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Gevorg Sarkisian

Black Swan handheld camera operating

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I was amazed how was the handheld camera operating work done on the movies Black Swan. The camera was following the characters and the dancers while maintaing the same object size. It felt very smooth and organic. In some scenes it felt like the camera was almost attached to the characters and looked like that the camera was running at 45 degree shutter in dance sequences, did they change the shutter in reality? Part of getting that perfect is doing rehearsals but other then that does anybody know more details?

 

How can you get that kind of look? Do they used special rigs?

 

 

Thanks

 

Read more: http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=49654#ixzz19GEhRHnA

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I agree, loved the camera work, which is no surprise from that team.

 

I don't think there was a special rig, just a great operator. Experience counts here.

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Great operator and knowing the little tricks. One good one for walks is that if the operator stays in step with the actor, the camera shake will move with the actor and will appear less shaky.

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Gevorg - Please update your display name with your full name.

 

Regarding Black Swan... I got a little tired of all the hand-held shots. I don't (want to) understand how a film can be purposefully shot without a tripod or dolly. I'd like to know what Aronofsky's reasoning was.

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thanks for the info and good points, having the camera operator move (steps) in sync with the actor while shooting handeld helps for the smooth and organic movements and it makes you more connected to the character. That was the one of the tricks that they used I guess, but for doing that you have to be experienced and to a lot of rehearsals with the actor so you can keep up the sync. How it is usually done, the operator feels the steps of the actor?

 

The handheld camera work did not bother me. In my opinion it helped the story a lot, it gave more naturalistic and documentary feeling to the movie.

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I was in a DGA Q&A by Aronofsky, who answered a question similar to yours. He said the point was to make an ugly film, one that didn't feel comfortable, but felt real and visceral. He got away with it because the film was not supposed to be noticed for its aesthetics. We all know Libatique is stunningly talented, but the lighting (at least) in that film was often less beautiful/polished than a lot of his other films. We can say the same about the camerawork too, with the knowledge that it was a very conscious choice we can come back and call it beautiful again, if it made us feel emotionally the way we were supposed to. It did, for me.

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Like Tim, I too am very tired of the whole handheld thing, this is possibly the single biggest thing that puts me off Black Swan. However my understanding is that it's not done in a deliberately in your face shakey cam kind of way in the film.

 

My biggest hate in fact is when they make the camera deliberately shaky in a really obvious way and then try and suggest this is to make the film more edgy or to make you feel the characters disorientation, or to make you feel unsettled about things in the film. For me it's the same thing as when a comedian makes some really lame offensive joke and then they try and pass it off as being controversial or edgy and challenging. No it isn't, it's just s*** and lame and utterly tiresome. Bored to tears by all this kinda stuff.

 

I can't help but be excited by black swan tho. I'm a huge fan of the red shoes and I think the trailer and screenshots I have seen look amazing. I also really like Darrens other work I have seen, and I love the new posters! Maybe I'm setting myself up for a big fall here. It does remind me a little of all the boys who get very excited about a video camera that doesn't even exist yet! At least I've seen the trailer I guess!

 

love

 

Freya

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I thought about that during the movie and it remembered me of Johan van der Keuken work with the camera.

It's really a engagement from the DP, no longer beeing a simple viewer but showing us what no one can see otherwise. At least that's my feeling about it, and to me the best part of this film were the last 20 minutes.

 

(sorry, it's hard for me to explain myself, i'm just a foreigner... and a kid)

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I have said it about a million times: Set the camera on a tripod and walk away.

However, I have since amended my statement: If something would shake the camera in the real world (like an explosion) is fine. Bourne style camera movement; taking a dialogue shot with a 500000mm lens, is CRAP.

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I thought the ending was botched by the camerawork and editing. It was difficult to really take in the choreography, and yet at the end we're asked to accept that she gave the performance of her life. It felt like cheating. And when Aaronofsky said he wanted the film to feel real, hence the use of shaky cam, my respect for him fell several orders of magnitude. It's such a cliched thing to say. Who says shaky feels real? It's simply that it codes for real because it's a techniques coopted from 60s documentary cinema. And it's not like THEY were striving for an intentionally shaky image, but rather the shakiness was a functional byproduct of necessity. They had to go handheld to get the shot, which gives it an immediacy.

 

I was reminded of the 20 minute bravura sequence in "The Red Shoes." There, the camera really allows you to take in the ballet, and you're entirely convinced you've witnessed a magnificent debut by this ballerina. Of course, that ballerina was a LEGITIMATE dancer, while Natalie Portman was at best a "never was." So it's like casting a jogger to play an Olympic distance runner. You have to cut around their lack of ability

 

I'd imagine the creators of "Black Swan" wanted to avoid retreading the ground covered by "The REd Shoes," but they would've been well advised to follow the lesson of that film: less was more. Let the action unfold, and don't muck it up with so much stylization.

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Great, a 4th Bourne film. More crappy camera work.

 

The best handheld camera work I have seen was in Saving Private Ryan and City Of God.

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Great, a 4th Bourne film. More crappy camera work.

 

The best handheld camera work I have seen was in Saving Private Ryan and City Of God.

 

I've also found Kubrick's use of handheld to be quite exceptional. He knew just when to use it, and married it with many other camera techniques so it never felt trite or overused.

 

Sheesh, is there nothing this guy WASN'T good at...except producing films at regular, timely intervals....

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This is just my two cents, and I totally respect and think everyone else's interpretations are valid.

 

It just seemed to me that the whole point of the film was for it to be highly subjective, to the point where often we don't know whether what she's seeing is real or imagined. An unreliable narrator, if you please. Since her grip on reality is decaying, it makes sense that the image is also grainy and shaky, in essence it is an expressive use of the camera, inviting the audience to feel the same disorientation and confusion that she feels.

 

I thought seeing the ballet as a dancer rather then as an audience was an interesting and powerful choice, as to observe ballet is to enjoy its beauty, but to perform it must be dizzying to say the least.

 

The handheld did not make it feel real to me - quite the opposite in fact.

 

In short, it worked for me, but I totally see why it would not be everyone's cup of dried leaves in heated water.

 

Finally, I agree with the OP - the handheld work, especially in the opening scene, kind of blew my mind. Since then it's been a little unblown as I've heard there was a fair amount of punching in and stabilizing, as well as digital joining of shots. Still impressive though.

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I've also found Kubrick's use of handheld to be quite exceptional. He knew just when to use it, and married it with many other camera techniques so it never felt trite or overused.

 

Sheesh, is there nothing this guy WASN'T good at...except producing films at regular, timely intervals....

 

 

To my perception, Kubrick did not write most of his stories. He has set the bar very high with his technical knowledge and perfection to a film but most of his stories came from novels. So, I guess you can't be good at everything.

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I think that in many cases, the shaky-cam technique actually diminishes the sense or illusion of reality that it attempts to create (if *reality* is the director's intent). Many and perhaps most viewers, I would think, are conscious of the fact that there's a hand-held camera being used to record the images that they're viewing when the shaky-cam technique is used. Maybe it's time to question or re-examine the assumptions as to what the psychological effects really are on an audience of the shaky-cam technique. Maybe the way it affects an audience is actually the opposite of what the film-maker intended. Perhaps a scientific study would provide some definitive answers. I happen to think that with a little more imagination and effort, the intended sense or level of reality or unreality of a scene or an entire film can be realized with the traditional fly-on-the-wall paradigm and without the use of shaky-cam, thus sparing a significant percentage of the audience physical discomfort or a sense of queasiness (why would anyone truly want this to be experienced by an audience?). Just my $.02.

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I have said it about a million times: Set the camera on a tripod and walk away.

However, I have since amended my statement: If something would shake the camera in the real world (like an explosion) is fine. ...

 

I think subtle camera movement is an amazing and very difficlt art to master. If you can, watch "The Virgin Suicides" and let me know if you still feel the same way about never moving the camera. Seriously, I'd love to hear your thoughts after viewing it.

 

Thanks for considering the above. ;) :)

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I think that in many cases, the shaky-cam technique actually diminishes the sense or illusion of reality that it attempts to create (if *reality* is the director's intent). Many and perhaps most viewers, I would think, are conscious of the fact that there's a hand-held camera being used to record the images that they're viewing when the shaky-cam technique is used. Maybe it's time to question or re-examine the assumptions as to what the psychological effects really are on an audience of the shaky-cam technique. Maybe the way it affects an audience is actually the opposite of what the film-maker intended. Perhaps a scientific study would provide some definitive answers. I happen to think that with a little more imagination and effort, the intended sense or level of reality or unreality of a scene or an entire film can be realized with the traditional fly-on-the-wall paradigm and without the use of shaky-cam, thus sparing a significant percentage of the audience physical discomfort or a sense of queasiness (why would anyone truly want this to be experienced by an audience?). Just my $.02.

handheld is not automatically shaky-cam. you cant look at black swan then the bourne supremacy and say its the same technique. They are both physically handheld but very seperate techniques. the handheld in black swan is slight and gives a more subtle psychological feeling of unease. a far cry from the bourne movies where the idea is to violently shake the camera to give a very unsophisticated sense of chaos & naseau (ie. bullshit). i think black swan was very justified in its style choice, in fact i thought it was beautiful at times. I just dont think your line of thinking should be applied to all handheld shooting.

Edited by Damien Andre

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Who says shaky feels real? It's simply that it codes for real because it's a techniques coopted from 60s documentary cinema. And it's not like THEY were striving for an intentionally shaky image, but rather the shakiness was a functional byproduct of necessity. They had to go handheld to get the shot, which gives it an immediacy.

 

The hand held work in 'Cranes are Flying' and 'I am Cuba' are among the smoothest moving shots around. They do things like passing the camera to another operator which can't be done wia steadicam.

 

I was reminded of the 20 minute bravura sequence in "The Red Shoes." There, the camera really allows you to take in the ballet, and you're entirely convinced you've witnessed a magnificent debut by this ballerina.

 

But 'The red Shoes' ballet can't possibly be an actual ballet on a stage. Too many cinema tricks. It's a fantasy ballet.

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I have said it about a million times: Set the camera on a tripod and walk away.

However, I have since amended my statement: If something would shake the camera in the real world (like an explosion) is fine. Bourne style camera movement; taking a dialogue shot with a 500000mm lens, is CRAP.

 

Okay John,

 

I'm going add another film to my "challenge." The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That movie also employs camera movement in a very effective way, as many of the early shots that would normally be locked-down have motion.

 

I'm not trying to pick on you. But I am trying to get you to defend the thesis that you state so emphatically. I would LOVE it if locking down the camera and walking away is always correct. Then no worries about dolly tracks, cranes, zooms vs primes, balancing the camera on the tripod, making nice pans with fluid heads worth many thousands of dollars or steadicam operators walking in front of lights or rebalancing their rigs.

 

So I WANT you to be right. But I just don't think it's so. But please, prove your point.

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Almost no shots are literally "locked down." Even close-ups – the operator is subtly following the subject's movement. With the exception of wides and certain shots, almost all shots in contemporary films have movement of some kind, whether small or radical.

 

Not trying to pick on you, either, John, but "putting the camera on a tripod and walking away" would most certainly create the most visually boring film ever made.

 

About Black Swan: I think it's some of the best handheld I've ever seen. And compared to most handheld work, it's very fluid.

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