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Hand held shooting, your opinion?
  • I like hand held in certain situations. I'd like some opinions on what people think and feel in an aesthetic sense about the software that simulates handheld? Does feel the same? Less organic? Can you tell at all? I was looking at New Blues handheld simulator.

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  • Well, do you really want an opinion? I see only very limited use for a shaky camera if you are working for the large screen. Why?

    Humans don't see this way! A moving human is subconsciously compensating for the up-and-down movement with eye movements and keeps the image pretty steady – a success of evolution. How would you hunt without this capability? ;-)

    In cinema, you can basically have two roles of the camera: an active camera, taking part in the scene as if present as another actor in the middle of the action – this is what Steadycam was invented for.

    And the silent observer, the camera that tries to let us forget it's even there, by being as stable and smooth as possible with tripods, dollies, cranes, jibs, gyros – the whole machinery.

    IMHO, the only reason to use a shaky camera is depicting a documentary style, making something look like "the news". This is where we got used to shaky images, since run-and-gun shooters can't avoid it. And this has been overused in recent years by cinema (and it's quite an effort to shake a 20 kg camera!) trying to be something else than it is (telling the "truth" instead of a well-told "fairy tale"). OK, there is Dogma, but even Lars von Trier himself got very sophisticated in his films with heavy grading and VFX, leaving much of his own dogma behind. BTW, I think I can spot some fake shakiness in "Melancholia", where the VFX would have been far too difficult for a real shaky camera.

    So, may I ask you why?

  • I like the feel that a shoulder mounted rig gives you, without the extremes that Von Triers went to with 'Breaking the Waves'. If you look at some of Christopher Nolan's films, he'll go to hand held in scenes that have emotional conflict in them - there's a couple of examples in 'the Prestige' that illustrate this very well. It's subtle, but definitely introduces a sense of unease in the viewer.

    There's a nice trick you can do in avid - edit a hand held shot you like the feel of on a bottom video layer. Above that, edit in the static shot you want a bit of movement in. You can then apply tracking values to your top shot that are taken from the layer underneath. It's totally convincing if that's what you're after.

  • I appreciate your comments but a lot of people, myself included appreciate the look of hand held. It gives a raw, energetic aesthetic. It can be effective in any number of situations. Hey, if it's good enough for Soderbergh it's good enough for me. What I'm trying to get at though is the aesthetic and perceived difference between real hand held and hand held simulated by various softwares such as New Blue Vegas plugins. I've also seen some simulated shakycam by loosening the ball head stalk -- but I'm more curious about software created shakycam.

  • I agree that subtle shakiness can induce an added feeling of uneasiness – in the right scene at the right time.

    I'm only opposing the overuse – it was only yesterday that I saw a short by a few young people that had good lighting, good actors, nice camerawork (focus and framing) – but was so shaky even on a relatively small projection that you got sick after a short time (not only me…). And I've seen overuse by some great names, I don't excuse anything just because he or she is a VIP…

    And I second the tracking suggestion, would work in any software with a decent tracker.

  • vfx hand shake has no real depth to its motion. It works to some extend but it does not feel right. Specially if you only produce x and y axis shake and no rotation/tilting wiggle. It gives your footage a fake and cheep look. I did it 123054872034 times because the company I work for produces events, trade fare booths, exhibitions and stuff like that. Video is always an add on, where the main budget goes into other stuff. 95% of the time there is 0 budget to shoot my own footage. So I end up animating a bunch of jpegs the customer provides me with.

    And here is where the camera shake comes in (After Effects): 1. replacing the sky of the jpeg with some dramatic cloud footage (Customers likes it epic). 2. Ken Burns it ("where did you got this footage from I thought we only had stills??") 3. add a grading and a vignette 4. add grain 5. shake it -> wiggle(6,14) or track real camera shake and apply it to your composition (all though Ken Burns and wiggle is a little over the top)

    Back in the days, when I did this as an intern (year 2000), my boss loved it. Investment was close to 0$, result was good enough at these days to fork in 50.000,- for such a "slide show".

    By the way, MK12 brought this gold rush to an end by inspiring people to do other stuff with images than just Ken Burnsing and wiggle them. This was the birth of modern desktop Motion Design.

  • Some of my favorite films were done with handheld..the Shining was done by the inventor of the Steadicam himself, Garrett Brown..another great, gritty film is What Doesn't Kill You...a lot of handheld shots there, no steadicam...Laws of Gravity is another, although that one is just a little too shaky for me..and of course the 'induced documentary style' of The French Connection. I haven't tried any software yet though.

  • @bostonmike Garrett Brown used 'his' Steadicam for the Shining... so not technically hand held.

  • I shoot hand held ALL the time, but i at least have the camera on a small rig (monopod, flash bracket, waterproof housing etc). If you do it often enough, you get good at it. The tiny little jitters you can remove with mercalli etc, with virtually no degradation of the image.

    But then, i'm traveling light jumping on planes with carry-on most times.

  • Seems people are doing a lot of hand held because they are sheep and follow the herd - and that's what the herd says is "cool".

    Like any shot it shouldn't be used unless justified. If it enhances the scene - great. But most times people use it today because they are lazy or trendy, mostly lazy.

  • @mrbill @nomad brought up what I think handheld is good for: Dynamic. A scene where one looks for a feeling of uneasiness, something that is confusing or very fast or similar can be great to show with a handcamera (say fight scenes, chase scenes or something similar) but I was recently the gaffer of a short which was all handheld. It was a film with low-tempo and mostly dialoge. To me the shakiness was completely out of place. It didn't add anything (for me it took away). I prefer to match with the dynamics of what's happening. If it's a slow paced scene with a low tempo and with an "easy" feeling tripod is the way to go, while a handheld is perfect for a high action or intense scene.

  • Sorry Al, I was thinking hand held as in not on a tripod or're right. I also feel like as some other people mentioned, you should be so engrossed in a film that the camera movement doesn't really stand out. There shouldn't be movement for the sake of movement. Take Reservoir Dogs for example..Mr White, in the warehouse giving a little monologue to Mr. Pink..the camera dollies in ever so slowly that we hardly even notice until Mr. White's face fills the frame..that's great, puposeful camera movement.

  • In this video, we discuss what the purpose of a Steadicam shot is and if it is something you even need to use or consider for your film. Steadicams can be expensive and take time and patience to learn. But often times, you might not even need or want the effect that a Steadicam creates. You might be able to shoot your entire career handheld. It depends mostly on what you are trying to say or the effect you are trying to create. You should choose your tools based on what you are trying to accomplish emotionally. You should not be using a tool just because you can.

  • Generally I wouldn't handhold with ANY small camera. Only larger cameras seem to deal with micro shakes and produces motion that is pleasing. I also think warp stabiliser generally should be kept away from. So my opinion is most cameras today shouldn't be handheld apart from shoulder rigged which in some ways is not 'handheld' or at least what many people today mean when they say it.

    NOW after saying that, you have to change your mind as situations change. I gave up on the stability in lenses but now from the Olympus 5 Axis we actually can handhold. Its got a steadicam feel but it doesn't stress the audience like 95% of handheld footage today does.

    *People have come to using a really wide lens while they use handhold, it works but its rarely an appropriate lens for what the user is trying to communicate.

  • Plus if I ever see another handhold test that is in SLOW-MOTION I WILL KILL SOMEONE!!

  • I think it's a VERY overused and old-fashioned technique.

  • I used handheld shots in my film and had no complaints. As long as it's not "Blair Witch" shaky and the story is great then it usually doesn't matter in my opinion. I love Lars Von Trier's films and he uses handheld shots almost exclusively.

  • but when you're on the move, it's hard to avoid "blair witch" shaky without some kind of support.

  • Hand-held because you know what effect you're after (like parallax, POV or that certain "live"ness where the presence of the camera operator is implicit in the genre), will succeed.

    Hand held because you're lazy will just end up looking the way your bedroom probably looks. Give up film making and try golf.

  • actually, when i first had the idea to film something, i just wanted to find a camera guy with all the expertise and equipment, not realizing how costly it would be. learning the technical stuff is interesting, but there's a learning curve. i recently watched the Film Riot youtube channel. Maybe he started out as a true indie filmmaker doing everything by himself, but he seems to have worked his way up to a Canon C100 and hiring a renowned DP and full crew to do the work.

  • image

    In Australia's ABC Four Corners program last week entitled Journey into Hell, there was a lot of hand-held camera stuff - necessarily so, because reporter/camera operator Mark Davis was undercover in Myanmar, putting his life at risk and using the least kit possible so as not to attract attention.

    Monday 22nd June 2015 Journey into Hell: On the trail of the traffickers exploiting the most unwanted people on the planet.

    They promise a safe passage away from persecution and a new life in a safe haven. Instead they beat, rape, starve and often kill those who put their trust in them. They're the people smugglers trading in human misery.

    Four Corners investigates the network that has trafficked tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into Thailand, through eye-witness accounts as well as video and audio recordings.

    "This is a network that's been in place for years." Human rights investigator

    We take the smugglers' route, discovering their methods and their alliances.

    There are lots of occasions where we can view the important 2-shots (from a B-Cam) of Mark shooting tricked-out DSLR (A-Cam) while interviewing - even from the shaky position at the back of a truck, as above. These 2-shots would have been considered obligatory by the ABC's own broadcast quality standards - in order to make the shaky handheld shots acceptable! In this case:

    Using an establishing shot with a B-cam will help the viewer go on the journey and remain largely consensual, even complicit, as a participant, in the A-Cam's shakiness.

    Watch the show completely, if you can. Learners can note the interspersing of footage of various types: in-field hand-held DSLR, Tripod-shots of same subject and of reporter, full ENG shots over the border from Myanmar, even studio-lit studio camera interviews. The hand-held shots are carefully validated by the steadier 2-shots like the one above. The handheld technique could not have been used otherwise.

    This is an example of a new kind of one-man TV journalism genre. Mark would have travelled alone, sometimes setting up a second camera on tripod, perhaps asking a passer-by to shoot video, watching his rushes back in his hotel and (I'm guessing) consulting with his producer online.

    If you are in Australia or you use a VPN to pretend to be in Australia, you can view the full story at

    Or, if you wait a week or two, somebody might put the episode up on YouTube.

  • Some more grabs from the Myanmar doco.

    In this unusual genre, we viewers see the reporter's handheld task and happily accept the less-than-perfect results.

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  • [slightly off-topic but relevant] After a few minutes of handheld, a relaxed, tripod-mounted interview gives the viewer a break to steady viewing and helps complete the mix.

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    512 x 288 - 30K
  • I think the hand-held simulation software is great! It takes some time to get it to look natural to match a real hand-held camera but it can be a real life saver when you need to put some motion into a shot. These are just tools to achieve a desired result. I think some comments here misunderstood the OP.

  • sorry, what is hand-held simulation software? thanks a lot goanna. that's very interesting and helpful. is that a shure lens hopper mounted on his camera? interesting how he holds the camera to his side with his elbow resting on his knee.

  • I'm sure there are lots of reasons why somebody might want to simulate hand-held video : quite possibly trying to make tripod-steady footage cut in with hand-held. If the editor has a deadline looming, he/she may make one of those premium priced software purchases they'll have to explain to the boss in the morning..