Can w please lose the jittery camerawork...?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Dick, Dec 11, 2007.

  1. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    I don't know which t.v. show "invented" this camera work style - was it N.Y.P.D. BLUE? - but it has spilled over into the movies and makes me want to vomit (literally). THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM is practically unwatchable for me because the director decided that this ridiculous jittery camera work was what he wanted. Jesus, how much money was spent inventing Steadycam, and for what? So that idiot directors could go back to the days when people didn't even have tripods? Five year-olds have steadier hands than the jerks who deliberately shake their cameras! I am a movie aficionado like most people on this forum, but truly, I am seeing what might have been splendid movies being ruined - yes, RUINED - by this so-called "style" of cinematography. I can understand wanting to create tension and immediacy and a "you are there" kind of atmosphere, but not when it makes an audience dizzy, and not when it interferes with visual clarity. I won't even include Michael Bay in this argument, since I believe him to be an arrogant, incompetent asshole, but far more talented directors have chosen this style and, as far as I'm concerned, it is counterproductive to an audience's enjoyment of a film. Can we please get back to WATCHABLE visual styles and begin to enjoy action thrillers that makes sense again?
     
  2. FrankT

    FrankT Stunt Coordinator

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    +1
     
  3. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    I completely agree. Many critics went nuts over BOURNE in theatres, yet it was filmed in such a style that it truly bothered me.

    Roger Ebert wrote that when he saw it in theatres, a woman vomited next to him.

    But, unfortunately, we are in the minority. The critics went nuts for it so Greengrass didn't learn his lesson and will probably do the same with his next film.
     
  4. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    David Bordwell, probably the best writer on the history of film style, was prompted by The Bourne Ultimatum to blog about the history of hand-held camera work and contemporary mass film style.

    He points out hand held is a stylistic choice that keeps being re-deployed by filmmakers who all claim it is something that is new or recent. In fact, there are hand-held shots in 1920s films such as Gance's Napoleon, and some Soviet Montage films. It is just more prevalent now than ever.

    Also, although directors including Paul Greengras say they use hand-held because they think it is more "realistic", (I assume by this they mean akin to a cinema veritae documentary), Bordwell points out that this claim doesn't really make sense because the camera remains hand-held for even objective views that don't feature the protagonist.

    See here and more specifically about entire Bourne franchise here and about the franchise's use of network narration here
     
  5. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    If it becomes a distraction, that's bad. In handheld shots in Gance's films, they add to the immediacy and energy of the scenes. If you look at Napoleon, it uses every cinematic trick in the book, but with moderation and precise control.
     
  6. Joe Lugoff

    Joe Lugoff Cinematographer

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    Someone I know suggested something about this, and I think he's correct.

    He said hand held scenes look "real" only because that's how home movies look, and those are invariably "real".

    So the irony is that professionals are looking like amateurs ON PURPOSE.

    It's very strange, too, because if you think about what's REALLY real, real life NEVER looks all jittery like that. (At least, it doesn't to me!) We tend to focus on one thing at a time, and even when we turn our heads, our eyes and brains somehow handle it well enough so it never remotely resembles the mess cinematographers are giving us in movies and on television these days.

    I see this awful technique creeping into TV news reporting, too.

    So, I agree 100% with the original poster, and I'm glad someone has taken the time to complain!
     
  7. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Exactly. TV shows like The Shield and 24, which almost exclusively use handheld, never takes me out of the show or gives me a seasick feeling that The Blair Witch Project (for example) did. Like any technique, it's good but it can be used to disasterous effect when you overuse it or aren't as good at it as other camera men are.
     
  8. Scott-S

    Scott-S Cinematographer
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    I agree. The "shaky-cam" is overdone. They should go back to reserving it's use to scenes that are meant to look like they were filmed by a amateur.

    It's funny that the directors choose to use this style to be different, but it isn't different if everyone else is doing it... Duh!!!
     
  9. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I guess one difference could be that most TVs are smaller than even small screens in a theater.

    Of course with home projectors that is changing, but I think the size of the image could be one factor in making some people sick. Lars Von Trier's film Dancer in the Dark made me feel sick, but that could be because it was low resolution DV.
     
  10. Richard Matich

    Richard Matich Stunt Coordinator

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    Was it just The Bourne Ultimatum that is the problem? I liked the arresting way the camera moved in the first two films. I have not seen the third one. The quick editing of the car chase in the Bourne Supremacy was a bit much but I admire the "you are along for the ride" feel. Not every movie should be shot that way but for this series it works. The 3rd installment of Bourne could mkae me change my mind though.
     
  11. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    Paul Greengrass directed the 2nd film as well as the third, but it seems he has gone even more extreme in the third film with even more hand held shots, and very ubrupt edits during camera movements. I think it becomes disorientating for many viewers because no movement is allowed to finish, there is a cut from one moving shot, to another shot with the camera moving in a different direction.

    The first film was directed by Doug Liman who had a much more leisurely approach in comparison. For example, Bordwell says the first film averaged 3 seconds per shot, where as the 2nd and 3rd are closer to 2 seconds, which makes a surprisingly big difference.
     
  12. Bruce Morrison

    Bruce Morrison Supporting Actor

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    I couldn't agree more. To quote just one example, the hand-held camerawork all but ruined 'The Constant Gardener' for me - this was an excellent film in many other respects, with a good thought-provoking script and superb acting by Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, but I just couldn't stomach the incessantly unsteady images.

    It can work for some films such as 'United 93', where it helps to raise the tension and imparts a documentary feel to the film, but directors really need to ask themselves exactly why they would want to use such a shooting style on their films.
     
  13. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I think there are reasons why so many films are shot that way. Most people watch films on DVDs on relatively small screens where an amped up style is more likely to keep viewer's attention. Also many people seem to watch DVDs in brightly lit rooms where they are easily distracted by other people or their surroundings. It is as if filmmakers think audiences will lose patience if a single shot doesn't feature camera movement of some sort.

    No style arises without motivating causes, it seems that the hand-held run and gun style is now considered by many filmmakers to be good filmmaking. It is extraordinarily rare that the style is criticised, in fact many reviewers seem to think it is new and innovative. Of course both claims are untrue, but I'm not expecting it to die any time soon.
     
  14. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    I've been on an anti-shakycam crusade for a long time. I think it's a cheap way of imparting "realism". It feels to me like the director isn't clever enough to plan real shots, so he uses shakycam as a crutch - who cares if the shots look bad? It's REAL! [​IMG]

    It doesn't help that on the big screen, shakycam DOES make me sick. I saw Supremacy and United 93 theatrically - ugh! No more big screen Greengrass for me, though I think his flicks ain't that great on the small screen either - I think Ultimatum is a dull mess, honestly...
     
  15. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    Problem is, the critics love this flick. The Rotten Tomatoes site gives it a 93% ripe rating! As long as that sort of uncritical criticism continues, directors will have all the ammunition they need to justify the further use of amateur, deliberately bad camera work. Personally, if I was a cinematographer working in Hollywood, I would protest the use of this technique. It certainly wouldn't showcase any true talent I might have for well-composed shots. And this really makes me laugh: the critics are also raving about Matt Damon's "great" performance. How the hell would anyone know? You never see him longer than a second or two in any take, so his performance is about 99% editor and 1% actor. I don't like the 1-2 second quick edits used by too many directors today, but when COMBINED with that utterly indefensible shaky camera work, the result is unwatchable (for me, anyway). Glad the critics all have their sea legs, but they are enabling (encouraging) otherwise talented people to go off on the sort of filmmaking tangent that degrades the medium for years. Hope the trend wears thin real soon!
     
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Critics are not the only ones that love this film. I watched it on HD DVD yesterday and will do so again today with the director's commentary on. I guess I just like dull mess according to some around here.[​IMG]




    Crawdaddy
     
  17. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    Excellent point again. Hollywood "acting" these days just means a person who can make lots of different facial expressions. You very rarely actually get to see actors act with the rest of their bodies. The way Brando leaned against a wall could tell you something about his character, but now days actors basically only have to act from the neck up, because that is the only part of their bodies that you regularly see.

    Plus the way editing is there is an edit on nearly every line of dialogue, so you either watch them speak, or see them react in turn.

    Anyone interested in any of these contemporary film style issues should read Bordwell's book on contemporary Hollywood called The Way Hollywood Tells It. Bordwell writes about how contemporary Hollywood films are both similar to and different from classic Hollywood films. Most people in film studies believe that contemporary Hollywood films bare little relation to classic Hollywood, but Bordwell actually argues against that position, while noting important differences.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    Batman Begins was another good film that was ruined by handheld camerawork. The fight scenes were impossible to follow due to the shaky cam. I hope they don't repeat this in The Dark Knight.
     
  19. WadeM

    WadeM Supporting Actor

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    Batman Begins was indeed ruined by the camerawork. I am sick of so-called action movies where the camera does more action than the actors. If you watch what the actors are doing in those scenes it's completely laughable. I guess it goes back to another point made here about it only being 1% acting.

    Handheld camerwork can be effective in a few movies (think Truffaut, or more recently, Soderberg), but the modern "shaky-cam" is a disgrace to moviemaking (and TV shows) and I agree almost completely with the original poster, except that the camerawork doesn't make me want to vomit, it just makes me think about how incompetent the director/cinematographer can be. (Don't even get me started with Michael Bay...)
     
  20. SD_Brian

    SD_Brian Supporting Actor

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    Though I normally despise the shakycam technique, Greengrass does it better than anyone and the Bourne movies are among the very few where I thought the style was appropriate. The primary motif in these movies is movement and I don't think there is a single static shot in either the 2nd or 3rd Bourne films. For me, at least, it worked.

    A recent film where the style annoyed the holy hell out of me was "The Last King of Scotland." That movie even went so far as to add additional shakycam-esque effects in post-production. The film was shot in Super35, I believe, and in an attempt to further nauseate the audience, the filmmakers decided to tilt-and-scan (like panning and scanning, only up and down rather than side-to-side) through the square frame just to make the 2.35:1 shot look shaky. Artificial incessant camera movement is even more annoying than real incessant camera movements.
     

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