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Operated camera vs. locked off shots


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#1 Alex Donkle

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 11:56 PM

Something subtle I've noticed about a lot of professional productions compared to student films (or early films in general) is that in static shots for pro films the camera always has a very slight motion to them where as non-pro films generally just have locked off shots.

From my knowledge this is because pro films would always have an operator on each shot, but does anyone have any good way of describing this subtle difference? (seems odd to say "I want a static shot, but 99.5% static)

Or any tips technique wise for this when I'm operating myself on a larger camera (I'm a director, but like to operate myself on simpler shots when it's a particularly emotional scene. The technique I mentioned isn't hard with light cameras, but on my first RED shoot recently I didn't op beyond the first 2 or 3 shots because it just didn't feel right with the heavier camera)
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#2 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 12:10 AM

I have sometime done counts in scenes to see how many moving shots there were before a locked off shot appeared. I can recall 9-10 shots in a row before any kind of "settling" occurs, then another 9 or 10 shots of movement in a row, ets. Most of the time the camera is on a dolly and that dolly is slowly moving, perhaps settling at the end of the dolly for a while.

Then there are steadicam shots that can add excitement to any scene.

Many movies have guns in them, and the visual of a gun, the threat of a gunshot, the eluding of gunfire, all cry out for movement from shot to shot.
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#3 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 01:38 AM

The technique I mentioned isn't hard with light cameras, but on my first RED shoot recently I didn't op beyond the first 2 or 3 shots because it just didn't feel right with the heavier camera)

Were you shooting hand held? I can't see why the weight of the camera would matter unless you were hand held.

In my experience, a completely static shot is more noticeable than a shot that makes subtle adjustments for things like headroom, which is essentially what you're talking about. I think most of the time those slight adjustments are needed to keep a shot properly composed, but when you do do a complete lockoff it stands out and can have a nice effect.
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#4 Mark Williams

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 05:28 AM

[quote name='Alex Donkle' date='Oct 20 2008, 05:56 AM' post='255765']
Something subtle I've noticed about a lot of professional productions compared to student films (or early films in general) is that in static shots for pro films the camera always has a very slight motion to them where as non-pro films generally just have locked off shots.

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Yes the camera moves with the action and to tell the story!
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From my knowledge this is because pro films would always have an operator on each shot, but does anyone have any good way of describing this subtle difference? (seems odd to say "I want a static shot, but 99.5% static)

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Reframing?
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Or any tips technique wise for this when I'm operating myself on a larger camera (I'm a director, but like to operate myself on simpler shots when it's a particularly emotional scene. The technique I mentioned isn't hard with light cameras, but on my first RED shoot recently I didn't op beyond the first 2 or 3 shots because it just didn't feel right with the heavier camera)

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I think static shots can be just as good as dolly shots you just need to block differently.
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 11:18 AM

Sometimes, it is just a matter of practicality. If the cameraman is operating the camera on a nice fluid head and is good at his job he can follow the action, even if it is only simple blocking. This decreases the shooting ratio from missed marks and similar variations from the performers. This also allows more freedom and naturalism from the performers since they don't have to worry as much about staying inside an imaginary (for them) lock-downed box. Oddly, once the viewer has gotten used to this subtle action following technique within the language of the movie, a locked down shot can stand out as peculiar. A subtle pan and tilt motion through the action parts of a shot can increase the sense of viewer participation. The viewer will accommodate the motion as if it were part of their normal eye and head movement. If done well by the camera man, you won't even notice it being done.

On the down side- it's hard on your cameraman. That's a lot of pressure and concentration on a twelve hour day, six days a week.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 12:38 PM

To me at least, a locked off shot feels a little old fashioned. In the beginning, they pretty much had to lock off, because it was hard to turn the crank and pan and tilt at the same time, and they didn't have accurate viewfinders. They'd set up like a view camera, composing in the gate, then shoot watching the action and going by memory as to where the frame lines were.




-- J.S.
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#7 Tim Terner

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 02:03 PM

The last two nights I've watched on DVD's, Brokeback Mountain and A Simple Plan. Both films are so well naturally shot and captivating that I didn't notice any dolly moves. Are there any in these two movies ?
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