I pit the spastic cinematographer.

What the hell is up with the spastic cinematography trend of late? If you’ve seen The Bourne Supremacy, you know what I’m talking about. Without giving away plot elements, the filming style is very herky jerky. It makes the MTV style of quick cuts look like long tracking shots, by comparison. The fight scenes and chase scenes are rendered next to impossible to follow because of this filming style.

The worst recent example of this style was the Denzel Washington flick “Man on Fire”. Combine that herky jerky shakiness with washed out colors…and you get utter crap. The filming style seemed to be what the movie was about (perhaps to “make up” for a lack of screenwriting?).

Are there movie goers out there who actually enjoy this? Do they think it “adds” something to the movie?

Strap on a stead-i-cam now and then. Use a tripod or dolly. Give me something I can actually watch without having an epileptic fit.

At this point filming a a fight scene with one steady-cam and no cuts would be a cinematic tour de force.

I don’t even notice it, myself. Maybe because I grew up with it, or something, but I don’t see a huge difference between hand-held and steadi-cam. I mean, I can see the difference, of course, but it’s like the difference between a camera panning to the left and a camera panning to the right. It doesn’t affect my ability to understand or enjoy whatever I’m watching, and, in when used in the right context, can actually improve both. Mind, I haven’t seen either of the movies you mentioned, so they might be examples of spectacularly bad cinematography in general, and not necessarily because of the shaky cam.

Haskell Wexler started it, a couple decades ago, with the thought that a hand-held camera is somehow “arty.” Current movies have taken that to extreme, I guess if the audience can’t see or figure out what’s happening, that’s supposed to be more exciting. Brrrrr.

Let me clarify…this is not a salm against hand held cinematography. Done right…it adds a certain feeling to the scene.

I remember when Hill Street Blues first came out…they were one of the few shows to really use hand held cams to good effect. Law and Order does it in their opening sequences all the time (a lot of times…it’s a single shot).

No…in the movies I mentioned…the cinematograper INTENTIONALLY adds jerkiness to the shot, twisting and shaking the camera to, I guess, add “chaos” or “frenzy” to the scene. The theory seems to be, hey if “some” jerkiness/unsteadiness adds something to a scene, let’s tie the camera to a monkey loopy on Night Train and have some fun with this scene.

I’ve been one of those who avoids shows or movies with the ‘shaky’ view, myself. For me, watching something on TV that has a ‘realistic, unstabilized view’ is a quick trip to vertigo. When I’m looking at things in real life, even if I’m jumping around, it’s not my field of view that moves, it’s my own reference point, and my brain makes the approprite interpretations at the imaging center.

I can see the point of the ‘shaky’ view for a fight, or other short, intense, and confusing scenes. But as a regular technique it seriously detracts from my ability to enjoy any visual story.

Really, I had no problem with it in The Bourne Supremacy, once it to the action scenes. In the slow scenes with his girlfriend it was kind of distracting, however. The only movie that almost made me sick to my stomach was The Blair Witch Project. Of course, it was pretending to be a documentary, but even Michael Moore doesn’t jump around that much.

Haven’t seen Supremacy yet, but in The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon did most of his own fight scenes. The distracting camera work allows the viewer to ignore the fact that Matt can’t fight.

The OP is right; it’s a lazy technique to create “chaos” in a scene, when usually all it does is create nausea. I would have enjoyed Supremacy a lot more if not for the cinematic stylings of Shakey McHandheld. There are scenes which are clearly shot with a standard or even wide-angle lens that could only have been artificially shakey. The camera simply doesn’t move that much on its own when you’re trying to hold it still.

I hated NYPD Blue’s shakeycam, that was clearly still on a tripod but deliberately wobbled about anyway. It distracted me so much I never watched the show. I tend to view misguided nonsense like that as pretentious bullshit.

Dark colors and unstable camera moves can add to the film, but not when the whole point of what’s onscreen is supposed to be action and movement. Remember “Gladiator”? Brutal hand to hand combat in broad daylight on a big sandy lot. Ideal setting for incredible fight sequences. Instead we get jerky camera shots, lots of fast cuts, washed out colors and that funky effect that makes it look like every other frame was removed. It just looks like they are covering up for a lack of planning and lack of capability on the part of everyone in the shot.

OK, time for a little hint: Good action sequences are choreographed just like a good dance number. Go watch some frickin’ Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. Notice how damn good everything looks? Now try and imagine how it’d look if the shots were all closeup, there were cuts every time somebody took a step and it was filmed in the dark.

Got it? Now go watch “Police Story” and “Project A Part 2” and see how this is applied to action sequences. Camera well back, movement uses the entire wide frame, not a lot of cuts, all of the moves fit together and the actors make it look really good because they know what they are doing.

Where’s Buster Keaton when you need him?

I haven’t seen the Bourne Supremacy, but I agree with the OP. This latest trend is really annoying.

Ah, yes. My friends and I refer to this as Patented Shake-O-Vision[sup]TM[/sup]. Not to be confused with Patented Dark-O-Vision[sup]TM[/sup] (as seen in SWAT, especially the ending fight) or Patented Cut-O-Vision[sup]TM[/sup] (as seen in the Depp/Bloom swordfight in Pirates of the Carribean).

Remember, if you can’t tell what the hell is happening, It’s Art!

I remember being physically nauseated by the hery-jerky camera work of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Really had me feeling bad. Later that night, though, we saw Dawn of the Dead and that calmed me right down.

Imagine you are the movie producer. You have two options:
Option A: Enroll Depp and Bloom to an swordfighting learning program, that costs several thousands of dolars and spans over several months.

Option B: Have them simply wave their swords around. Using fast cuts and loud clash/bang sword sounds it will seem as they are engaged in a heated battle.

A dumbass producer who makes short-sighted cost cuts will choose Option B. A producer that wants to make a nice movie will opt for Option A.

Really? I love NYPD Blue, and i think that the “handheld” camera effect really adds to the show.

But it’s never so shaky as to make it difficult to follow what’s going on.

The effect in NYPD Blue was used much better in Homicide. In fact, a lot of things about NYPD Blue were used better in Homicide.

As far as spastic cinema, watch about five minutes of either charlies angel movie. You’d have to have A.D.D. just to keep up. :mad:

I didn’t like the NYPD Blue always moving camera because it was pointless. The way they did it on Homicide, though, made it seem like you were in the room with the characters, watching a conversation going on in real time.

Gladiator’s cinematographer, John Mathieson, and Ridley Scott made a deliberate choice to shoot at a 45 degree shutter angle, giving the battle scenes that jerky look. They also did some step printing (which I don’t fully understand) for the ‘slow motion’ end of battle scenes. The exact same methods were used throughout Saving Private Ryan.

Most of what I find annoying in these movies is the editing. Constantly cutting from scenes with true beauty or excitement to boring closeups of the ‘star’.

The worst combination of editing and shaky cam I’ve ever seen is in Pitch Black.

Or, you could go with Option C: if you know you’re making a movie that requires your principals to swordfight, cast principals that know how to fight with swords. Now, if you choose to follow this route, you might not get the star power of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom for your advertisements, but that’s okay, because the purpose of filmmaking not to make money, it’s to create a work of art. Right?


That drove me nuts in The Bourne Supremacy, and I’d go so far as to say it ruined the movie for me. I’d heard a review that the movie had the best car chase scene ever filmed ( :rolleyes: ) so I was really looking forward to it. Then it finally came onscreen, and I couldn’t tell if I was watching a car chase, or a regular daily commute, or milking time at the dairy. Audiences these days are sophisticated enough that we’re not going to be fooled into thinking we’re seeing something really exciting when it’s just been cut to death. We know perfectly well that it’s a cheap trick to try and make things look more interesting than they really are.