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Old August 17th, 2009, 12:38 PM   #1
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Multi-cam Project 'Look' Dispute - Shakycam or No?

Hello all. This is my first post here.

I'm expanding my business to include video production and have taken on a couple partners to do so. My partners are quite a bit older than me and have much more experience in business, clients, and design work, but I have more experience with programming, animation, and (limited) video. I'm by far the one who's the most interested in doing video and feel like I'm the one with the 'vision' of how things should be done-- but they're older and wiser on so many levels.

So far we're in the process of shooting two test projects to start our demo reel, but we're having a fundamental disagreement on some video production techniques-- one of which is the setup and shooting of the various cameras. We have 3 or 4 cameras going at any one time, and my partners insist that one of them be handheld/shoulder mounted for that dramatic, subjective look that is so popular these days. To me, having 2 or 3 tripod cams with 1 mobile just looks terrible. We're shooting calm subjects, one of which is instructional/educational of an artist's drawing technique. I've been trying to find a webpage that explains camera movement connotations to prove my point but so far everything I find just explains the technical terms like dolly, pan, tilt, etc.

I, being the editor, start switching between cameras and the mobile/shaky one in Premiere and it's driving me nuts on a number of levels. I try to hold the cam as steady as possible while we're shooting, but it still looks so different from the tripod mounted footage. In my opinion, camera movement is a -huge- part of the process, and only in a possible dramatic situation would we even want this technique at all. Personally, even though it's popular I don't care for the shaky-cam feel much anyhow, but it seems doubly strange to me using it in a 'classroom' feel even if we're targeting a younger audience.

Can someone please explain-- am I crazy and being too picky or does anyone else think that mixing camera movements like this is strange and/or unnecessary?

Thanks!
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Old August 17th, 2009, 12:47 PM   #2
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I happen to agree with you completely. I think the subject matter and the "story" you are trying to tell -- and let's face it, everything is a "story" -- should dictate how you shoot. This handheld shaky thing currently in vogue (I blame Blair Witch) is usually only used when you have old people trying to look hip and in my opinion usually fails miserably, taking your viewer out of the story and away from the content.

I know many people disagree with me and they will undoubtedly weigh in vociferously.

I shoot four-cam, and all four are on tripods. We pan and zoom as necessary, of course, and once in a while a nice slow deliberate pan or zoom that highlights the performers and doesn't give people a headache will actually make it into the final cut. And even here a whip pan or crash zoom can be appropriate.

But you also have to consider your audience. Some viewers love this epileptic stuff. PBS does it the more traditional way, while Food Network is all about the crazy close ups, handheld jerkiness and overall nausea-inducing movement. To each his own, I guess. In the three years I was with Food Network, we were out talking to viewers and non-viewers practically every night, and not one person told us they liked this technique. It was a desperate pathetic attempt to attract "young" viewers who weren't interested in the subject matter anyway and would never watch no matter what.

To me it's an illustration of activity substituting for action, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. The problem here is that it's all subjective -- if your partners like it there's nothing you can do to talk them out of it. It probably will do no good to point out to them that it's more popular in British (Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson) shows than on their American versions, that the US shows that used to be the worst offenders (Ina Garten, Giada) have both ratcheted back on this considerably, and that the shows that did this the most (Chef at Home) have been canceled.

Do you have the funds to do some testing? If you are shooting two test projects, try one with and one without, test them both and see what people in your target audience say.
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Old August 17th, 2009, 03:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Clement View Post
Hello all. This is my first post here.

I'm expanding my business to include video production and have taken on a couple partners to do so.

So far we're in the process of shooting two test projects to start our demo reel, but we're having a fundamental disagreement on some video production techniques

Thanks!
My thoughts... How well do you think this new partnership will do, if you can't even group to put together a simple demo reel?
What happens when you get a client?
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Old August 17th, 2009, 04:23 PM   #4
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My thoughts... How well do you think this new partnership will do?
VERY good question - that's why I hate partnerships, you're much better off having a company structure where you have the majority holding.

If you're sticking with the partnership you need a written agreement that sets out (among other things) how disputes are resolved and/or who has final say.
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Old August 17th, 2009, 07:52 PM   #5
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Keith,
To me, it all depends on the subject matter. In the case you describe, I'd go rock solid steady and leave the handheld shaky look (popularized in the Bourne films among others).
If you were doing a run n' gun documentary you would most likely be shooting handheld and trust me, you'd have plenty of shakey footage.

I agree with the others that if this partnership is haggling over the demo, it could be problematic when you are dealing with a client. While all partners will disagree at somepoint about something, this is not the way I personally would want to start off a new partnership.
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Old August 17th, 2009, 10:32 PM   #6
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Thanks to everyone for the great advice. All your points are very valid.

I think part of our problem is that in all the rush to do these projects that have come along (even though they're free at the moment), we hadn't specifically designated who was going to be the director. Being by far the youngest of the group, I didn't feel comfortable about designating myself into that role. Today, however, we got that set. Yes, I know you're all thinking 'how could you possibly start a project without knowing who the director was', and you'd definitely be right. These are great guys I'm working with, and we've worked together for over 10 years now (although not under the same business name or doing actual video work). I think we ended up settling into the same 'basic teamwork' roles that have worked well for us over the years. In video it's more apparent than ever that the same mentality doesn't work so well. There simply has to be a final decision maker.

Frankly, though, one of the reasons for these preliminary projects was to see who does what tasks the best and to weed out the bugs before we start working with the actual clients. I do feel we're making some good progress, which is good because we have some clients lined up already.

We've agreed that for the next shoot in this project (it's a series), we're going to use all 4 cams on tripods. I feel the same way as the rest of you seem to regarding the shakycam feel. I really feel I'm right, and as the newly appointed director I'm glad to say we'll be doing things my way from here on!

I appreciate the tips!

Keith
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Old August 18th, 2009, 01:53 AM   #7
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I do almost all my work handheld but out of necessity. In my situation mounting a camera on a tripod isn't practical or even possible most of the time.

Moving the camera excessively just for the sake of movement, is a bad idea. Especially annoying is the unmotivated zoom that some seem to employ because it's "exciting" or "cool". Ugh.

In some multicam shoots (a cooking demo, for example) I'll combine a tripod-mounted camera with a handheld that chases closeups, but that handheld camera is kept as steady and smooth as possible. Dutch rolls and wavering compositions are a no-no.

I noticed in "Breaking Bad" a lot of the work is done handheld. But there are times when a very solidly mounted camera is employed, probably to give the viewer a break.

Regarding partners, perhaps each person can be assigned different areas of responsibility so you're not designing by committee. In the concept of "single-vision management", the big picture is guided by a single person. Others add their talents to help facilitate that vision.

Also, think about how interpersonal dynamics can change with the birth of a new business. While your group has been working together at a particular level for 10 years, it might not function the same way when different pressures are applied. If you decide to get serious and run a money-making venture with a partner, be sure everyone signs an operating agreement before you hang the sign. Sometimes friendship ends where business begins.
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Old August 18th, 2009, 08:41 PM   #8
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I've been there in other ventures. Partnerships suck and just don't work ... very often.

Run your own business and hire in the other two when necessary. That will enable you to make the settling of disputes almost instantaneous.

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Old August 18th, 2009, 08:45 PM   #9
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Run your own business and hire in the other two when necessary. That will enable you to make the settling of disputes almost instantaneous.
AMEN! A loose cooperative of creative personalities that work together well when roles are well defined is USUALLY a win-win. Whoever brings a specific job (and funding!) to the table gets to make those decisions. Case closed. Just remember to play well with others...
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Old August 18th, 2009, 08:46 PM   #10
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And to answer the ORIGINAL question:
IF done well, mixing handheld and static shots CAN be done well BUT it requires an editor that knows WHEN to cut between cameras. Pacing is MORE important than camera selection in my humble opinion.

PS. I prefer tripod mounted cameras OR handheld work in wide angle. You CAN'T hold a telephoto shot handheld for any useable length of time (I've done LOTS of it for live sports multicam - I'm good but it still doesn't look great).
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