Abilities United

It’s a Twister! No! It’s an Earthquake? No! Amusement Park Ride? No!

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I
remember when this new camera technique was first launched – it was crazy –
super smooth and meant you could also go into place that were small tight
corners, places a film camera has never been! I thought that “The Shinning” was
the first time a stedicam was used – at least on a major production. Maybe it
was just the first time Kubrick got to use it. And used it he did! Following
little Danny around on his Big Wheel through all the rooms and hallways of the Overlook Hotel! It was
amazing as to get that kind of shot so smooth and steady it would’ve taken several shots, several times
when the dolly track had to be moved! Or be really shaky in attempting a hand
held maneuver. It was revolutionary!

In
the early 1990’s when a couple of television programs on MTV used hand held
digital cameras and it caused a unique effect – some intended but most because
the budget and schedule didn’t allow for anything better!

I
don’t remember when I first saw Hollywood use
the shaky camera effect – except that it was around the late 80’s, early 90’s –
and that it was originally meant to capture that great 14-25 year old segment!
At least that was the commentary going around from those in and out of the industry. Filmmakers found that it was a cheaper and quicker way to shoot some scenes and
it became a predominate technique for action scenes, especially fighting scenes
because the angle of the camera – to the stuntmen swinging their arms and
kicking their legs did not have to be precise so that audiences could tell
there was never any actual contact.

I
can understand that for the most part. It is also supposed to give the audience
the feel or rather the look as if you were in the room and moving really
quickly or fighting yourself! But since then it is also used if the character
is running or jogging or walking real fast for an OTS or POV shot. Any kind of
activity nowadays seems to require the shaky camera effect. I cannot take it
any more!!!! Let me say that again – louder I CANNOT TAKE IT ANYMORE!

A
few months back I re-watched “48 Hrs.” as it is one of the pre-recorded VHS
tape I still have and wanted to see it. Mind you this is an action flick and
yet I never saw a shaky freakin’ camera shot throughout the movie. I cannot
tell you how overall satisfied I was in watching that movie – aside from the
great performances from Murphy and Nolte. Great storytelling, great action –
guns firing, buses hijacked and run all over the road and all smooth non-shaky scenes! Sure you had to have more WS when  you’re doing it without a ahndheld or forcing the camera to shake but I still loved it!

I
am right now watching the “The Island” on HBO2 and this is what finally got me to
writing this blog I have had on my mind for months and months. First I really
love this movie – it is a storytelling action flick that makes you think –
especially about cloning! (For the record it still does not keep me from my
STRONG support of stem cell research! But that is for another blog!) Overall it
thought it was also shot beautifully. The golden sun on that faces of Scarlett
and Ewen as opposed to the white pale faces of those in the real world they
encounter – although Steve Buscemi there isn’t much even a talented Make-up Artist and DP could do to change his pale skin type – no
offense Steve, I love ya but I’m just saying! But a good contrast is when
Lincoln and Tom – both played by Ewen, meet in Tom’s house. You can see it a
lot.  Anyway besides all of that –
getting back to the point and the one – if not only criticism of the way it was
shot was the shaky camera. Now again there are some scenes I can agree with its
use but I would prefer in small dosages. Even on the semi-truck speeding down
the freeway in the futuristic Los
Angeles. And what really got me on that scene was the
fact that when you have the camera on Scarlett Johansson – DO NOT SHAKE the
camera – even for effect, especially when it is a head shot and all the care taken to film her in the
golden touch which to me did justice to her natural beauty. You’re messing it
up seriously with a shaky camera.

Am
I saying that you must sacrifice the action or the picture on the whole, the
theme of it all just so that the frame is steady on Scarlett’s face? No. Yes, I
mean no! And by the way – Scarlett I do not intend to demean or make your
natural beauty a superficial thing – you are an incredible actor as well as
being incredibly attractive and I hope to work with you one day or at least meet and hopefully become friends!

But what I am saying is that there is too much
sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-shaky-shaky camera in movies today – and if I were to reduce the
amount – I would surely make sure it was when the camera was on Scarlett! I
have had many people agree with me on this. The shaky camera that is –
EVERYBODY would agree with my comments on Scarlett!

One
last example. I saw “The Bourne Ultimatum” opening weekend – and it was great –
I loved it and Matt – you’re the every thinking man’s action spy hero! And this
was an action flick and there was a lot of shaky camera – most of which did not
bother me as much as usual. But two scenes I remember distinctly where it was
really overboard. One was when the chase was on the roof tops and the camera
followed behind those who were chasing Bourne. When they got to the roof they
stopped – looked around for more then a few seconds and then resumed their
chase but the camera NEVER stopped shaking! Whew! TOO, TOO MUCH! The second was
inside the CIA offices – the characters were all in one room and the camera was
shaky.

Alright
lastly like I said before – there are times when there is going to be shaking.
POV from inside a car, fighting scenes – although one more note on that even
though it is off topic a bit – the two scenes that got very good reaction from
the audience was when Bourne kicked ass in the hallway over three or four dudes
and the last hit was not even on screen and people went “Oooooooo” as they know
without actually seeing what happened! And second was when Bourne used a
hardcover book off a shelf and placed it with the cover facing him to punch it,
suddenly I cannot remember why – if it was to hit someone or to break something
– but I made a mental note of the reaction from the audience that I interpreted
as a good reaction! I mention this because not every action scene needs to be
filled with blow them up, blood splattering everywhere and for economy sake using
a shaky camera effect for it to be effective!

Let
me finish by saying – I will not work with a DP that likes the shaky camera
effect. Only when it is necessary because of the shooting circumstances – in a
tight spot where a stedicam harness is out of the question – or just has to be
shaky. The movies are not Shakee’s Pizza or Shake ‘N Bake (unless you’re Ricky
Bobby!) I get a headache from being in a theatre where the camera shots are
shaky too often and unfortunately that happens in too many movies, so along
with my vow to keep the shaking down in my movies – I plea with all DP and Directors to also
keep it down! Thanks!  

  

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