't seen Half Nelson yet, but I too found the handheld camera work in The Squid and the Whale to be a bit much. I think it worked well for the story, however, at times the movement seemed very deliberate and in-organic to the point it became distracting. I wonder if the movent was ever actually intentional? Does anyone know did Robert Yeoman operate on this film as well?
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#7 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 02:45 PM

I haven't seen Half Nelson yet, but I too found the handheld camera work in The Squid and the Whale to be a bit much. I think it worked well for the story, however, at times the movement seemed very deliberate and in-organic to the point it became distracting. I wonder if the movent was ever actually intentional? Does anyone know did Robert Yeoman operate on this film as well?


I liked the hand held camera in 'The Whale and the Squid' & thought rather highly of it.

The AC article is not in the internet archives.

Since 'Faces' was one of the models for the film, there's an enjoyable French TV interview with Cassevettes
about the camerawork and living on credit among the extras on the Criterion DVD.

My big disappoinment with 'The Squid and the Whale' was finding out that the title didn't refer to a Japanese pizza topping.

Have not seen 'Half Nelson'. But it sounds that there's too much long lens work in it.
Wide angle hand held brings the viewer into the situation. The camera should be dancing with the characters
as though it's another character.

But long lens work is too much like a distant observer and isolates the characters from their enviornment.
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#8 G McMahon

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 09:25 AM

He mentioned that he likes the "light the room, not the faces" approach. Not my favorite style (isn't it about the faces?),


I am intrigued by this. Some projects I have done I have just lit the scene, with the vague indication of what is to happen from the block. I think some directors I have worked for feel this is the way to go as it does not limit actors to specific marks, and allows for quicker movement between shots and maybe not look as contrived. I probably characterize a project as either visual or performance based. The latter being less emphasis on photography.

How do you lot work?
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#9 Rod Otaviano

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Posted 13 February 2007 - 11:41 PM

I tried watching "Half Nelson" today but gave up after 20 minutes. I found it simply impossible to concentrate on the story and honestly didn't understand why they opted for this shaky camera style on this film. Too distracting not to mention the "super" shallow DOF and over-use of close-ups. I'm very disappointed because the story looks promising but ... I think I'm getting old or something. Just can't stand this technique.
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#10 Patrick McGowan

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 01:19 AM

I'm not sure if the shaking is deliberate, I mean how steady can you be hand held with a long lens? The operating in Squid and The Whale is incredibly skilled, but I am not a huge fan of the look of Half Nelson, even though I absolutely love that film.
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#11 Joseph Fitzgerald

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 05:36 PM

i've recently seen both film's and loved them both. The handheld camea work in both cases impressed upon me and intence personal involvemant with the characters in the space (small space - french new wave, "Brethless"). I can understand some peoples's irritation by shakeyness, however i find when i have an awareness of the camerawork regardless of its dynamics ultimately it's due to my inability to connect with the story...not the other way around. I was able to relate to both of these stories\characters enough to not be distracted by the camera movemant. Also, in the audio commentary of Half Nelson, the Writer and Director discuss their desired use of long lenses and close-ups, they were inspired by the work of a documentarian named Frederick Wiseman.

pleasure,

Joe Fitz
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#12 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 29 November 2007 - 05:29 PM

The "cinema-verite" shooting style worked in The Squid and the Whale much better than in Half Nelson. It's only an opinion but when I think about why I liked it for Squid I think it might have had to do with the fact that there is more interaction between characters in that film and more physical movement. It sounds simple but there may have just been more motivation for the camera to be unsettled and therefore you don't find it as distracting.

In half Nelson, I felt that I was being imposed upon by the unmotivated shakey handheld work that was at times, completely unneccesary. There are times when this works and I think Ellen Kuras happens to be a master at making this type of shooting totally unnoticeable to the viewer. In Half Nelson, I was distracted. I mean, Ryan Gosling hardly moves at all. Literally. I think an approach more like Tami Reiker's in High Art would have better served the story.
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#13 Michael Nash

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 06:22 PM

Funny, I watched The Squid and The Whale awhile ago and I don't even remember that it was handheld! I did notice the fact that it was Super16, but that felt like an appropriate choice for the material and period setting.

I guess everyone has their tolerance for an unsteady camera, and it can certainly be a fine line for the operator to know (or feel) when to follow the action and when to create the action through subtle movement.

As for lighting sets vs. faces, I think either approach can work well depending on the design of the photography. I shoot a lot of ENG/reality material where I often don't have a chance to do any lighting, so I concentrate on finding the right camera angle and compositions to make the most of the lighting that's there. Keeping depth through layers of light and dark becomes important. For example, overlapping someone's face just partially against a bright window can make all the difference in the world. And it's not as though lighting a set means that faces won't be lit in an interesting way -- if you light the set right for the actors' marks they can go in and out of "zones" and always have some separation and modeling going on.

Check out the TV show "Friday Night Lights" for more handheld super16, shot in a visually strong cinema verite style. Mostly on the long end of zooms, often with contrasty lighting.
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#14 Patrick McGowan

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 01:26 AM

I love the look of Friday night lights. That show definitely definitely has a raw look, I am sure that I have seen lights, a matte box, and an operator with an SR3 (on the field) in some of the shots, but other than that the overall look is beautiful and fits perfectly with the show. Maybe my mind has changed since february, but the handheld look is growing on me.
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#15 Jorge Espinosa

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 03:46 PM

i agree with you, patrick. i guess people are getting used to it.
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