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Visual Exercise 2 - Handheld vs Tripods | John M Morelock: Storyteller
November 5, 2020

Visual Exercise 2 – Handheld vs Tripods

By In Blog, Cinematography

In this exercise, we were asked to shoot the same scene twice. Once using a tripod, the second time handheld.

The effects of the use of a tripod versus shooting handheld are core to the feel of a scene. The use of a tripod will help give a cinematic and professional look, but won’t greatly influence the mood of a scene, neither adding nor taking away.

Handheld, on the other hand, almost always introuduces feelings that are unsettling or exciting. Films such as the Blair Witch Project rely heavily on the use of handheld shooting to create their mood. Many action sequences in films are shot handheld. This allows the practicality of using stunt doubles, and can also increase the energy of the scene. However, films like John Wick stand out for forgoing the use of shaky cam, preferring instead to lock down the camera, allowing us to witness Keanu’s expertise in handling weapons and martial arts, as stunt doubles weren’t required.

I, however, almost always prefer the use of a tripod. I feel handheld shots, more often than not, make me disengage with a film. They remind me there is an operator holding the camera. In the most egregious examples, like the first few episodes of Benidorm, it just makes me feel nautious.

That’s not to say handheld shooting doesn’t have it’s place. I feel that it should be used sparingly and with strong artistic intent. It should be a contrast to the rest of the film.

In this footage I have posted above in particular, I did not have access to a shoulder rig or a steady cam, so the handheld shot is truly handheld. The content of the scene is not emotional, action filled, or shocking. I strongly feel that the tripod shot is more effective for this scene.

There was a second part of this exercise to include a floorplan, which can be viewed below.

1 Comment
  1. Ally Mitchell November 5, 2020

    I love that insight .. you’re so spot on!

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