The Death of Hand-Held Camera Work

There is a chance, albeit a slight one, that with the breakthroughs in modern medicine and the benefits of living a largely guilt-free life, that I will live long enough to see the end of hand-held camera work.

Having just finished a feature film, I can unequivocally inform and educate you that the best investment you can make for your first time is a [expletive] tripod.

Mount the camera. Lock down your shot.

Do not be deceived by others or yourself into thinking hand-held camera work is some instant and immediately comprehended mechanism for being “edgy” or “organic” in storytelling.

New Rule: nothing screams amateur like the inability to stabilize a shot—nothing. Would you settle for out of focus photography? Then why settle for camera work than cannot even demonstrate the basic ability to be still, or follow the action properly.

Any camera movement (zoom, dolly, pan, crane, hand-held, swing) should only be considered in service of the scene, and the mood contained therein. If as a filmmaker you are picking any shot arbitrarily you have failed in your first obligation to the audience: you are not hip, naturalistic or defying film’s many choking rules—you are being selfish and ignorant. It may take too long to get a great shot, but it takes the same amount of time (whether you have a lot or little of it) to frame a steady, good shot as it does to frame an unbalanced, compositionally flawed one.

This should be common knowledge. The bad news is that it isn’t. You must communicate your visual expectations or you will not get what you, the scene and the story need. Beyond this, you must be strict with your expectations.

Buy a tripod then use it.

The Atlanteans—big fans of hand-held camera work. Look what happened to them.

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~ by David Jetre on December 27, 2007.

One Response to “The Death of Hand-Held Camera Work”

  1. I could not not have put what you have said more emphatically that you have done here, sir I salute you.

    Sadly, The number of films that drag a person kicking and screaming from any sense of immersion due to unnecessary “juddering” of the camera and “high octain” or “gritty” edits are far to many to number in this day and age.

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