The camera in any scene is essentially a silent narrator that is telling the story through the angles and shots that it presents to its audience. This is why it is so important to plan your shots carefully and choose angles, pans, tilts, cuts, jibs and steady cams carefully. With steady cams now more affordable and widely available, directors have the option to use this over handheld, but when should you use steadicam, and when should you stick to hand held?
There are pros and cons to both methods which we will discuss below, but first we wanted to briefly discuss the kit and options available.
A camera can produce a ‘stabilized’ shot in a number of different ways using different kit. The most basic and obvious option is to use a tripod to create a static shot, however, there are many ways to create a stabilized moving shot such as a gimbal, a dolly, drones, cranes, jibs and of course steady cams. There are so many options available to film makers with the rapid development of camera kit, budget dependent of course.
The simplest form of handheld is as described, hold the camera without any gadgets or add on to stabilize the image. You can use shoulder mounts and other rigs to make the camera easier to operate but the end goal is to create a shot that is constantly moving.
Now that is cleared up, when should you use either technique.
The most important element of the decision making process should always be your intention. This can be influenced by a number of things but we recommend considering your genre, the atmosphere you want to create and the style you are aiming for.
All genres work well with both stabilized and handheld camera work but horror is the most obvious choice for handheld, as is an action scene because the camera movement will put the audience on edge and the reduced visibility will build tension. However, comedy is another genre that increasingly used handheld cameras to add a scene of realism to the show or film. Therefore it is important not to discount one style or another based on genre. Instead consider what a smooth lingering shot will add to the scene compared to a shaky, gritty shot.
Cost is less of a consideration that it used to be. As technology advances, the gimbals, drones and other camera kit become more affordable to both buy and rent. You can pick up a DSLR gimbal for as little as £259 on amazon. However, if you are working with larger cameras the cost to hire not just the kit but the operators can still be expensive and are often an added expense on top of your main crew. This will be a big factor when deciding to go handheld or push for the more expensive options. Handheld, of course is the much cheaper option requiring smaller rigs and mounts.
Efficiency (quick) – low profile
Time is a valuable commodity on set and kit such as dollys, cranes and gimbals will require adequate set up time to ensure safety and quality of filming. Handheld, however, needs very little setup time and can speed up filming as you easily move from shot to shot without moving heavy kit. Another pro is that handheld can be more discreet if you are filming something such as a hidden camera show or you don’t wish to draw attention to filming in a public place.
These are our top three considerations to think about when deciding to use handheld or stabilized shots. However it is worth mentioning that the camera work should never take away from the story. If your shaky camera work becomes distracting to the audience it will undermine the story and the same can be said for a polished smooth shot that doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. There are no hard and fast rules when using either option. Go with your gut and choose the option that will further your story rather than choosing angles ‘because it looks cool’.
If you are considering creating video content, contact Fable Studios. Fable Studios is a Creative-led, boutique video and animation studio who create tailored brand stories that endure in your audience’s mind. We combine your objectives with audience insights and inspired ideas to create unforgettable productions that tell the unique story of your brand. Find out more about us at www.fablestudios.tv
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