Who else doesn't like "shaky cam" in movies?

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Maysie Maysie's picture
Who else doesn't like "shaky cam" in movies?

I'm not a ballet person, or a "watch movies about ballet" person but I saw "Black Swan" last week based on what people were saying about Portman's performance.

The movie was amazing, and more specifically, Portman was absolutely incredible. 

But the majority of the film was shot in "shaky cam" style. You know what I mean, the hand-held camera technique that deliberately shakes to add dramatic tension or some such. Only now it's become the latest thing in filmmaking.

I've seen two other films in the theatres that were entirely or mostly shot in shaky cam (the last Bourne one, and Rachel Getting Married). I wish I had known that Black Swan was shot this way.

I never thought I'd be like this, but shaky cam on the big screen makes me physically nauseous. And I'm not someone who feels like that on planes or anything. This happens no matter where in the theatre I sit, although I haven't tried the very back row. On tv at home, it's not the same, I think because the scale is way off, and it's not like I have one of those huge flat screen tvs or anything.

Anyone else have the same problem? I wonder if there could be a "shaky cam" advisory, since as a personal drama, Black Swan wasn't a typical "car chase" kind of film. But neither was Rachel Getting Married.



I got the heaves from trying to watch Avatar in 3D too. Had to take off the 3D glasses, take off my own glasses too and watch it through myopic blur to calm down the black whirlies it gave me.

I went sailing with friends in the Atlantic off Miami once and got horribly seasick the second I took my eyes off the horizon. Watching shaky cam reminds me of that. Ugh. There is no horizon to focus on, that's the problem.

ilha formosa

I found shaky cam really funky and cool.

For the first five minutes.

voice of the damned

I too am getting pretty tired of the whole "fake documentary" thing in movies, which is what I associate the shaky-camera style with. It might have been clever the first couple of times it was done, but now it just seems as if filmmakers are using it for cheap novelty puprposes. I actually stopped watching Tales Of The Southland(which I gather is a political satire) after a few seconds 'cuz it looked like that's what it was gonna be.

As far as I am concerned, what makes documentaries interesting is the content, not the camera style, the latter being a mere byproduct of the former. You've got to film that way BECAUSE you're filming real life. And yes, as I say, the first time you see a mockumentary, you might think "Hmm, interesting experiment, the director is doing fiction as if it were a doumentary". But the stlye starts to wear a little thin the third of fourth time you see it.

Incidentally, the Bourne film you mention, as well as the one before it, were directed by Paul Greengrass, who also did the BBC film Bloody Sunday, about the real-life massacre in Northern Ireland. That style worked a bit better in Bloody Sunday, I thought, probably because it was about a news event, the kind of thing you WOULD do a doumentary about. I agree it didn't come off so well in the Bournes.


N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Before mockumentaries - like the early Trailer Park Boys - I think this technique was used in police dramas like NYPD Blue. I'm not sure if it began by being used in film or TV.

CMOT Dibbler

Anyone else have the same problem?

I wonder if there could be a "shaky cam" advisory, since as a personal drama, Black Swan wasn't a typical "car chase" kind of film. But neither was Rachel Getting Married.

My mom became motion sick when watching Cloverfield on the big screen. She had the same problem with Enception, although I don't think that had tons of shaky cam in it. I think it was just the men crawling on ceilings that made her stomach upset.

Lachine Scot

I don't have a problem with it, but some of my relatives do.  My uncle searches the title of a movie plus "Shaky cam" or some such thing before going to see a movie because he can't tolerate it at all.  It's a shame that he can't see movies I recommend a lot of the time because of the overuse of this technique...

Papal Bull

It depends entirely on the film. I can't see shakey cam in theatres. I got super sick in Cloverfield (though I really like that movie). But I didn't have a problem with Blair Witch Project (which I saw in theatres as a youngin'). I dunno, I think the growth of 'hi-def' (and the use of deeper focuses in some films) combined with shaky cam makes it too much to process all at once and you start getting disoriented by the sheer amount of imagery that you'd have a helluva time processing in real life.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

"Shakey cam" is a technique that can work extremely well, but only if it's used sparingly.  And by that I mean that it's there, but you don't notice that the picture has a little shake to it, but you do feel the tension on a more subconscious level - sort of an instability just on the edge of consciousness.  If you overdo or overuse it, you lose the most potent effect on the audience.  It's a pity more filmmakers don't clue into that.

VOD mentioned documentary - my best cameramen can do hand-held, on the fly shots that, while you can still tell it's hand-held, are relatively smooth compared to the affected technique. 

I'm prone to motion sickness, so I can't watch anything with too much shake in it.  Consequently, I don't make my movies that way.  ;-)  Even some (factual) tv shows use the technique - for a while there they'd take it to a new high that I called "swishy cam".  Utterly unwatchable.