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Old June 18th, 2005, 01:18 AM   #1
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Camera motion -- how much is a good thing?

Camera motion -- how much is a good thing?

This first caught my attention when I viewed the demo reel of Charles Papert:
http://www.demoreelnetwork.com/chupap/index.shtml

I was impressed by how little he actually moved the camera, even by panning!!!

Of course, in some shots, the movement was so subtle, and so smooth, that you don't even notice it unless you're looking for it. If only I could do half as well ... :-)

I bring this up in context of today's TV shows and movies where radical movement seems to be in vogue. Shows like 24, NYPD Blue, ER, etc, seem to thrive on "adding" action via the camera. What we used to call amateur is now "reality" shooting.

I have to say, I prefer Charles' demo reel. All the rest comes across as too artificial to me. But then this is an art. And different folks will definitely have different views.

So what do you guys think? Do we have too much camera motion today, or I am just too old fashioned??
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Old June 18th, 2005, 01:42 AM   #2
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Well personally I think Charles is about the best DOP that posts on these forums, and he has the record to prove it. I have to agree with you that the subtle movements in that reel really impress me...especially the one where the camera descends from above the light fixture in what looks like a private investigators office. The movement may have been only 6 inches at the most, but it made the shot a billion times better than a static shot.

Funny though that as much as I agree with you that those small movements look amazing...I tend to be a radical mover myself...maybe I should take some time to review my own style to see if I can't improve.
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Old June 19th, 2005, 02:22 PM   #3
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Ironic, isn't it...a guy who's spent most of the past 20 years strapped into a Steadicam, yet at least half of his DP reel is composed of static shots...?!

I've actually intended to insert a bit more motion into the beginning of the reel, as it is one of the things that is looked for--it's more coincidence than anything else that there are plenty of tableaux present. Plus the first segment after the montage is from a film that was specifically static as a stylistic choice.

I am fond of moving the camera though--perhaps not as much as the current vogue. Some directors now feel that the camera should never come to a stop. It reminds me of the restless handheld interview style that MTV made popular 15 years ago.

Personally, I like to evaluate each shot and decide what type of motion might be appropriate, what direction and how much, rather than just blanket a sequence with activity.

(and hey, if you want movement--there's always my Steadicam reel on that same page!)
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Old June 19th, 2005, 03:08 PM   #4
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I think also it depends quite a bit on the medium. Personally, I think because of the lack of depth of field control, miniDV tends to need more camera movement since as the camera moves it makes the brain automatically realize depth better. In film the variety of lenses makes static shooting a little more eye-friendly, but motion still makes for beatiful shots.

As for too much motion...I'd point that towards the current rise of the indie film...or rather the indie film director who suddenly got studio backing. Alot of the new guys whose names I'm sure we all know...tend to like to shoot the film themselves just like they did back when they had no money, hand held. Then once those guys got popular, hollywood did what it does best...do exactly the same thing as everyone else.

I've hardly seen a fight scene in the past two years (excluding those coming from Asia) that wasn't hand held for all but the establishing shots. The new batman movie almost made me seasick with the crazy jerking around...most of the time I didn't know who was punching who until they hit the ground. So I guess I'm on your side Charles...movement makes for some great shots, but alot of people are just going way too far.

I think the beauty of a moving shot (such as that amazing steady cam shot of the girl walking into the building on your reel) is it takes the camera 'out' of the movie...as in you don't think of it as a camera filming an actor..but more that your just following someone. Those crazy jerky camera action scenes do the exact opposite.
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Old June 20th, 2005, 04:34 PM   #5
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Thanks Matt. Incidentally, I have just had a revision to the Steadicam reel go online via that same link--added footage from "Mr. 3000" and "Intolerable Cruelty" plus a few small tweaks.

The shot you mentioned with the gal (Kirsten Dunst) entering the glass house is one of my all-time favorites. Seeing it projected in the theatre was fantastic--it has a great organic vibe, and although it presented some interesting operating challenges, it is as close to perfection as I would hold myself to!
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Old June 20th, 2005, 09:53 PM   #6
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Wow that's kirsten dunst...i hate her so much. I guess that says alot for the shot that I didn't even notice it was her lol.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 09:05 PM   #7
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Impressive demo reel.
Any possibility of getting charles to help out in an indie production? :)
Definitely hope to work with Charles if the chance arises.
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 01:56 AM   #8
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Charles has done many, many indies over the years...however, his days of shooting other people's indies are essentially over as he moves into directing. I have this on good authority from the man himself....

Glad you liked the reel, Michael!

p.s. watch for an updated version to go online by next Monday or so, including additional scenes I shot for "Mr. 3000", plus more Mini35 footage. Steadicam reel was just updated yesterday.

p.p.s Matt, if it helps any, Kirsten is a very sweet young lady. She impressed me more than many other actresses of her generation that I have worked with (nope, I won't name names)!
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Old June 24th, 2005, 11:17 PM   #9
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When I first started out, I liked to move the camera a lot, but as I've matured in my directing style, I tend to evaluate each scene and I tend to only move the camera for a reason, or I like to justify it. I really try to avoid doing it just to do it.

Personally, I'm a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson's camera style. He moves the camera a lot, and seems that when he wants to make a point, he keeps it still. Normally it's the other way around.

Here's a link to the opening to my reel: http://www.savefile.com/files/5483618

You have to download it, but if you have a second, I'd be interested in your feedback. You can get a sense of the movement in there. Also, here's a link to the trailer for a film I'm working on:

http://www.savefile.com/files/5483618

Charles. The reel looks great, obviously. Like Matt said, you're probably the best that posts here. It's nice to have you here.
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Old June 24th, 2005, 11:37 PM   #10
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Josh, the reel looks terrific. I especially like the look on "Soldier's Farewell".
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Old June 25th, 2005, 06:08 PM   #11
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Thanks Charles. I've gotten a lot of compliments on the Soldier's part. Truth be told, we shot it all with natural light and an XL1. Funny huh?
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Old June 25th, 2005, 06:40 PM   #12
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Not at all. Natural light is often the most beautiful, it's all about picking the time and direction. And truth be told, I miss my Xl1 sometimes--I thought it had a great look.
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Old June 29th, 2005, 01:59 PM   #13
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What an absolutely brilliant reel. Thanks for sharing.

Some things that really stood out for me included...

- The graphitti (sp?) wall in the background of the first shot with the girl and mom walking .... just left me with the feeling that this wasn't going to turn out good, right from the start.

- The rearview mirror shot.... was this done in camera?!? Wow.

- Bar room shots.... really preserve the dark feel of these rooms, but everyone is lit so well and lack of grain/noise suggests there was a lot of light on set. (Really like the dolly/pan hand-off shot when the girl walks away from the guy with the Corona)

Question....
In the "Eye Wonder Films" opener, the window lighting effects are really interesting. A causual view might suggest daytime, but the mood established is very dark.
Was this a location or set?
What was being used?
Was the scene actually set at day or night?

Again.... fantastic material. A real treat to watch.
Thanks again.

- Nick
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Old June 29th, 2005, 05:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Jushchyshyn
- The graphitti (sp?) wall in the background of the first shot with the girl and mom walking .... just left me with the feeling that this wasn't going to turn out good, right from the start.
And sadly, it didn't!

Quote:
-- The rearview mirror shot.... was this done in camera?!? Wow.
It was indeed done in camera. The little girl had been replaced by a lifesize doll at that point. The mom, incidentally, was played by Melissa Fitzgerald, who would be known to viewers of "The West Wing" as Alison Janey's assistant.

Quote:
- Bar room shots.... really preserve the dark feel of these rooms, but everyone is lit so well and lack of grain/noise suggests there was a lot of light on set. (Really like the dolly/pan hand-off shot when the girl walks away from the guy with the Corona)
Shot at 200 ASA, yes, a decent amount of light on set--not blinding, but that was a studio set, so lit from scratch.

Quote:
Question....
In the "Eye Wonder Films" opener, the window lighting effects are really interesting. A causual view might suggest daytime, but the mood established is very dark.
Was this a location or set?
What was being used?
Was the scene actually set at day or night?
This was on location, a small house that was due to be torn down. Most of those shots were done during the day, and the additional daylight was created with daylight balanced 9-lights and HMI. The shot of the guy leaning against the wall with the huge head shadow was shot just after the sun went down, with a 12x12 griffolyn positioned behind the tree and glowed with a 9 light. The scene was set during the day, but I wanted to give the feeling that light barely penetrated his house as he was in such a funk from losing his family (contrasted with the shots that appear just after that where the family is all together, which are warm and glowing).

Glad you enjoyed the material, Nick!
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Old July 6th, 2005, 08:56 PM   #15
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For any who might be interested, the latest version of my DP reel has gone online at the same link (http://www.demoreelnetwork.com/view/...ap&size=large). The additional photography I did for the Touchstone feature "Mr. 3000" is now included (only had to wait a year and a half for the DVD to come out...!!), and I've added a few more DV clips at the end, in the "digital cinematography" section.
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