Handheld cameras are driving me CRAZY!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Joe Schwartz, Apr 27, 2002.

  1. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    I just saw Changing Lanes yesterday, and I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if the damn camera would just stand still! I have no problem with handheld cameras when they make sense -- when they're following a moving character, for instance. But in a simple two-shot or close-up where nobody is moving, don't use a handheld camera! It's driving me crazy!
    I literally cannot watch something like NYPD Blue where the camera jerks every five seconds in every scene. Sometimes I think they jerk the camera on purpose, just to remind the viewer how "edgy" they are. Instead, it looks like the cameraman drank ten espressos before shooting.
    Fortunately, there aren't many films that overuse handheld cameras. Before Changing Lanes, the last one I remember was Traffic. I could barely pay attention to many of the scenes, because I was so annoyed by the gratuitous camera jerking. Am I the only one with this affliction?
     
  2. Ben Osborne

    Ben Osborne Second Unit

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    While it's not a handheld camera, I have similiar issues with helicopter-mounted "revolving" cameras that go around and around the subjects they're filming. The worst case of this is the scene in Spy Game where Redford and Pitt are talking on the rooftop of a building. The camera just keeps circling them like we're on a carousel and they're in the middle. It comes off as gimmicky, gratuitous, and annoying.
     
  3. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    I thought that the jerky style worked in Traffic, but for the most part I agree with you...it's much more gimmicky now than useful.
     
  4. AaronSchmidt

    AaronSchmidt Auditioning

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    What really got udr my skin were the ridiculous jump cuts in "Dancer in the Dark." Most of the time when I watch a film I want to be enveloped in the world that is created on screen (hence spending too way to much $ on HT gear). Sometimes a handheld is called for to acheive this (think: the diner scenes in "Mulholland Drive." This appeared very naturally, and in fact, I didn't even notice it until itwas pointed out to me.

    A good portion of the time, though, fast edits and "Drunken Style" camera work *are* quite distracting.
     
  5. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

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    It worked in Traffic because it gave the film a documentary feel and I'm sure that is what Soderbergh was aiming for. While it might be 'gimmicky' it really doesn't worry me in a film, unless A) There is no reason or B) The director is just trying to be stylish.
     
  6. Derek Faber

    Derek Faber Stunt Coordinator

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    I love handheld camera work, as long as it isn't over-done like NYPD Blue, but more like Homicide which has the best hand-held camera work.
     
  7. todd stone

    todd stone Screenwriter

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    guess you didn't like blair witch [​IMG]
     
  8. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    I agree that a handheld camera makes sense when a director is trying for the "documentary style", but I thought it was still overdone in Traffic. I recall the Mexico scenes being the most documentary-like, but jerky cameras being used throughout most of the other scenes.
    Maybe I'm abnormally sensitive to it, but I find it extremely distracting. It's like hearing someone cough every ten seconds -- I'm unable to focus on the film.
    The Blair Witch Project didn't bother me at all, because the handheld camera made sense in the context of the film.
     
  9. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Go become a filmmaker and make movies the way you want them, then.
     
  10. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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  11. Gabe Oppenheim

    Gabe Oppenheim Stunt Coordinator

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    It seems to me that handheld cameras may be deployed, as they are in films like "Dancer in the Dark," to create a more intimate feeling. A movie filmed with handheld cameras may have more spontaneous performances (or not, as the case may be), and the director or cameraman (often the same person in these types of films) may be able to capture details of a performance or reaction than he would with a traditional, static camera.

    Then again, it may just be a gimmick to unsettle an audience.

    The editing that you speak of, Aaron, is not really related to that (nor is it really jumpcutting, for that matter).
     
  12. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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  13. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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  14. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    I have gotten sort of used to the handheld look, even coupled with fast editing, probably from watching the TV show "Homicide: Life on the Street". The effect that brings on nausea for me is the use of shutter speeds that result in little or no motion-blur. It makes people look like Ray Harryhausen stop-motion puppets.

    Regards,
     
  15. Tim Raffey

    Tim Raffey Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm with Ken; I've become used to hand-held work throughout a movie, but I just got pissed off when Ridley Scott wouldn't lay off that fast shutter in Gladiator (and everything subsequent, not to mention the countless people ripping the hack off). That was after seeing--and appreciating quite a bit--Spielberg and David O. Russell use it rather sparingly in Saving Private Ryan and Three Kings, respectively.

    Though I have to say my aversion isn't physical, I just get tired of it.
     
  16. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    I agree, I also find that fast-shutter effect annoying, especially in Gladiator. If I ever see a movie that uses a fast shutter during fast-action scenes, and a jerky handheld camera during no-action scenes, I'll probably walk out in disgust. [​IMG]
     
  17. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    I for one love handheld cameras. It worked for me in the movies aforementioned.
     
  18. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    BTW, I did think the use of fast shutter speed in the film Final Destination was useful (in the scene where Kristen Cloke reaches her, ahem, final destination) because it was used somewhat sneakily to create a feeling of disorientation. I was not a big fan of the film otherwise, but that was a cool effect.

    If handheld is used for a specific purpose it can be less annoying as well.

    Regards,
     
  19. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    "Fast-shutter"? What's the relation - if any - with the effect of this and what's called a "frame shaker" (a definition for which would also be appreciated!).

    FWIW, I love the hand-held camera, and I don't consider it's motion to be anymore "gimmicky" than a traditional track or pan or zoom or tilt or crane-in, or any other method. In fact, I tend to find most hand-held work to be more exciting, with a more improvised feel, whereas the elaborate tracking shots (particularly of the steady-cam variety) and the IMO generally annoying and purposeless crane shots seem stodgy and over-choreographed, with actors rather obviously hitting "marks" as the lens wheels by. It often feels canned and lifeless, with all the impromptu vigor of a real scene completely drained out... sorta like the visual equivalent of muzak. An expertly weilded hand-held, on the other hand, is more like... jazz.

    Going at least as far back as the French New Wave, the hand-held camera has been extraordinarily liberating for directors who suddenly found themselves wonderfully unencumbered... and out of the studio! I'm not entirely sure, but "Y Tu Mama Tambien" may have been shot completely with hand-held - and very effectively. It matched the subject matter and feel of the narrative. IMO, it would have been a very different film given a different cinematographic choice.
     
  20. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I too can't stand handheld cameras, when they're used too much.
    I was physically unable to sit through the theatrical showings of BWP and "Dancer in the dark" that I went too, I got too sick (I had to close my eyes and just LISTEN to the movies, only being able to watch in dark scenes and the musical numbers in "Dancer"... [​IMG]) I get nausea from playing games like "Quake" too. [​IMG]
    "NYPD Blue" is terrible too, but in a different way: it's just annoying.
    It works in some movies thugh, I didn't think it was misused in BWP.
    /Mike
     

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