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Crazy Camera Work on TV


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#1 CraigTarry

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:18 PM

Hello, the camera work on TV shows like The Office drives me crazy and I'd like you guys learned opinion.
Steve Carell is one of my favorite comedic actors, but I don’t get the appeal of The Office. My main problem with it is the camera work. I can’t stand the documentary style and all the sudden zoom-ins. It drives me nuts!
I did manage to watch it for a while one night and I was thinking that if you took away the camera tricks, that the material is really weak. It just wouldn’t be very interesting or funny.

MTV’s Cribs was the first time I watched a program with this shooting style. I know why they used it. They figured, “our viewers have the attention span of a fly, so we’ve gotta keep things quick!”

TMZ has taken this style to the extreme. The kids in their office are really more interesting than the Celebs they shoot, but the camera style is so buggin’ that I can’t stand it more than a couple of minutes. Do they think they’re more appealing that way?
Your two cents, please - Craig
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#2 Colin Green

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 12:23 AM

Hello, the camera work on TV shows like The Office drives me crazy and I'd like you guys learned opinion.
Steve Carell is one of my favorite comedic actors, but I don’t get the appeal of The Office. My main problem with it is the camera work. I can’t stand the documentary style and all the sudden zoom-ins. It drives me nuts!
I did manage to watch it for a while one night and I was thinking that if you took away the camera tricks, that the material is really weak. It just wouldn’t be very interesting or funny.

MTV’s Cribs was the first time I watched a program with this shooting style. I know why they used it. They figured, “our viewers have the attention span of a fly, so we’ve gotta keep things quick!”

TMZ has taken this style to the extreme. The kids in their office are really more interesting than the Celebs they shoot, but the camera style is so buggin’ that I can’t stand it more than a couple of minutes. Do they think they’re more appealing that way?
Your two cents, please - Craig
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Hey there,

I have had this conversation a few times with other colleagues, and have also worked on a couple of pilots that use the same documentary shooting style that the office has seemed to perfect.

The thing about this, like anything else, is that there is a time and a place for it. When you use that fly on the wall style that you see on the office (and several other shows)correctly, it can really do a wonderful job of giving a realistic, voyeur feel to the show. In my opinion, it has the ability to really pull the viewer into the feel of the show. They really use a lot of techniques that can make things personal, and make you feel like your a part of what is happening on screen. And I must give the DP and the operators (and AC's) of the show an extreme amount of credit, Popping focal lengths back and forth, re-framing and focusing every couple of seconds and etc. is not an easy task, and they do it so seamlessly.

IMO, there is a place in FILM/TV for this style of shooting, although it is not for everyone, it has certainly proven to be successful.

As for the humor in the show, I enjoy that as well, but that is completely subjective, people have different tastes, and a right to them respectfully. However, I feel that even though this voyeuristic shooting style does add to the humor, and really compliments the disarray of the characters and their environment, it does not necessarily mean the show would not be funny without that aspect. But who knows, they've never tried otherwise
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#3 Hampus Bystrom

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 12:43 AM

I haven't seen the American version of The Office, the UK version is f-ing ingenious. I can assume that the camera work is pretty similar, and I really don't know what you're talking about, because I thought the documentary style worked wonders for the comedic style. Again, I don't know the American version, perhaps it's terrible. I think it's common for cinematographers to become purists and overlook the main aspect of filmmaking, namely to move the audience. Even though I'm not a DP, I'm really interested in the technical aspects, so I know that I went through a period of disliking anything that didn't employ really slick camera work. Perhaps you're looking through it from a conservative DP's point of view...
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#4 Keneu Luca

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 12:51 AM

Hey there,

I have had this conversation a few times with other colleagues, and have also worked on a couple of pilots that use the same documentary shooting style that the office has seemed to perfect.

The thing about this, like anything else, is that there is a time and a place for it. When you use that fly on the wall style that you see on the office (and several other shows)correctly, it can really do a wonderful job of giving a realistic, voyeur feel to the show. In my opinion, it has the ability to really pull the viewer into the feel of the show. They really use a lot of techniques that can make things personal, and make you feel like your a part of what is happening on screen. And I must give the DP and the operators (and AC's) of the show an extreme amount of credit, Popping focal lengths back and forth, re-framing and focusing every couple of seconds and etc. is not an easy task, and they do it so seamlessly.

IMO, there is a place in FILM/TV for this style of shooting, although it is not for everyone, it has certainly proven to be successful.

As for the humor in the show, I enjoy that as well, but that is completely subjective, people have different tastes, and a right to them respectfully. However, I feel that even though this voyeuristic shooting style does add to the humor, and really compliments the disarray of the characters and their environment, it does not necessarily mean the show would not be funny without that aspect. But who knows, they've never tried otherwise


I think it is justified for THE OFFICE. Just as it is with RENO 911. It is absurd and ridiculous, but that's the point. They are letting you know this isnt meant to be a traditional fictional sitcom - this is meant to be a mocumentary, and an absurd one at that.

However, take THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, which I believe inspired THE OFFICE. SANDERS kept the camera smooth and relaxed (in the "behind the scenes" 16mm segments) but also had a mocumentary element, though not as absurd. Actually, it wasnt pretending to be a mocumentary - that is - it wasnt pretending that a "documentary camera crew" was following around the characters, as is the case with OFFICE and RENO.

SANDERS didnt need the erratic camera, it was such a brilliantly executed show. I suppose the OFFICE does need that erratic camera element.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is another example that has an erratic camera. But I think it really does get in the way in this case.

Edited by Keneu Luca, 28 January 2010 - 12:53 AM.

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#5 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 08:37 AM

I have wondered if "TMZ" shoots everything straight in its office and then has a program (is there one?) that
is applied to the footage like a filter to scale the footage up and down. Those shots are non-stop snapping in
and out. Even for the so called documentary look most camera people give their zooms a rest once in a while.
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 08:47 AM

Tim, you watch TMZ?

And chances are, no, they just have a lot of ops in there and edit for the snaps in and out... and/or the whole segment is staged.
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#7 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 10:41 AM

Tim, you watch TMZ?

And chances are, no, they just have a lot of ops in there and edit for the snaps in and out... and/or the whole segment is staged.



I have seen it. It's horrifying. A roomful of people indignant because some actor out with his family for dinner or leaving a doctor's office
doesn't want to talk right then and there with one of TMZ's stalkers, who seem to be just kids with consumer camcorders who haunt the
stores and airports of L.A. and elsewhere and when they spot a celebrity they hound that person relentlessly, throwing questions and rolling on everything.

Do you know how sitcoms are shorter now than years ago because there are more commercials per half hour? If "TMZ" cut from the show that office-clubhouse rehashing of its footage, the program would be about ten minutes. That show must make a lot of money. It looks like it costs
nothing to produce and it seems to be widely syndicated. I think those videoarrazi get paid if they snag a piece of video that "TMZ" wants, so the show has all of these camera people out there looking for that big dollar piece of video, for no cost upfront, who are trailing recognizable people on the sidewalk and bothering them.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 10:45 AM

Quite true,
though I must admit, I secretly would love to see myself on TMZ.. My plan, as such is to court megan fox... then go to a pub. If anything it'd be nice free advertising.
I must admit that I've seen the show more than one (can't help it, right after the news and before the simpsons.. prime time for the 3 channels I get!) And while it is funny, on occasion, it is mostly just sad.
You're right that it must make a boatload! But, like all reality TV, it's got high profit margins but relatively low production value and/or major staying power, e.g. it's not something anyone would want to buy a DVD season of, which I'm sure impacts a good amount of profits in this post "season 4 on dvd!" market.
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#9 JD Hartman

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 06:41 PM

You're right that it must make a boatload! But, like all reality TV, it's got high profit margins but relatively low production value and/or major staying power, e.g. it's not something anyone would want to buy a DVD season of, which I'm sure impacts a good amount of profits in this post "season 4 on dvd!" market.



Based on your statement, more seasons of "Jersey Shore" are sure to follow? Sad, truly sad.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 07:20 PM

I would sadly say it's as inevitable as the question "who will be next year's American Idol"
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#11 CraigTarry

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 11:46 PM

I haven't seen the American version of The Office, the UK version is f-ing ingenious. I can assume that the camera work is pretty similar, and I really don't know what you're talking about, because I thought the documentary style worked wonders for the comedic style. Again, I don't know the American version, perhaps it's terrible. I think it's common for cinematographers to become purists and overlook the main aspect of filmmaking, namely to move the audience. Even though I'm not a DP, I'm really interested in the technical aspects, so I know that I went through a period of disliking anything that didn't employ really slick camera work. Perhaps you're looking through it from a conservative DP's point of view...


Yeah, I'm probably a little more conservative. I'm also a hard sell when it comes to comedy. One of my favorite comedies was I Heart Huckabees. Seeing Mark Walberg get hit in the face repeatedly with a big rubber balloon had me in stitches. Anyway, glad to see my post got so much great feedback. Thanks guys! Craig
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