Movie Magic: Why rock your camera?

blip

Sr Member
You’re on the bridge of the Enterprise,
a huge explosion has given Kirk a nasty graze whilst simultaneously killing all the crew wearing red shirts, everyone is running from left to right and back again. Meanwhile the cameraman is rocking the camera - to give the TV audience the sensation of disorientation. It must look pretty silly to everyone sitting in the studio.

A recent thread (by Art) about wanting to purchase a video camera for recording RPF interviews, made me remember how camera shake is the thing that separates good and bad amateur footage. Then I realised that the grammar of film has included camera shake and camera motion as part of its inventory. Shake means Disorientation. Out of focus can also be thrown into that same box.

No one would have had to think more about camera movement than the Star Wars Dykstraflex programmers. They would’ve had to figure out the equations for a gentle start, speedy run and gentle slowdown (so as not to shear the camera from its mounts).
Sci-fi and fantasy films are the perfect place to find curious camera work. It’s the nature of the content.

What are some good examples of the unusual uses of: focus, zoom, shake, pan, dolly, etc? Did you enjoy or hate them and what films are you thinking of? Any general tips tricks or observations about camera operation and cinematography are also welcome.
 
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micdavis

Master Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

The rack focus zoom in pull out, whatever it's called on Chief Brody in Jaws is always awesome.
 

Jeyl

Master Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

What are some good examples of the unusual uses of: focus, zoom, shake, pan, dolly, etc? Did you enjoy or hate them and what films are you thinking of? Any general tips tricks or observations about camera operation and cinematography are also welcome.

Oh, man. If you have the Top Gun 2-Disc set or the BluRay, check out the making of part that showcases how they did the effects. Even though the models the crew worked with were highly detailed, shooting them still made them stand out as models. The crew had to figure out how to make their model footage resemble the actual aerial footage that was already in the can.

Their solution? Mount the camera on a special base, install an electronic drill underneath the base, replace the drill part with a piece of wood that extends in one direction, turn the drill on causing the base to shake violently, and shoot the film.

It's all there in that making of. It's amazing how much behind the scenes material they shot for setting up the cameras. It's pretty awesome.
 

DarkHelmet

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

The shot made famous in JAWS is called the dolly zoom, also used to great results in the diner scene of Goodfellas.

Rack focus is when you roll your focus across a couple different subjects within a shot, which are usually in front or in back of one another. The camera does not move, so it doesn't change the depth of field.

I didn't use many focus/zoom tricks. I was taught old school that you shouldn't zoom unless it had a specific purpose. Same goes for a pan.

I love a good static shot, where the action is allowed to unfold within the frame without distractions from the camera operator.
 

Bobtherocker

Well-Known Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

Saving private Ryan was on last night.
The obvious in action documentary style running camera is ace but then there's also the use of light reflection (dont know what the technique is called) on the lense that creates light strips. Similar to the use of vaseline on glass for still cameras to blur the edges. Anyway, i like that effect too.
 

DarkHelmet

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

Saving private Ryan was on last night.
The obvious in action documentary style running camera is ace but then there's also the use of light reflection (dont know what the technique is called) on the lense that creates light strips. Similar to the use of vaseline on glass for still cameras to blur the edges. Anyway, i like that effect too.

In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, DP Janusz Kaminski took the coating off all of the lenses to give the footage a more raw look, which resulted in the strips of flare instead of globes.
 

CB2001

Master Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

When I saw the title, it reminded me of a book I found called Movie Magic: The Story of Special Effects in Cinema by John Brosnan.
 

SSgt Burton

Sr Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

There is an interesting shot at the beginning of "Zodiac" (the Robert Downey/Gyllenhaal one)-

It is an interior shot of a car looking out the passenger window at the houses going by. However neither the foreground of the interior car door (which frames the shot), nor the background houses "shake" at all. Everything moves by with an eerie calm as if the houses were on a conveyer belt.

The commentary described how they did it- the shot had to be acheived by mounting the car on a track. If you simply used a steadycam either the car door or houses would shake (one or the other) in the final shot.


Kevin
 

DaddyfromNaboo

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

Blip, you used the absolutely correct term the "grammar of film". If someone does not master basic grammar skills, will lose the attention of his/her audience at some point.

A movie loses me as audience when I get pulled out of it. Shaky cam in EP2 AOTC totally did that when GL showed the Clone Attack on Geonosis like it was filmed by a war reporter. Totally not fitting in with the rest of the movie.

Shaky cam today IMO is totally overused, especially on TV. Over here in Germany it´s a real disease, there is almost no drama that does not make use of it.

For me it began with BSG, but I got used to it, and sometimes it was even adding to the story.

But let´s be honest, a SciFi story is fictional material, no need to make it look like it´s a documentary.

Now that I think about it, to me it sometimes feels like they are breaking through the fourth wall by inducing way too much documentary and hence reality in certain series.
 

DarkHelmet

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

I caught an episode of Friday Night Lights last night and had to turn the channel because of the constant little zooms in and out. It was ridiculous and anyone who thinks it's cutting edge or adds drama should not be making movies or tv shows.
 

bwayne64

Sr Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

A movie loses me as audience when I get pulled out of it. Shaky cam in EP2 AOTC totally did that when GL showed the Clone Attack on Geonosis like it was filmed by a war reporter. Totally not fitting in with the rest of the movie.

Shaky cam today IMO is totally overused, especially on TV. Over here in Germany it´s a real disease, there is almost no drama that does not make use of it.

For me it began with BSG, but I got used to it, and sometimes it was even adding to the story.

But let´s be honest, a SciFi story is fictional material, no need to make it look like it´s a documentary.

Now that I think about it, to me it sometimes feels like they are breaking through the fourth wall by inducing way too much documentary and hence reality in certain series.


I am totally with you there. I also hate this new obsession with color correction, and trying to bring the audience into fight scenes. I remember the good ole days when you could actually enjoy a good movie fight. If I want to be in an actual fight, I'll go slug the projectionist after the credits, ;)
 

blip

Sr Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

6204-dutch-canted.jpg


I was talking to a friend about this topic and he mentioned the 60’s Batman TV series.
One of their main tricks was to tilt the camera a few degrees. I didn't know it, but it's even got a name.
Dutch Angle: Shots taken from a canted camera angle, often from a low position. Usually used to help create a jarring, "off centre" feel. Originated in 1930s German cinema, causing it to become known as the "Deutsch angle"; this was then corrupted to "Dutch angle", its most common name. Also known as Canted Camera. (Information from tvtropes.org.)
 

SSgt Burton

Sr Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

I was talking to a friend about this topic and he mentioned the 60’s Batman TV series. One of their main tricks was to tilt the camera a few degrees.

And that "angled" shot in Batman only occurred during scenes with the badguys present.

Why?

Because they were "crooked". ;)


Kevin
 

SSgt Burton

Sr Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

Are you suggesting that picture falls into the "angled shot for the crooks only" category? Because it certainly doesn't.

That isn't a typical Batman "camera angle off kilter" shot- it is the simpilest of camera trick effects- making it appear that someone is climbing a wall by adjusting the camera. The fact that the lens had been turned 90 degrees is hidden by the background also adjusted 90 degrees to give the impression everything is right side up.

Not the same thing as having the camera angle obviously skewed on purpose in which the viewing audience can clearly see it is "off".


Kevin
 

blip

Sr Member
Re: Movie Magic, why rock your camera?

My fault, it was a natural connection to make considering the previous flow. I figured I would throw it in there because it was another creative use of camera to get a specific result.

I read that the Riddler actor even got his traditional "tilted" shot when he appeared on Star Trek. Also that Spock got a few when he appeard before the Vulcan High Council and that even a few tilted shots appeard in Amock Time.
 
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