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Filmmaking: The Handheld Camera

4 main types of camera movement

Hand held

Hand held shots serve to create a more “home made” or dramatic feel to a shot. There is a difference between hand held shots and steadycam shots. We would like to discuss various ways to achieve the best hand held shots possible.

Since most video cameras are set up with hand inserts on the side which allow you to easily access things like the record or zoom button, most people use that option to capture footage. However, as we’ll soon point out this is not the best method for shooting hand held shots.

The problem with the method mentioned above is that our bodies are constantly engaged in a variety of small movements. For example, when we breathe our chest naturally moves in and out, which can cause our shoulders to move slightly, which in turn can cause our arms to move which causes our hands to move. Not only that, but as our heart beats, it causes blood to flow through our body (including our hands). Each pulse, combined with small movements in our body from simply breathing create the smallest “camera shake”. Many new cameras have “camera shake” minimizers but even with these features turned on, the camera shake is noticeable when enlarged to fit on a television screen. Camera shake becomes even more noticeable when you are zoomed in on a subject.

So the question remains, what can we do to minimize this type of camera shake? Well, the obvious answer is to use a tripod. If you are going to buy anything as an independent filmmaker, the tool you should buy is a tripod. Shooting a film without your “sticks” (slang for tripod), is like a driving car without roads. It’s doable, but you’re in for one shaky ride.

The other obvious answer is to use a steadycam but steadycams can be expensive. Therefore, as an independent filmmaker you may find yourself in a situation where you need to go hand held. Similarly, a lot of documentary type situations call for hand held shots. If you’re going to be using the camera and hand held shots then it’s important that you learn how to “tame” the shakiness of the camera.

For starters, each person’s body works differently, so for this part you’ll need to experiment with a few different holding techniques. If you’re going to hold the camera on the side, then you should try using your other hand to support it below. Dig your arm into your side and hold the camera close your body (the further you hold it away the more shake you’ll get).


What I find works even better than this technique is to hold the camera on the side and use my head to balance the camera at the top. Camera shake happens because of body movements and problems with balancing. I find that the light weight of a camera makes it hard to balance. By pushing the camera against by head (don’t laugh, try it for yourself) I find I can get a much more balanced picture. This is because I’m not only supporting the bottom with my palm but also the side with my hand. I’m also supporting the top and the other side with the pressure from my head.

Continue Below...

Camera Movement: The Pan Shot
Camera Movement: The Tilt Shot
Camera Movement: Tracking Shot
Camera Movement: Handheld / Zoom
 

 


 



 

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