What happened to tripods?

NYPD Blue with its constant camera shake was nauseating when it first appeared. It seemed like a gimmick that would not be repeated, something very specific to that programme. Yet, now it’s become the norm for “gritty” real-life dramas. (It’s not even that new – consider the steadicam use in films like “Scum” in the 1970s – also aiming at gritty.)

I guess there are two changes that have brought this about:

  • cameras are lighter and don’t need sturdy support
  • image clarity has meant that  camera movement doesn’t result in blurry smears

But there’s something else too: a cultural shift. Whereas thirty years ago, it was considered somewhat amateur to have wobbly camerawork, it’s now considered positively, a liberation.

But more than that: it’s now seen as a signifier of authenticity for footage to be handheld. It’s a statement of proof that it hasn’t been faked. Of course this is nonsense: it’s just as easy to add to some fake handheld motion to some filmed animation, 3D model insertion or photoshopped trickery; and 3D model insertion is perfectly capable of following camera movements (see action adventures or even live election night broadcasts)

Watch the video for Hiszekeny by Venetian Snares. Clearly, it’s stop-frame animation but we are asked to accept it’s handheld.

I hate to sound old-fashioned but I miss the stability of fixed cameras.

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