Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Note on Handycam/Handcam/Shakeycam

I've been rereading some of my posts and notice that I sometimes praise movies for their use of hand-held camera techniques while also totally shred other movies for theirs, without explaining exactly what I'm talking about. I notice I also use some terms interchangeably that I feel do have separate meanings.

First off -- my use of the term "Handycam." I almost exclusively use this to designate the fact that a movie is being shot with an inexpensive consumer-grade camcorder. An early example of this was the Sony Handycam series of camcorders, which like 15 years ago were total shit VGA quality video 20-minute battery drainers and used microcasettes. They have since improved quite a bit and there's a range of models, some being pretty much as good as professional cameras. Yet, my terminology stays the same and I see no reason to change -- sometimes I see a movie that's just bottom barrel video quality and have used the dreaded epithet of "go-pro," so its not like I have no idea about post-90s camcorder technology, I own a couple of mid-range 1080p digital camcorders myself with sdcard storage and a non-linear digital editing software suite on my 2015 model desktop PC, but oh well handycam is still my goto term for a shitty video camera.

Next, handcam. This is a technique I'm sure everyone is familiar with, and sometimes its done really well and sometimes its just a terrible mess. To be clear, handcam is a rough, hand-held technique where the cameraman actually moves around to do tracking shots, pull aways, and zooms often involve just running to the subject of the frame. At least, that's what I mean by it. When its done well, it has an effect of tricking your brain into thinking what your seeing on the screen is actually being done with your own eyes, and can really pump up the stress and adrenaline of a scene. When done poorly, it looks like an idiot who's never held a camera before jumping around like an idiot.

However, even bad handcam footage is not necessarily bad enough to get called the ultimate shit-tier filming methods - Shakeycam. Shakeycam is just the worst -- the camera bobbing around like someone's filming while having a seizure. I can't think of an example where it's been effective. Much better is a bunch of really quick edits of different but similar camera angles, which can be done well and make a scene unsettling. Trying to do that in real-time during production just. doesn't. work. Please stop.

I hope that clears somethings up. Also, here's a good rule of thumb to think about when filming:

Does this need to be handheld? No? Then use a goddamned tripod. Also a good question: Is this tilted angle eerie, or just gimmicky? If it doesn't add to the mood, fucking keep your camera upright: you're not making The Third Man, ya dumb jabroni!

Ok. Just thought I'd clear up what might be confusing to some people. Can you believe I still haven't watched this year's most anticipated horror film The Witch??? I promise I'll get to it soon and give you my review. I've heard mixed things so I'm still looking forward to it.

Also... here's a few quick bites of movies on Netflix that you might be thinking about watching:
  • Dementia -- Terrible. Absolute garbage. I hated every minute of it. Stay away.
  • Re-Kill -- I thought this was a clever B-movie that was fun to watch. A good party movie.
  • The Hallow -- I loved this. I think its a 4/4 for me. Very well done. Watch it!
  • Harbringer Down -- Doesn't live up to the hype but its still well worth a watch.
Ok I promise I'll do more full reviews soon!

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