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Why Shaky Cam?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by TJPC, Aug 4, 2016.

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  1. TJPC

    TJPC Producer

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    I just returned from the new Jason Bourn movie. Here is my impression:
    It starts out in Greece. Suddenly I think there is a demonstration with a chase in it. You can't really follow what is going on because the camera crew is drunk. All you see is "quick close up - shake shake shake shake close up." Jason Bourn gets away.
    The same thing happens in Berlin, London, and Las Vegas.
    Obviously millions were spent on this movie, but why don't they want you to see it? It is generally impossible to follow the action.
    This happens in movie after movie. The action begins, and then shake, shake, shake. You might as well close your eyes and wait for the end when they show you who won.
    Does it make logical sense to you?
     
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  2. cinemiracle

    cinemiracle Screenwriter

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    I avoid films with shaky cameras like the plague, if I find out beforehand. There is no excuse for it ,even in low budget films.It is like watching a film during an earthquake. If HTF readers list such films and email a complaint to the studio then maybe the producers will start to wake up to the fact that no one likes seeing films with a shaky camera. Best way is to give them negative reviews on Amazon and other similar sites ,so that people can avoid buying them. I have been successful in this manner in my dvd reviews on Amazon etc judging the comments that followed my reviews.
     
  3. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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    I hate shaky cam. I get why it might be used in some scenes (tense argument between two characters) but sometimes it's use either doesn't make sense or is exaggerated to the point of annoyance. When I see it heavily used during fight scenes or action scenes all I can think of is it's being used to hide the poor fight skills of the actors, or to make a weak stunt look more impressive. I prefer a fight scene where the camera steps back and observes the action. When I see the camera whipping back and forth intercut with shots of a body slammed against the wall or someone flying all I can think of is "Matt Damon is gettin' too old for this stuff."
     
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  4. Tony J Case

    Tony J Case Cinematographer

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    Above and beyond anything the writers strike could throw at it, it ruined Quantum of Solice for me. Hey, here's a good idea - lets take our bad guy and the good guy, put them in black clothes so they look identical and have them fight on a scaffold and then strap the camera to an epileptic wolverine with ADD!

    The only reason I could tell Bond apart from the other man was that the other man died at the end.

    So yeah, fuck this style of movie making.
     
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  5. Message #5 of 28 Aug 31, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2016
    Brian L

    Brian L Producer

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    I could not agree more, gentlemen.

    Having recently seen Star Trek Beyond, and last weekend, the new Bourne, I came away disappointed in both. I was expecting it in Bourne, but the wife wanted to see it, but I did not expect it in Beyond.

    Scenes edited like that are completely incomprehensible to me.
     
  6. cinemiracle

    cinemiracle Screenwriter

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    Wait till you see the $100 million epic BEN-HUR (2016) . It's often like watching a film during an earthquake There was no excuse for this monstrosity of numerous scenes shot with a hand -held camera .It was just shake,shake, shake
     
  7. Tino

    Tino Executive Producer
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    Strange. I didn't notice any shaky cam in the new Ben Hur.
     
  8. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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  9. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Shake your Booty, NOT your Camera, LOL! :dance::rock::drum::banana::dancing-banana-04:

    CHEERS! :)
     
  10. trevanian

    trevanian Stunt Coordinator

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    Lots of folks seem to mistake hysterical overcutting for shakeycam. Just because they're overused in tandem in the BOURNE movies (as near as I can tell, having only seen the first one and LEGACY and perhaps 20 minutes from the second and third on TV) doesn't mean they're both always in (mis)use.

    In QUANTUM the editing is nearly always at fault - if you freeze frame QUANTUM, you can usually find a well-composed frame in there amid the nutso editing, it isn't like the camera is always getting hammered and shaken (well, some 2nd unit is that way), in fact Schaefer specifically told Bradley they did NOT want the Bourne look, which suggests what people feel is the BOURNE look is mostly coming out of the editing, not the shooting.

    I should say that what I remember of the BOURNE look on the first one (which is pre-Greengrass, so may or may not apply to the discussion) is that it seemed like overcutting as a 'salvage style' - to make up for staging and shooting that didn't deliver the goods (I think most double- and triple-printed stuff is the same kind of crummy visual band-aid - GLADIATOR is the film that really settled that for me, when I decided the extra frames were a sign that the filmmaker failed during shooting. It made me flash back to third TREK film, where brain-empty Spock throws a Klingon onto a rock and they overprinted it because it just was a very visually BLAH shot that went by way too fast.) Back on Bourne, I remember a lousy fight in a bank and a scene where Damon 'climbs' a building, both of which used editing to try to make up for lack of visual interest and dynamics -- they seemed like the antiMATRIX in a way, as if proud of the fact they couldn't stage something but could 'trick' the audience into thinking they were seeing something exciting. (to be fair, I like Clive Owen's character in the film, but that was the only thing I took away from that endless single screening.)

    Also cutting right into the middle of a camera move that has shake but is not JUST about the shake wrecks the intent of the move. I mean, if you start static, then do something shakeycam like because the ship got hit or the guy got a shoulder wound, then go back to normal, that isn't shakeycam, that's using a dynamic camera to emphasize a moment. But if they cut four times during that same shot, the EFFECT is that it looks like shakeycam.

    The only truly successful shakeycam I know of is Connery in the hummer in THE ROCK - it somehow just looks right there (and even looked right nearly 2 decades back when the cutting would have seemed more intense to less overwhelmed audiences), probably because they edit around it in a way that reads right instead of just being nervous ADD cutting.
     
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  11. Nigel P

    Nigel P Second Unit

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    It is the reason I didn't go to see the latest Bourne in the cinema and the reason I don't own Bourne Ultimatum, a film that I otherwise really like. If an action scene has shaky cam plus quick cuts it just completely pulls me out of the movie. If I can't clearly follow the action then you may as well just tell me what happened or who won. It doesn't create tension or excitement just frustration.
     
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  12. AshJW

    AshJW Supporting Actor

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    Actually I don't care what causing the result. The result is annoying, that's what I care about.
     
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  13. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    It's nice that the big budget hollywood movies have to rely on shaky cam and editing to hide how crap their stars are at action, but action films from the rest of the world tend to have long takes to show how cool and good their action is.

    I'm not a fan of shaky either. No one is a fan of it. It's the style of the day, and CGI just makes it worse. Shaky cam is tied with my hatred of some CGI critter doing a charge directly at the the camera that would be impossibly dangerous to so in real life. Filmmakers think it's intense and well make the audience go "Whoah!" but all it does is make the audience go "FAKE!" Pulls me right out of the movie every time.
     
  14. trevanian

    trevanian Stunt Coordinator

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    Then you might choose your remarks more carefully; confusing shakeycam with ADD cutting (which I assume is what you mean) just makes you seem like you're not paying attention to what you watch.

    Complaining about cinematography that isn't shakeycam but comes off to you like it because the editing is too crazed is like knocking a painter for how the museum mis-hung his art on the wall.
     
  15. TJPC

    TJPC Producer

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    I think you miss the point. Call it what you will, or explain it how you can, the argument of this thread is that there is no rational reason for making a movie with action scenes you can't follow or see properly.

    It makes for a boring experience that has the viewer wonder if the movie makers are trying to cover up poor action scenes, or perhaps are just pretentiously following a trend.
     
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  16. RobertR

    RobertR Executive Producer

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    Shakey Cam, hyperkinetic editing, the endless infatuation with the teal and orange color scheme, it's all bad.
     
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  17. trevanian

    trevanian Stunt Coordinator

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    No, I think I explained that WAS the point upthread, that all these things are crutches because they fail to get the thing captured in an effective way to begin with.

    But I strenuously object to throwing all this under the heading of shakeycam when half of these issues (which I agree are failings, including the teal/orange horrors just mentioned - what the hell is wrong with having a blue sky and white clouds, anyway?) don't have to do with camerawork at all. 'What's wrong with filmmaking technique?' would be a better heading, or 'what happened to filmmaking technique?' an even better one.

    Actually, 'WHY did this happen to flmmaking technique?' would be an equally interesting topic. I don't think the answer would be economics, which probably forms a lot of the thought behind abandoning traditional VFX and best-tool-for-job VFX in favor of whole cloth (though often inferior) CGI, and also drove the rush to shoot digital.

    And, more on topic, I also think that the projection experience, such as it has been through most of this century, escalates the issue, because a number of films that read visually as incomprehensible on the big screen play fine on blu-ray. You can absorb visual information better when clarity and contrast are present, and most theaters don't seem to deliver either in acceptable quantities. And I'm talking 2d, not the nutso films that have even less brightness because of the 'bonus' of 3d. Though ... I've seen exactly one film in 3D in the last 34 years, and that was a press screening which played so dimly I nodded off constantly, yet when I saw the same pic streaming, it was vibrant, sharp and easy on the eye, causing me to reevaluate the whole film.
     
  18. RobertR

    RobertR Executive Producer

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    Now that this thread seems to have morphed into complaining about movie presentation in general, I want to add that movies are often played far too LOUD, especially with Atmos. Loud, transient explosions and the like are exciting, but a continuous aural assault on the eardrums is not only uncomfortable, it's unhealthy, and tends to dilute the impact of dramatic moments. The loudness wars that destroy the dynamic range in popular music seem to have invaded movies. Younger guys are unfortunately somewhat oblivious to this.

    And I completely agree with you about poor contrast. Grayish blacks annoy me, and when I look at how FAR superior my old CRT projector and now my JVC projector are in this respect, it's further disincentive to go to the theater. The latest laser projectors seem to be much better in this regard, but you have to pay quite a premium for the privilege, begging the question of why not just buy the blu ray if you're paying the same (or more!) to watch the movie ONE time.

    As for 3D, I sometimes read about how the latest theater projectors are so much brighter to compensate for 3D's dimness and poor contrast, but my reaction is, "yeah, but the brightness and contrast will be FAR superior if you use that same projector for 2D!"
     
  19. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I say this with no authority but I think it's that the action in a number of movies today is mixed way too loud. I've never watched a modern action movie and thought that the dialogue was too loud but when that action kicks in, the volume can go to levels so obnoxious that it negates anything being added to the sequence by the sound effects. Some movies actually use painfully loud effectively (nearly all of David Lynch's stuff) but alot of action movies are diminished by directors who think that LOUD equals exciting. LOUD is the sonic equivalent of shaky cam- it's just an attempt to cover up that the movie isn't as good as they had hoped so they have to salvage things by basically yelling "THIS IS EXCITING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" in the audience's ears.

    As a horror movie fan, the same basic idea holds for horror movies as well. They don't have effective scares so they have to resort to LOUD screeches to make people jump. For horror, it works but it's cheap.
     
  20. trevanian

    trevanian Stunt Coordinator

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    I think using super-loud is cinematically effective when it is contrasted with near- or utter-silence. I mean, the monolith screeching on the moon in 2001 was loud enough that people in theaters held their ears, but then you get the Discovery mission, with low music. But that wasn't a gimmick - now in 2010 when you have the wife breaking the glass in the sink off camera to get a cheap audience-jump, THAT is a gimmick.
     

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