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Old July 15th, 2009, 08:19 PM   #1
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Action scene style

I am curious of how the "jerky affect" in the action shots of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers is achieved. Is this done in camera (i.e. low shutter) or done in post? Any insight on how to achieve the affect is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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Old July 16th, 2009, 12:03 PM   #2
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Shoot progressive, shoot 1/120th shutter speed or higher.
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Old July 16th, 2009, 01:26 PM   #3
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Have no idea if this is authoritative, but here's a blurb on the process from Wikipedia:

"To achieve a tone and quality that was not only true to the story, but reflected the period in which it is set, Spielberg once again collaborated with cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, saying, "Early on, we both knew that we did not want this to look like a Technicolor extravaganza about World War II, but more like color newsreel footage from the 1940s, which is very desaturated and low-tech." Kamiński had the protective coating stripped from the camera lenses, making them closer to those used in the 1940s. He explains that "without the protective coating, the light goes in and starts bouncing around, which makes it slightly more diffused and a bit softer without being out of focus." The cinematographer completed the overall effect by putting the negative through bleach bypass, a process that reduces brightness and color saturation. The shutter timing was set to 90 or even 45 degrees for many of the battle sequences, as opposed to the standard of 180 degree timing. Kamiński clarifies, "In this way, we attained a certain staccato in the actors' movements and a certain crispness in the explosions, which makes them slightly more realistic."

Saving Private Ryan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So at 1/2 or even 1/4 of the normal exposure time implied by this article, yeah, it looks like you could experiment with 1/120th and 1/250th to see if that gives you effect you want. I'd try up to 1/1000th, just for fun. And here's a time when 24p really would come in handy, to enhance the jerkiness, although at 1/1000th, it probably wouldn't matter much.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 02:05 AM   #4
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Having done this on a movie I shot for a friend, and having experimented in the past, I've found that 30p with a high shutter speed actually looks like plain old 60i INTERLACED footage to me.. . the look everyone is generally trying to avoid. My personal recommendation is 24p, and a 1/250 or faster shutter speed. Also, move the camera a lot. . .pan from this thing to that thing, real fast, make little micro movements all the time, instead of staying still, do little snap zooms. In wide shots, movement of whatever you're shooting needs to be more exaggerated than in closeups. What I mean is, somebody turning their head quickly or raising a gun to their eye for sighting will give you the jittery stutters in a closeup, but in a wideshot it wouldn't look like much. . .you'd have to have someone running across the frame or something to see the effect.
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Old July 18th, 2009, 06:43 AM   #5
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Thanks for your inputs, gentlemen.

I was surprised to hear that increasing the shutter speed is the answer(along with the camera techniques). I thought increasing the shutter speed would make the action smoother. I will give it a try.

If anyone would like to expound on WHY increasing the shutter speed causes this please do so. It would help me with shutter speed decisions in the future.

Thanks again for sharing.
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Old July 18th, 2009, 11:20 AM   #6
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Decreasing shutter makes it smoother, or adds some motion blur which can make frames seem to blend together (too low and it's a blurry mess).. higher shutter speeds will look more stuttered, especially at 24p which isn't a fast enough frame rate to keep up with the movement
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Old July 18th, 2009, 12:41 PM   #7
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From a physics stand point, the shutter determines the length of the time slice being captured to a single frame/field of your video/film. If you're shooting 24fps with a 1/48 shutter (180 degree), you're capturing precisely one half of the full time slice that occurs during the frame, leaving a slight gap between one frame and the next where stuff has happened that hasn't been recorded.

The half that has been recorded has captured all of the movement in that set of moments and burns them all to a single frame which causes any motion to blur. If you speed up the shutter, you're capturing less actual movement and increasing the gap between the end of the current frame and the beginning of the capture for the next. This both reduces the motion blur and increases the uncaptured motion between frames causing a crispness to the edges of elements within the frame and a "staccato" jump.

The camera movement therein cause reframing which means everything has motion within the frame making more stuff in frame have the stacatto look and exaggerating the effect.
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Old July 18th, 2009, 04:23 PM   #8
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Thanks for the lesson, gentlemen! You explained it very well and I learned a lot. Class dismissed. Thanks again.
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Old July 18th, 2009, 05:18 PM   #9
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Cris and Cole's explanations are about as good as any can possibly be, far better than I could explain this. But one thing that often causes confusion for some people is the difference between shutter speed and frame rate. Faster shutter speeds, as described above, do make motion stutterier, but *slower* frame rates do so as well, as you surmised. If you're only seeing, say, 15 pictures per second rather than 30 (at the same shutter speed), it will look jerkier, and that's perhaps where some of the confusion comes in.
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Old July 18th, 2009, 06:57 PM   #10
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One slightly more philosophical note on this, if you will:

This style of shooting almost demands a complementary style of editing. . .fast cuts, etc. If not, the shooting tecnique kind of reveals itself for what it is. . .somebody moving a camera around very frenetically. So either you need to a) have this footage cut very quickly, b) reframe frequently while shooting (stay on this guy for a second, whip pan to this guy, whip pan to something else, etc.--almost editing in camera ) or c) have your subjects be constantly moving in a big way (running across frame, etc.) Or any combination of the three. Large scale camera movements can help or be a substitute for some of that (dollies, jim moves, etc.)

The idea being to maintain the "energy" of the style. You see stuff on TV where they actually have the shutter and frame rate cranked for this style, but people are just standing and talking. And it looks silly.
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