Woman Holding Camera One Hand

Video Shooting Style: Hand-Held Camera Look

Week seven of Ellen Friedland's series ‘Tips for Corporate Video Production' hosted by the New York video producer herself! Back from last week, and once a week, a new set of tips will be published on Reel Designer with a relevant tip to help you save time or increase production value on your next shoot!

Week 7: Video Shooting Styles: Hand held Camera Look

By Ellen Friedland

Influenced by a few successful TV series (like The Office) in which the camera seems unsteady atop the shoulder of a moving cameraperson, some marketers have the impression that an uneven look is a new cool worthy of emulation.

It is not, unless the folks who want to invoke that appearance are willing to pay a lot of money for a top cinematographer who knows how to work with this style to create a professional-looking final product.

Ellen FriedlandHigh-end photographers hold steady shots, whether cameras are perched on their tripods or shoulders. Indeed, that stable perspective out the viewfinder is crucial to making sure a shot is framed correctly.

What does the composition look like through that window?

Is there too much floor and too little sky?

Is the foreground in focus, or the background, or both, or neither? Are subtle but important details appearing, or are they getting lost?

If the camera shot is wobbly, it is not possible to make these determinations accurately. The overall picture is completely sacrificed.

The cinematographers who shoot for TV shows and movies that want to invoke the look of a non-professional running around with a camera are, in fact, high-quality professionals. They have set the shots and the camera settings, cognizant of getting excellent images for the subject matter. They check the material immediately after it is recorded, and if there are flaws, the scene is shot again. And again. And again.

The actors are paid to be present. Everyone understands that multiple takes are required, sometimes due to actors’ flubs, other times at the behest of the director or cinematographer. The final product may look unsteady on screen, but a lot of professional work went into giving it that appearance.

Woman Holding Camera One Hand

Sometimes companies that want to produce a video and like that general look feel that it is easy to replicate. They think they do not need to spend extra money on a good tripod because they will simply hold the camera on their shoulders. They are relieved that they don’t have to hold the camera steady, because they know they are not able to do that.

Bottom line: The lack of quality stands out like a huge stain on the shirt of a key executive being interviewed. The video is not focused correctly, and the screen lacks any compelling composition.

[embedit snippet=”ad1″]To achieve the ‘unstable' look, the cameraperson should first become a proficient photographer. It is important to learn about lighting, composition, focus, and the spectrum of settings digital cameras offer. When the cameraperson achieves a satisfactory level of professionalism, he or she can begin playing with the camera, crafting creative images that come from a deep knowledge about how this instrument works – and how it does not.

If the unstable look continues to be the objective once the photographer is up to par, the people who are being videotaped at the organization must understand that successfully producing the video in the desired style will require filming scenes, sound bites or b-roll a number of times. They are not actors, so patience in this type of situation is likely to be a stretch.

Moreover, the filming is interrupting their work days – a situation which tends to get old quite quickly.

Ellen Friedland

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