STEADY AS SHE GOES

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
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Dave Watterson
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STEADY AS SHE GOES

Post by Dave Watterson » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:49 pm

It is fashionable for some commercial movies to sport the hand-held look - think of the Bourne series, parts 2 and 3. But are we getting too lax about taking steady pictures?

At UNICA in Korea 300 or so enthusiasts turned up, most with camcorders ... and not a tripod in sight. Jan and I have seen hundreds of amateur films this year and the vast majority of them had the shakes.

If there is a good filmic reason for unsteady shooting - as in Bourne - that's fine. But usually there is no cinematic purpose involved.

People put their faith in the "steadyshot" facility of their camcorder, in various patent harnesses to support it round their neck or variations on the humble bean-bag.

They don't work.

The Mercalli plug-in for some editing programs which Mike Shaw introduced to us can help a lot. But there is no substitute for getting a rock-solid shot in the first place.

If you have to track look for a wheelchair or child's tricycle. Years ago Brian Saberton suggested that in time of need you could put the camcorder in a plastic bag with its lens poking through a hole. Carry the bag as smoothly as you can.

In the current issue of FVM magazine Tom Hardwick notes "the cheap camera on a tripod will generally give far better pictures than an expensive hand-held one."

Among our regular contributors Michael Slowe and Willy Van der Linden are famed for their use of a tripod. Ned Cordery has a 2-page spread in FVM with 5 photos all showing him using a tripod. Ken Wilson's columns explain that he almost always uses one.

If some of the best movie makers still think it worth lugging a tripod around, why on earth don't most of us learn from them?!

Dave

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Stephen
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Post by Stephen » Sat Nov 24, 2007 1:25 am

Dave, I'm afraid I couldn't agree with you more !!

Just invested in a Libec TH950 with DL2 dolly... nice kit and more than up to the job.....

many years ago I did a test with 35mm still cameras to see if it was really worth lugging a tripod around and if in the end the difference was detectable...

zooming in on the negative with the grain magnifier it was very easy to tell the tripod shots.... sharp as a dart... the finished print had a certain quality about it that got the 5 second hook into the viewer...

without doubt the tripod shot will always... always win hands down....


Having said all that I am a great fan of Danny Boyle's style (28 days later - which incidently was shot entirely on DV) the camera never stops moving !!!... fantastic use of the equipment to get a desired result.
Stephen

Film making is not a matter of Life and Death
It's much more important than that.

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stingman
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Post by stingman » Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:21 am

I`m a firm believer in `the new way of filming!` There is a time and a place not to use a tripod. I`ve see `Hustle` on BBC1 with a 5 minute walking shot, useing a tripod or rails to follow the two people talking, walking, going into a shop and back again. Truely excellent!!! Not a camera shake in sight. I`ve seen films (and alot of them modern), and they have scenes when the camera is shaking while filming. I love these more.

So I like the shakey type of shot more. It makes you feel that your there in the scene.

This subject was brought up at club last year. One old dear said that if the members were to do this sort of shaky stuff then she would leave. Bless her little cotton socks! She doesn`t produce any films anyway.... so it`s bye to her then :lol: :lol: :lol: !!
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Brian Saberton
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Post by Brian Saberton » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:07 pm

I personally found The Bourne Supremacy to be very hard to watch because of the relentless camera movement and very rapid cutting that made it difficult, at times, to register what was going on. This topic, funnily enough, cropped up at the recent Blackpool Film Collectors Convention when guest celebrity Shane Rimmer, commented on this modern trend. Norman Wanstell, who worked on the sound editing on Goldfinger, took up the theme in regard to modern musicals where the musical numbers are cut to shreds (e.g. Baz Lurhmann's Moulin Rouge). In the old days musical numbers were shot with minimal cuts so that the audience could see the skill of the dancers. For myself I don't mind the moving camera if done with purpose but in the Bourne films I think it is badly overdone - films need to vary their pace and the audience needs time to draw breath once in a while. Also I wonder if this just draws attention to the technique rather than letting the audience concentrate on the story. On the other hand this weeks episode of TV drama Spooks was an excellent example of how a hand held camera, some very shaky shots and brilliant editing can be used successfully to highten dramatic tension in a specific sequence on a packed aeroplane which was diving out of the sky.

Getting back to us amateurs I've had some severe criticism for not using a tripod in one of my recent films and I have to plead guilty in this case and agree that because much of the subject matter was pretty static a tripod should have been used. The difficulty though, is that some places just won't let you use a tripod (these days "health and safety" provides a convenient excuse for officialdom to hide behind) or, because they think that putting a camera on a tripod makes you a professional, will demand a fee. I'm afraid I don't posess Willy's ability to charm people!

For the most recent film I've been working on I have used a tripod where possible but otherwise I've had the camera set to steady shot which I find does help. Otherwise I try and shoot on the wide angle end of the lens setting, or with a wide angle adaptor, as much as I can.
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stingman
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Post by stingman » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:25 pm

Brian Saberton wrote: On the other hand this weeks episode of TV drama Spooks was an excellent example of how a hand held camera, some very shaky shots and brilliant editing can be used successfully to heighten dramatic tension in a specific sequence on a packed aeroplane which was diving out of the sky.
One of my Favorite programmes :D You will find most films and tv productions are filmed with the shakes. I saw this episode (fantastic series too) and it worked well. This sort of shooting does work well. It the old days of `proper BBC stuff`, it would have all been shot with a tripod. Totally losing its capture of the imagination and making it look too clean. I hope this sort of filming continues. The professionals make it look good.

I`ll stress my usuall programme I mention. `Top Gear`. Having modern thinking presenters (arn`t they funny, I laugh my socks off each episode!!!!) and modern filming ways with strong camera angles and jerky camera work makes this programme the number one to watch. With old BBC filming it would have been scrapped long ago.

God Bless the BBC....................
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Willy
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Post by Willy » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:25 pm

quote="stingman" - I`m a firm believer in `the new way of filming!` There is a time and a place not to use a tripod. I`ve see `Hustle` on BBC1 with a 5 minute walking shot, useing a tripod or rails to follow the two people talking, walking, going into a shop and back again. Truely excellent!!!
_____________________________________________________

Long live the tripod !
The best investment I ever did was buying a Libec tripod Tripod T60. It's a heavy one but at that time my camera was much heavier. It was a panasonic SVHS. Everybody thought that I worked for a TV Channel. Now it's a bit too heavy for my Sony 2000, but I am very happy with it. I am as happy as my friend Stephen (I met him in Scotland) who has also bought a Libec. Mine was a second hand Tripod. I was very lucky that I could find that bargain.


In side-car of motor bike
I use my tripod for 95 % of the time. My shots are very solid some judges have already told me, but Ian is also right ! In my Breendonk film I didn't use my tripod when I followed the prisoners. They were led into the camp. I was sitting in the side car of a heavy German motorbike. This shot gives the audience the feeling that they are prisoners themselves.

On foot or in wheelchair
I followed the prisoners on foot when they were pushed into the working area. This was better than using a tripod on rails.
In the corridor of the concentration camp I followed Gaston De Wit, the ex-prisoner of war, while sitting in a wheelchair. Of course also without a tripod.

Lying on the ground
When I was filming in the middle of the Menin Gate in Ypres I was lying on poppies made of coloured paper. They had been dropped through an opening in the roof. I could film the military parade in frog's perspective (In English it's an other expression.). Of course I was not using my tripod. You can imagine that many people thought that I was an idiot : an old man lying down in the gutter. After that shot I was very happy with the result, but my wife was not. My raincoat was red, not cream anymore. Before the ceremony there was some drizzle and the ground was still wet...

Behind a hurdle without a tripod
In my Cotswolds documentary you can see horses jumping over hurdles. At that moment I was lying just behind a hurdly only with my camera, so without my tripod. In fact I was very lucky because one horse just managed to avoid me.

So I'm not making a plea for not using the tripod. On the contrary ! There are only some circumstances in which it is better not to use one.

Zooming without a tripod
Zooming in without using a tripod and at the same time "travelling" or making a "tilt up or down" is not possible. The result will be a very shaky shot.

Laziness ?
Ian, you call it "the new way of filming" ! Maybe saying the following thing is very provocative : in my opinion younger camera men don't have the courage anymore to carry heavy tripods. A friend of mine even said that they are too lazy to carry tripods. Nowadays films are even made with "mobile phones". Mostly by youngsters. We already talked about it in this forum.

Perseverance
In Belgium and France international film festivals are organised with such kind of films. That's very sad I think. I also have the impression that youngsters who are amateur filmmakers don't have the courage anymore to work with intensity on their films. Perseverance is one of the characteristics of a good filmmaker. Carelessness is one of the characteristics of an avarage filmmaker.

My wife carries the camera
So after all : using a tripod is demanding but also rewarding. The quality of the shots are much better. There are only a few circumstances in which it's better to ask your wife to hold the tripod for a few minutes. To be clear : I always carry the tripod. My wife carries the camera.
Willy Van der Linden

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Post by Willy » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:28 pm

The quality of the shots is much better.
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stingman
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Post by stingman » Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:34 pm

I do agree with you Willy. Tripods are essential in film-making. I cannot stress this enougth with you all.

It`s just that I love and like the shaky type of shot film. You can emerse yourself in it better. You get that extra dimention. But...... 80% or even 95% of a film should be with a tripod. It just depends on the type of film you are making and what style you want it in.
Being a one man band in film-making. I have to use it if i`m in the shot unless I want a close-up!
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FILM THURSO
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Post by FILM THURSO » Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:59 am

It's all well and good as a technique but it get's on my goat a bit because it get's over used or should I say they try to hard to give it the hand-held look. Over shaking the camera is just stupid when simply holding a camera genrates the real and right amount of shake. There was some American cop thing I caught sight of one night in a rare moment of my TV being on. Every shot was shakey like hand-held but overdone. It grew very tiring to watch very quickly- simply too much movement.
Flowing movement keeps people awake but calm as it creates a psychological feeling of flight. Crane shots, sweeps and beauty-passes are extremely pleasing even when there is a lot of them one after the other.
Shakey shots to replicate hand-held should never be overdone because it has the same effect as traveling in the back of the car or a pram/pushchair. Small jolting motion puts humans to sleep and whilst shakey shots aren't physical they still go into the brain the same way so the viewer gets tired. The eyes particularly object to all the comotion.
I used to work in a factory and did a lot of movement on the spot and whilst being very physically busy, the brain was often pushing me to sleep (or was it just tedium?)
It's another example of new toys being over-played with!

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