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the exaggerated trend of hand-held film needs to stop!


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#1 Chris Graham

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 12:09 AM

Hey, fellas hope all is well.

Ok, I think after Traffic (imo) things have been really geared toward a new sloppy or two quick hand-held style without proper moderation of steady-cam. From Amorres Perros, to 21 Grams, Crash, Babel, Bourne Identity, etc..

Just finished watching the Bourne Ultimatum, and with my unlucky seat aisle, i was dead center, but not too close to the screen, so it wasn't too bad. throughout the film I couldn't imagine what the side viewers or very front row viewers were going through. i could see several people turn away during crazy shot edited scenes or during the general and wild "real-world" era of filmming.

for far viewers or the good seated people this isn't so much of a problem. during film school in the late 90s to early 00s I never took to heart what my instructors had said regarding hand held shooting. now i'm saying this style is fairly new, no not all, but imo I'm tired of it! How can this trendy style have any significance to making a film good? Shame on a Director who wants this or "oh but it gives a sense of realism!" c'mon, this is filmmaking. The real challenge is doing what others can't do, or rather just being different. Anybody can shoot hand held imo... I blame MTV and these new era realists.. or reality tv shows. man get this hand held crap out of true movie making please!!

Anybody else agree? Geez, when I look back at the classics no Director or cinematographer would sell themselves short for that! For indies, sure why not, not like they can afford the best cranes, jibs, setups...

The Bourne Ultimatum was a real bore imo. Hand held fastness and cuts doesn't create suspense, it creates cheap and dull work. end of rant..
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#2 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 12:20 AM

Hey, fellas hope all is well.

Ok, I think after Traffic (imo) things have been really geared toward a new sloppy or two quick hand-held style without proper moderation of steady-cam. From Amorres Perros, to 21 Grams, Crash, Babel, Bourne Identity, etc..

Just finished watching the Bourne Ultimatum, and with my unlucky seat aisle, i was dead center, but not too close to the screen, so it wasn't too bad. throughout the film I couldn't imagine what the side viewers or very front row viewers were going through. i could see several people turn away during crazy shot edited scenes or during the general and wild "real-world" era of filmming.

for far viewers or the good seated people this isn't so much of a problem. during film school in the late 90s to early 00s I never took to heart what my instructors had said regarding hand held shooting. now i'm saying this style is fairly new, no not all, but imo I'm tired of it! How can this trendy style have any significance to making a film good? Shame on a Director who wants this or "oh but it gives a sense of realism!" c'mon, this is filmmaking. The real challenge is doing what others can't do, or rather just being different. Anybody can shoot hand held imo... I blame MTV and these new era realists.. or reality tv shows. man get this hand held crap out of true movie making please!!

Anybody else agree? Geez, when I look back at the classics no Director or cinematographer would sell themselves short for that! For indies, sure why not, not like they can afford the best cranes, jibs, setups...

The Bourne Ultimatum was a real bore imo. Hand held fastness and cuts doesn't create suspense, it creates cheap and dull work. end of rant..


I think that a lot of hand held with quick cutting hides many things. Another thing is how Tony Scott
seems to like quick cutting with long lenses in action scenes and while exciting in one way, they
make the scenes as fake as the stuntman jumping from the roof and then cutting in close to the star
who obviously just jumped off an apple box.

Another thing, I saw part of "Half Nelson" tonight. Didn't have time to watch it all but in the first third or
so there were a lot of basic coverage shots that seem as if they could have been done easily on a
tripod but instead they were swaying just like somebody with a camera on the shoulder attempting
to hold it locked. It really irritated me while I was watching.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 04:31 PM

People complained about the same thing in the second Bourne film.

Screen size has a lot to do with the impact of this type of motion. What might look "cool" on an Avid monitor can be nauseating on a 40' screen. I though Domino played great on DVD, but I can't imagine keeping up with it on the big screen.
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#4 Pete Von Tews

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 04:12 AM

I agree that I'm not a big fan of the fake un-naturally shakey camera work. It is however another color crayon in the tool box.

The look probably has a place in some films, but if it's poorly implemented in order for the film to have a "trendy" look then in my opinion it takes away from the story and makes the cinematography look amateur.

But this technique is like spices in food, too much can ruin a great meal, but just the right amout will make the meal better! Or the meal just don't need spice!
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 10:55 AM

If I recall correctly, shaky-cam got its legs in television. Remember NYPD Blue? I recall that even though they used a fluid head, they kept the camera moving. It seemed like the cameraman was distracted and let the camera float around on its own.

At first, it may seem that the technique is about causing the sensation of reality. Yet, my head and eyes don't shake around like that unless I'm moving rapidly which is the classic use of hand held- replicating for the viewer the sensation of being in motion within the movie's scene. I have come to think that shaky cam serves another purpose: Sense loading. I recall that it became most heavily used for detective stories. The detective story with all its inherently action-less interview scenes could rise to the brain/sense loading status of an action movie by simply (more importantly, cheaply) shaking the camera. It is so commonly leaned on now that I have considered the merits of making an entire feature length movie called, Watching Paint Dry where shot after shot of an object is spray painted and cut after cut of shaky cam covers the drying process. Of course, I will need at least $165,000,000.00 to make this utterly artistic and commercially viable expression of cinematic genius.
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#6 Keith Mottram

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 11:06 AM

I have nothing against hand held shots under the control of a knowledgeable director (like Greengrass). unfortunately often on TV (and in the case of unknowledgeable film directors) they are trying for an 'effect' without any reason for it, the worst case being when you can see them actually moving a camera, in a dreadful boxy motion, which should be sitting on a static frame- battlestar galactica springs to mind (i couldn't even sit through a single episode).

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#7 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 11:48 AM

People need to stop referring to this style as being handheld - when normal handheld is actually very different, look at the Children of Men - thats pretty much all handheld, however there its a subtle affect that can be consciously ignored, that sublimely adds to the affect. Real hand held is careful movement of the camera using the body, usually with wide or medium lenses to keep the jarring affect to a minimum.

This style, should be refereed to with a proper name, its not only handheld (and in some cases its actually not) but appears to encompass frenetic movement, swish panning, with excessively long lenses, the camera or the frame is often moving without a justified or motivated reason.

Its more of a pseudo documentary affect.

Screen size has a lot to do with the impact of this type of motion. What might look "cool" on an Avid monitor can be nauseating on a 40' screen. I though Domino played great on DVD, but I can't imagine keeping up with it on the big screen.


I can't help feeling that the nauseating affect also becomes apparent at the opposite end of the spectrum too - on really small screens, televisions under 21 inches. I tried to watch Path to 9/11 on the tv on my breakfast bench while having dinner, and it almost physically made me sick. City of God, on a small widescreen tv i had was also really hard to watch - and i had seen the film twice in the cinema.
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 11:49 AM

Guilty as charged, Keith.

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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 12:12 PM

Oddly I actually considered shooting my entire feature hand held, or shoulder held to be more technically correct.

In the end I felt that since I was making a low budget indie, I would end up making it look even lower budget with the shoulder mount technique. I think the shoulder mount is easier to get away with for the big guys with a 100 million dollar budget.

I thought I should make my movie look as "expensive" as possible by using traditional tri-pod and dolly techniques. In the final I did end up shooting two scenes shoulder mount and it worked quite well in the small space I was in, I also used steady cam.

My approach was to use the best possible camera technique for the scene and I think it worked well. This meant the camera was 90% tripod.

I just finished four days of directing and DPing four commercials on 35. I used a lot of "floaty" tri-pod at 60 fps on the people shots. I hope it turns out ok :blink:

R,
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#10 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 12:39 PM

My approach was to use the best possible camera technique for the scene and I think it worked well.


When seeing the recent Harry Potter film a few weeks ago there was a particular moment where they used this swishy-handheld technique, it was when harry witnesses the murder of another character and freaks out so badly that another character tries to restrain him, it was a very effective scene - fitting the psychology of the moment. The rest of the film was far more classical in style.

Everything has its use!
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#11 John Holland

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 12:52 PM

I still prefer Paul Greengrass hand style "United 93" and this one ,to the 12 frame edited locked of tracking swooping poop of Michael Bay .
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#12 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 01:22 PM

I never really took to the fake handheld on "NYPD Blue" and it was more distracting than the real thing. Around that time, it even got to a stage where directors were wanting shaky cam effects on Steadicam. However, handheld has its place and smart directors know how to use it. Kubrick used the handheld camera for effect a number of his films, even in 2001.

Unfortunately, shaky cam is commonly used to jazz up films or TV programmes with little content or performance.
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#13 Daniel Sheehy

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 03:38 PM

I've taken exception to the trend since the Bourne Supremacy... the friend I watched it with became physically sick during the tunnel car chase scene... and we had pretty good seats.

Having watched the Bourne Ultimatum on Sunday, I have to say that I got angry while sitting there, 5th row from the front. In any other situation, on any other project, that type of camera work would have been turned down as incompetent and unusable... often it looked like a 3 year old was running with the camera.

It went beyond the whole 'heightened reality' idea.. and in many cases, it was simply impossible to see what was happening on the screen.
Its all well and good to try and be as realistic as possible, but you're telling a story for pete's sake, and if the audience can't see what's happening, then you f**ked up!

I'm all for hand held camera work, but as Richard said, the right style for the right job, and to try and do a whole movie in that exaggerated style was simply ridiculous.
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 04:58 PM

I don't think some people realize that a little of anything goes a long way on a theater screen.
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#15 Paul Bruening

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 05:08 PM

My buddies are calling it, The Bourne Old Tomato.
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#16 Hugh Thomson

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 02:30 AM

Sometimes the story calls for it, like in Man Bites Dog and other mockumentaries. Sometimes it's just a style thing that doesn't really add to the film at all. There's a huge difference between shaky and handheld.

The Son by the Dardenne Bros is a great film using hand held camera. No music, very little dialogue, not too much cheap exposition. A very "fly on the wall" kind of film. A couple of Herzog's old films use handheld camera, and they're awesome. He probably just couldn't be bothered taking a tripod into the Amazon. Some of Christopher Doyle's stuff is amazing too. Very spontaneous.

I guess the old masters didn't use it because the old cameras were just too heavy and they would go through camera operators like wildfire. The visual language has changed a lot since then and it's completely okay for mainstream audiences to have a shaky camera.

I'm not saying that it's a good thing, though. 24 really gives me the shits. Haven't they heard of storyboarding? Line crosses, whips, zooms etc. When the Blair Witch Project was at the movies they handed out motion sickness bags. I remember walking in and thinking, "Yeah, right." About an hour into it I wished I'd picked one up!
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#17 Christian Appelt

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 10:38 AM

Some comments on moviegoers experiencing motion sickness with BOURNE 3:

www.film-tech.com > Film Tech Forums > Ground Level > Bourne Ultimatum & motion sickness
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#18 John Sprung

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 12:33 PM

I guess the old masters didn't use it because the old cameras were just too heavy and they would go through camera operators like wildfire.

It depends how old you mean. Hand held with a hand crank camera would introduce an 8 frame rocking cycle, because you shoot 8 frames per turn of the crank. The Bell & Howell Eyemo (1927), and the Arriflex Model I (1938), though strictly MOS cameras, were designed for hand held use. They're lighter than many of the cameras that are hand held today. To shoot hand held with a BNC, you'd probably have to coordinate three or four guys, just to carry the weight. -- Not impossible, but an unusual choice. I don't know if anybody ever tried it.



-- J.S.
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#19 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 01:35 PM

in most cases i suppose it is meant to convey a sense of unease which can be, much to the detriment of my stomach, quite effective on the big-screen.
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#20 Matt Pacini

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 05:39 PM

I'm sick and tired of it. It started with MTV videos (long before NYPD Blues), then in "edgy" commercials, and before long, everyone thought it was cool, so started beating it to death, just like this stupid "bullet time" effect, which looks cool, but is not appropriate for ANYTHING, other than looking cool.

It's not "reality".
If anything, it takes you completely out of the story, because it calls attention to what's going on behind the camera more than what's going on in FRONT of the camera.
It's just irritating.
Sure, I've shot hand-held, but only out of necessity, and I've never liked the result. And I'm not going to explain it away to make myself feel better about the fact I didn't have the time, money or equipment to get a moving camera on those particular instances any other way.

Hand-held is the look of having a documentary cameraman following you around, so it's only appropriate for something that would in real life, have a documentary cameraman running around filming you.
That's why I just laugh out loud when I see it used in period pieces, because it just looks ridiculous to me.

MP
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