Opinion: The concept of Camera-shake.

Immersion’s a funny word that we can’t really describe. Oh, we can define it like a freakin’ dictionary, but we never have the idea of what it is until we’re actually feeling it. Even with that, we’re unaware that it is immersion until we think about it- and then it’s lost, because thinking about immersion takes us out of immersion.

At least, that’s how I feel about it. My point is that a certain film technique that’s become remarkably popular continuously tells me about immersion, and I’m immediately taken out of the experience.

Yes, that’s Camera-Shake. You already read the title, I bet. However, the point of this post is not to demonize camera-shake or ban it from mine eyes and try to force the ideas of the ban upon others. Camera Shake is like alcohol, in a way. It’s got its uses, but you wouldn’t ever drink it 24/7… You know… unless you’re stupid.

Moderation is the key to camera shake, which gives me the cue to write HolyJunkie’s First Law.

  • Only use Camera-Shake when it’s warranted.

Warrant-able sequences include:

  • Vibrations of heavy machinery
  • Explosions
  • Energy waves from superpowers or something.
  • Loud ground-shaking sound effects.

You really shouldn’t go hand-held and following a bunch of dudes in fatigues. It subtly tells us that we’re looking at this through a camera and are immediately lost from immersion- the very thing you’re trying not to do as a filmmaker.

Audiences typically don’t move much while watching their movie. If the screen shakes and they’re not moving, they see the inconsistency and lost their willing suspension of disbelief.

You can say it doesn’t seem to matter, BUT THAT’S BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE DOESN’T EVEN NOTICE.

Whether they like it or not, they’ve lost their WSD. If they don’t notice, they’re left in a sort of trance. They’re no longer really watching your movie, and are instead waiting for memorable moments so they can talk to their friends about it beyond “Meeehh.”

That’s all they’re doing at that point: waiting, hoping for something funny, or something epic.

That’s not what films are about. They’re often considered an art form alongside painting and music. What the hell is with some people trying to contradict what’s been established for nearly a century?

If you want an excellent example of how to incorporate camera-shake properly, here’s Meet the Medic.

See how the camera only shuffles during explosions or when the Medic’s ubercharge activates? No you didn’t, cause it was subtle, and the visuals meshed with the audio- which is what motion pictures have been about since… You know, its invention.

Moving visuals coupled with sounds. Two older art forms coupled into one of the most successful industries in the world (you know, aside from when crap movies were being made.)

You can tell it works because good men and women acknowledging those things went on to make Die Hard, First Blood, Rocky, Unforgiven, Star Wars, Minority Report.

Actually, Minority Report does have another visual problem that I should probably tough upon…



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