Does anyone actually like wobbly-cam?

I kept hearing about how great Parks and Recreation is. Well, except the first season. And maybe the second.

I watched the first seven episodes and the first episode of the third season. I hate the humor. It’s painfully unfunny.

But that’s ok. Different people find different things funny.

The thing I don’t get is the purposefully amateurish camerawork. The camera can never sit still. It wobbles, zooms like there’s a 3-year-old operating the thing and generally makes it really annoying and/or difficult to see what’s going on.

Does ANYONE actually like that kind of camera work??

I don’t like wobbly cam either. Films done with it strike me as trying to look non-professional, a fake “relaism”. It’s hard to concentrate on the action, for me at least. I also get a slight headache, not sure why.

Parks mostly moved away from that style after the first season, but they always used handhelds.

It bugs me when overdone, but most of the time it doesn’t phase me at all. It can be used well to put the audience a little more “in the scene” or to allow interesting scene transitions by panning or moving in space. Like a lot of filmmaking, it’s one of those things that you don’t really notice when it works.

I hate wobbly-cam, too.

I also hate it on cooking shows when the camera gets so close to the food in the pot or on the chopping board that one slice of carrot, for instance, fills the entire tv screen. And it’s wobbly, to boot.


It only bothers me when I notice it and fixate horribly on it. Hell, I didn’t even realize Parks was wobbly cam, and I couldn’t tell you what shows I watch are, except that I assume those pseudo-documentary style ones like The Office, Trailer Park Boys, and Modern Family are. Maybe even 30 Rock. But I’m not sure as I don’t notice.

I like it. The whole psudeo-documentary thing has gotten kinda overused, but generally speaking, I think its an effective way to tell a story. And I like how they take conventions from documentaries and put them in places where they don’t make sense (like BSG’s space combat scenes), but it works because people are familiar with the style.

And even allowing for comedic hyperbole, I think the OP is going overboard.

Its a sitcom. 90% of the time, what’s happening is several people are sitting on the main set reciting a humorous dialogue. It’s not exactly loaded with complicated action sequences. The occasional pratt-fall is about as complicated as it gets. Indeed, I suspect that’s why its popular with sitcoms. It’s a way to make things interesting visually, when your actual show is limited by budget and time constraints to basically filming different combinations of the same characters on the same three sets telling jokes and making funny faces.

It’s hands-down the funniest TV show of all time. Out of curiosity, which show would you say is the funniest?

I like shaky cam.

You’re both off my Christmas Card list.

It’s like anything technique: it can be used badly or it can be used well.

Homicide: Life on the Street used handheld cameras to very good effect; it emphasized the realism of the action.

OTOH, NYPD Blue tried to use it. But it seemed more like the cameras were on tripods and they were moving them to create the effect. It looked phony as hell, as though the camera operator was just moving things randomly for no reason.

I hate shaky cam, and after thinking about it, I don’t think it’s “documentary” style, but instead imitates the video style of a cell phone. But it’s never done correctly anymore (in older movies, it was handled properly in fight scenes, or car chases – Eastwood, Bronson, McQueen era, for example). I hope it goes away quickly.

Handheld shots are like a side dish at dinner. It shouldn’t be the whole meal.

No, if it were imitating the style of cell phone video, it’d be vertical. :wink:

But, seriously, it far pre-dates cell phone video and is going for that handheld documentary look. Cell phone video is a subset of this style, but I don’t see TV shows intentionally trying to mimic cell phone video. I’ve seen several ads go for that cell phone/Youtube look (a lot of those viral-type commercials), but not a TV series.

Tries to make a rude gesture at GuanoLad as the camera zooms in on my left eyebrows, zooms out to show me as a small speck on the skyline, and then pans rapidly left as I run after it in a hopeless effort to keep my middle finger in the frame.

I originally thought it was going for the documentary look (and in some cases, it was, like in “The Office,” but the more I thought about it, I’m of the opinion that it’s imitating (not duplicating) the effects of cell phones. Hand held, extreme zoom, that sort of thing. I may be wrong, especially since I’ve never talked to camera operators, or directors, or cinematographers, or anyone, really, about the whys and wherefores.

It simply makes sense to me, since (1) we’re enamored with smartphones right now, and (2) the entertainment industry is derivative (it wasn’t that long ago that every commercial had that overexposed, splotchy, art film look. But that went away, and so will this.) and (3) I’m of the opinion that right now, smart phones are roughly akin to early to mid 80s PCs.

Well, that’s the thing. I almost never see any kind of extreme zoom in cell phone footage. It’s pretty much always the default wide angle shot, and never changes. No zooming in or out during a shot. To my eyes, no TV show looks like it’s trying to imitate the cell phone look.

I think it started before there were many phones with video capabilities. BSG was using it in 2003, Firefly a year earlier. Phones that could take video were pretty rare then, and ones that could easily zoom while filming even rarer.

There are earlier examples, but I think Blair Witch (1999) started the current trend.

As a practical matter, I imagine a lot of cinematographers and directors get their start with low budget documentaries, so that the idea of mimicking the style in their later work is popular isn’t really surprising.

Exactly. Blair Witch is the first one that I remember being really popular, but that was an ultra-extreme version of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was being used before that on TV shows. That’s also more of what I think of when I think of “the cell phone look,” even though that was before cell phone video. Here’s another video that I think exemplifies the “cell phone look” or, more appropriately, the “average idiot with a camera” look. I’m blanking on the viral ads I’ve seen that feature this, but there’s a good number of them shot with that herky-jerky style, the inability to keep anything remotely in frame for longer than a few seconds at a time, and the occasional peep from the camera operator. There’s a video game that has ads like these, but I just can’t find the right search terms. I think it’s an FPS and the ad features kids using the futuristic weapons from this game (like an anti-gravity gun or ion blaster or something like that) in a video that looks like its shot by a guy holding an iPhone, for that real-life look.

Bear in mind the phone idea is only my opinion, but in my mind, it makes sense. Also, I’m not saying the shaky cam idea is mimicking every bit of cell phone video (because, as you said, it’s not vertical, and it’s not shown with the out of focus bars on the sides, like you see in news clips).

Or, I’m entirely wrong about that. It could happen. It’s not like it’s that important to me to be right about this. Pick your battles, and all that. :slight_smile:

One thing is inarguable though: I’m sick of it because it’s so damned overused.

Actually, now that I think about it, I seem to remember ER doing “shaky cam” back in the 90s, although not always. Looking through clips, it’s definitely mostly handheld work.