Gypsy Woman (BBC2)

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tom hardwick
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Did any of you see Gypsy Woman on BBC2 Wednesday evening? I watched a bit of it, agahst at the very poor standards of filming and editing. I suspect that any one of us here could've done a better job so what's going on? Do the reporters have so little training or leaning that such slap-dashery is seen as 'acceptable under the circumstances'? Or are there indeed circumstances that I don't understand?

tom.

Alan Roberts
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It's a fashion statement. It says that the programme had such immediate impact and importance that the hassle of carrying and setting up a tripod would have got in the way. I'm afraid that it attracts my usual response to fashion, switch it off and do something else. You just have to hope that they grow up and become proper programme-makers eventually.

If you really feel hacked off by this approach, you should be sending in complaints to the broadcaster. They're not ignored. I get a weekly leaflet to fill in (IPSOS-RSL), detailing the programmes I watch/listen to, and with boxes explaining why I do/don't. I take great pleasure in writing "great topic, ruined by amateurish production values, switched it off after a few minutes". I've been doing that for a while now. I hasn't had any effect yet, but you never know.

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Alan McKeown
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Posted by Alan Roberts:                     
“It's a fashion statement. It says that the programme had such immediate impact and importance that the hassle of carrying and setting up a tripod would have got in the way. I'm afraid that it attracts my usual response to fashion, switch it off and do something else. You just have to hope that they grow up and become proper programme-makers eventually”

My sentiments exactly.

Thankfully nearly all the HDTV I have seen to date has been of demonstration quality. But I did see one (US originated) documentary in HDTV which used the “wobbly camera”, rapid fire editing, “deliberately” out of focus, approach.

Such total lack of quality just looks even worse in high definition. What makes it all the more objectionable is the fact that it seems to be deliberate, not just incompetence.

Alan

Alan Roberts
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Spot on, it is deliberate, they actually want to do it this way. It isn't incompetence. Fortunately most of the HD prog makers reasile that they're going to be seen on bigger screens, where the wobbliness looks much worse.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
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infocus
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Style over substance is one way of putting it..... The programme most recently spoilt for me this way was the "E=mc²" on BBC about Einstein. A little bit of wobble and grain was fine, but after about ten minutes I felt like throwing something at the screen..... Surely the "Changing Rooms" audience wouldn't have been watching anyway?

And whilst rant mode is on, the idea of a Nazi atomic bomb was given huge emphasis in the programme, with little being said about just how very, very far away from success they were by the war's end. I've even heard it said that if they ever had managed to get the reactor they were building to go critical, the controls would have been insufficent to prevent a meltdown.

Gyr
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I sat down to watch Wildlife on One (Wildebeest - the Super Herd) last night and turned it off in irritation at the MTV style editing.

It should be a straightforward programme so why do we get abrupt cuts, speed changes etc? If it's done because of real knowledge that it's the only way to keep the average viewer interested then I find that very depressing. But I suspect it's done because (a) it's the fashion (b) it gives the editor more to get their teeth into.

Alan Roberts
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Rest assured, it's the fashion. Editors are only too happy to get a job finished and on to the next one, it's a production-line, spending lots of time on effects absorbs money that could be spent on other programmes. Quite how we got into this state is another problem, I suspect that programme-makers think that their output has to be attention-grabbing, that content alone is not enough to get us watching.

One more thing, when you see something produced in this wobbly amateur way, have a look at the closing credits. That will tell you if (in the case of BBC) it was made inside or by an indie. I have kept track of the trends, largely because I don't last long enough on unpleasantly produced programmes to find out.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

RichardB
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Well, all camerawork is a fashion statement, and certainly all editing is first and foremost a style statement, and I find it quite nice to get away from the '2 peds and a pole' look which dominates British TV (yawn.)

Our problem here in the UK is we adopt styles without understanding the rationale behind them. When 'wobbly-cam' came out - what was it, 12 years ago with NYPD Blue - the UK Productions picked up on it: I was there, I saw how it was done -

Director: Lets try a bit of 'wobblycam'
Operator: Okay (loosens the head and wobbles the camera at random) How's that?
Director: Fine. Lets move on.

Unfortunately, that's NOT what was happening on the Yank shows: the camera would wobble and dart all over the place, but it was far from random- a typical sequence:

WHIP PAN IN: focus on Jar full of pens: focus on pad of papers: focus on phone: receptionist picks up phone, hands it to detective, we follow loose handheld: Detective then nicks up a pen from the jar we have just seen and writes a note on the pad.

Yes the style is loose but the intention behind it is sharp - we try and ape these new techniques but just end up with 'egg on face' - for a bit of a laugh, just watch 'Casualty' try and mimic 'ER'

One show that used the whole loose /unfocused/ psuedo fly on the wall style to great effect was the US show 'The Sheild' which really took the whole style to the limit: scenes lit only by torchlight, camera hunting for the subject. And remember the fantastic device Barry Levinson used in 'Homicde' where he would repeat an action three of four times in a fast edit to drive a point home. And oh, how we grabbed hold of split-screen once the Americans showed us it was okay to use it again. But we copied, and because we copied, we copied badly. Just wait, soon 'Silent Witness' will be doing 'CSI' style CGI. Badly.

It's up to people with experience who love the medium and think deeply about it to push the envelope. I can think of only a handful of Directors who are doing this in this country and trying genuinely new approaches: one approach I've seen which brought real results was to set the camera positions first (3 cam location shoot), then send the ops away, reherse the scene, bring the ops back in and call action- the cameras had to just get what they could, reportage style.

I'd rather see ambition fail than retread the mediocre, and I'd like to see our industry create new ways of seeing rather than copy them.
What UK shows can you be bothered to set the video for? For me it's none. Zero. And retreating back into a dusty cupboard of Master to wide to 2 shot to reverse OTS is not going to change that.

Alan Roberts
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I can't recall having ever recorded a US show for viewing, none of them seems to come even close to watchable, let alone appealing to a repeat viewing. I occasionally record Judge John when I'm out becauwse the story lines are interesting and fashion-shooting hasn't hit it yet, just good old-fashioned story telling.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by RichardB:
....... find it quite nice to get away from the '2 peds and a pole' look which dominates British TV (yawn.)

Our problem here in the UK is we adopt styles without understanding the rationale behind them. When 'wobbly-cam' came out - what was it, 12 years ago with NYPD Blue - the UK Productions picked up on it:

It's nice to get away from '2 peds and a pole', if it's done with thought, and NYPD Blue is probably a good example of that. Far, far too often it's not - it simply points to either lack of imagination in drama, lack of substance in a documentary, or simply lack of talent/craft skills and/or experience in reality shows. And a "how can we jazz this up?" attitude - "I know! Let's resort to gimmicks!"

Possibly one of the most acclaimed American shows of the moment is "Desperate Housewives", which seems to be either loved or loathed. Whatever, it makes it's points by virtue of story/script/acting and '2 peds and a pole' production - but beautifully done and on 35mm film. For the subject I find the style appropiate - just as NYPD Blue's style was for that programme. In other words substance is more important than style, then the style should complement the substance.

A few years ago, the vast majority of my viewing was BBC 1 & 2. Nowadays, I increasingly find C4 more satisfactory, the standard of their documentaries seems to have increased whilst those from the BBC (with a few notable exceptions) have gone down - "E=mc²" being a good case in point!

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alan Roberts:
I can't recall having ever recorded a US show for viewing, none of them seems to come even close to watchable, .....

Give "Desperate Housewives" a try - you may find it not at all what you're expecting! Technically it is also superb, even in SD!

RichardB
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'Old-fashion' is still 'Fashion'
We all have a tendancy to think the style we grew up with is the norm, and all is is a deviation - I mean, who over thirty can listen to Radio 1?

I can just imagine this thread 100 years ago:
Did you see that upstart Griffith? He's actually cutting *within the scene!* What kind of nonsense is that - took me five minutes to realise we were still in the same place. Haven't seen such rubbish since that man Porter started panning the camera 'round. Made me seasick!

It's ALL fashion. It's ALL style. Choosing to shoot conservatively is a statement in itself.
And crucially, it's the computer driven NLE that gave birth to these new styles by making a whole range of techniques economically possible.

harlequin
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alan Roberts:
I can't recall having ever recorded a US show for viewing, none of them seems to come even close to watchable, let alone appealing to a repeat viewing. I occasionally record Judge John when I'm out becauwse the story lines are interesting and fashion-shooting hasn't hit it yet, just good old-fashioned story telling.

US / Canadian shows i Buy /Keep / recorded on vhs/ now record on dvd / have kept

1. m*a*s*h 8x 22 x 1/2 hour ( so far released on region1 dvd )
2. babylon5 5 x 22 x 1hour
3. battlestar galactica 2003 1 x 13 x 1hour
4. csi ( all three sub-series)
5. hill street blues every episode i could from c4 when reception worked
6. jeremiah (first series only transmitted so far in uk)
7. alias .... how could i forget that

versus UK that i keep etc

1. lovejoy (first series)
2. starcops (only series transmitted)
3. a very peculiar practice (first series)
4. randal and hopkirk deceased (bbc version 2000)
5. fawlty towers ( 13 x 1/2 hour )
6. 2nd series of blackadder , plus untransmitted pilot episode.
will buy 3 and 4 when i don't have anything else on backorder.

i will be keeping the new cgi version of 'captain scarlet' ..... second childhood here i come.

Gary MacKenzie

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RichardB
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The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Sheild, ER, Homicide, NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues, Buffy, The Simpsons, Oz, CSI, The Larry Sanders Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm - al these shows have changed the shape of TV and added new tools to the toolbox. I've videoed all of 'em at one time or another, even if only to see what new trick they were going to come up with this week.

UK TV - um, we watch Newsnight and the kid likes Teletubbies.

StevenBagley
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Quote:
And oh, how we grabbed hold of split-screen once the Americans showed us it was okay to use it again.

Except of course we didn't Look at the dates for 'Spooks' and the airing of 24 and it is very unlikely that either copied each other more that they both came up with the idea at the same time.

Personally I think it is a gimmick in drama that is normally more distracting than useful. On the other hand I have seen it used effectively in gardening shows and the like.

Quote:
What UK shows can you be bothered to set the video for?

Well I'm genuinely enjoying BBC2's 'The Rotters Club' at the moment which is superbly acted and made. And I was very impressed with a couple of 'The Afternoon Plays' on BBC1 last week. I also seem to be getting into 'Judge John Deed' having seen it for the first time a couple of weeks ago (although the picture quality if awful -- the filmising seems to go wrong far too often and get the fields in the wrong order). And regular series like 'Spooks', 'Hustle', 'State of Play', 'Sea of Souls' are all entered into the video straight away. BBC3's 'Conviction' last year was absolutely superb and certainly wasn't tied to the pedestal and pole model yet worked remarkably well. And the new series of 'Doctor Who' is something I'm looking forward to.

I've noticed in the past 2 years that my watching of US TV has dropped significantly and the number of UK series I watch has increased dramatically. Interestingly of the shows RichardB has listed I can say I've only ever watched three of them (Buffy, Simpsons and CSI) and only Buffy and CSI would I bother to video. And from what I've seen of ER -- I'll happily stick to Casualty and Holby City.

Currently, I'm watching about 4 US shows -- Desperate Housewives, Lost, Alias and the new series of 24 -- whereas there always seems to be some UK drama popping up that I want to watch.

I guess differently people like different things...

Steven

RayL
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Pilot shows have a bigger budget and are often longer than the series that follows. Remember the pilot for 1996 sci-fi series 'Dark Skies'? Directed by the respected Tobe Hooper, it oozed production values from every scene. My VHS has been carefully transferred to DVD with adverts removed and chapter points added.

"Nothing is all true, John, it depends who you talk to . . . ."

Ray Liffen

RichardB
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Quote:
Originally posted by StevenBagley:

I guess differently people like different things...

Steven

Well, obviously you're right there Steven, but I was thinking in that list not so much of shows I liked - although I like many of them - but more of shows that have changed what an audience comes to expect from TV - from scripts (once you've seen, say, the incredibly well researched hospital proceedure of 'ER' you can't go back to the 'put a bandage around his head Nurse and we'll put on a cup of tea' of 'Casualty') through camerawork ( NYPD, the Sheild) through to post-production (Homicide.)

All of these shows were slated when they started (Seinfeld: it's about nothing, Curb Your Enthusiasm: they're improvising the whole thing: NYPD - the camera wobbles: West Wing: they talk too fast, etc etc) all of them have gone on to make what came before to seem, well, dated.

I mean, I like Desperate Housewives, but I don't think it's a groundbreaking show - the dead narrator aside - but to come back to where I started, I don't think it's a case of old-fashioned = right and everything else = wrong, which seemed to be the tone of the thread.

I think it's a case of old-fashioned = one type of style, and other things = other, often very interesting styles. I just wished a few more of those other styles originated from this country.

Alan Roberts
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Richard, you've very nicely emphasised my point that wobby-cam is fashion. And I still don't like it. I like the older fashion for non-wobbly-cam. And your list of US programmes you like has many that I've tried looking at, and given up on fairly quickly; I don't like them, I'm entitled not to like them, it's the way I am. I'm very happy that you should watch what you like as long as no-one tries to force me to watch what I don't like. Much of the time I'd rather listen to radio anyway, the scenery's better.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

harlequin
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Quote:
Originally posted by StevenBagley:
Quote:
Except of course we didn't Look at the dates for 'Spooks' and the airing of 24 and it is very unlikely that either copied each other more that they both came up with the idea at the same time.

beware dates BBC et al put on productions.

on my only real formal video course as a 'student' , at sony in 1990 , we were being instructed by a BBC editor.

he was telling us he was working on a new tv program ..... 'the borrowers'

it wasn't on tv before 1992 , which is the production date on it's release

therefore many people would have seen shots before it was released.

spooks has 2002 against it's production date
24 has 2001

both dates from IMDB

Gary MacKenzie

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Alan Roberts
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A big drama is about 6 months in the making, series usually a bit longer, say 9 months. It takes about 2 weeks to shoot one episode, so a 13-parter will take 6 months to shoot; another 3 to finish editing and versioning, more like 6 if there's significant CGI to do. They like to get a whole series done before the first transmission.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

StevenBagley
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Quote:
from scripts (once you've seen, say, the incredibly well researched hospital proceedure of 'ER' you can't go back to the 'put a bandage around his head Nurse and we'll put on a cup of tea' of 'Casualty')

All I can say is that from what I've seen of ER is that it doesn't interest me in the slightest and yet I'll happily watch/half-watch Casualty on a Saturday night. It doesn't matter how much better researched the script of ER is, if it doesn't provide drama I enjoy watching I'm unlikely to watch it.

It's the same with wibbly-wobbly camerawork or other modern tricks -- when I see it, it instantly sticks out and screams unprofessional or at least engages part of my mind in trying to understand why they decided to do that. '24' is a good example of this, it has a nasty habit of shooting dialogue through cracks in doors, or vignetted by foreground objects (and often handheld). Now when watching this you get the impression that they are trying to imply that the characters are being watched but more often there is no dramatic basis for this. The result is storytelling devices used that aren't aiding the storytelling.

And as for wibbly-wobbly camera work -- my eyes never do that, so why on earth would you want to make your images in drama do it. Reminds me of the joke in 'Yes Prime Minister' about using modern music and backdrops to the Prime Minister's address when he has nothing new to say, and conversely using an old-fashioned backdrop and classical music when he has something daring and new to say.

Steven

StevenBagley
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Quote:
spooks has 2002 against it's production date
24 has 2001

I was judging more from the comments on the DVD commentary about them having to alter the scripts as September 11th happened during production...

Steven

Alan Roberts
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I'm with you, Steven. Tricks are fine if they add to the production, but are just plain daft if they distract; wobbly-cam distracts. Period. I don't care how "well researched" the script is, if it's made with crap production values, you get a crap programme, and I won't watch it. Simple concept.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

RichardB
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Badly done wobbly cam distracts.
Well done wobbly cam infinitely enhances a show.
We in the UK - on the whole - just don't know how to do it well over here, mainly because we copied a style without understanding the rationale behind it.
A camera movement is not a 'trick' - loose camera work is the same as the track, pan or tilt. We just don't have teams who can get their heads around it.
Except for commercials that is.

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by RichardB:
Well done wobbly cam infinitely enhances a show.

By "a show" do you mean "every show" or "some shows"? I would agree personally with "a few shows", but for many it is simply inappropiate, no matter how well executed.

RichardB
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Well, a camera move is a camera move, whether certain camera moves suit certain types of genre has always been a talking point - it was thought for a long time that comedy and RomCom should be shot in wides and two shots, and you would have thought loose camera work wasn't suited - until PT Anderson came along and shot 'Punch Drunk Love' and knocked that idea on the head.

I don't think that camera moves are appropriate or inappropriate per se, I think there just used well or badly, with understanding or in ignorance.

I see plenty of unmotivated tracks that seem to start and end at random, or crane movements that are 'lost in space', (God save us from the days when they break out the big jib on Eastenders) but that doesn't make me think that crane moves or tracks are inappropriate to a genre - it just makes me think the team don't know how to use them.

Alan Roberts
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The concept of "infinite" improvement is interesting.

None of what you've said has convinced me that wobbly-cam is anything more than just plain unprofessional and careless production. It looks awful, is distracting and makes me want to do something other than watch it. I'm not arguing with you or anyone else, just making a statement, I don't like it, it's distracting, I'd rather they did it the proper way. There are times when it's ok, like when a presenter is walking and the camera follows closely, but just wobbling it around for the sake of it is just plain daft. In my opinion.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

StevenBagley
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The problem with wibbly-wobbly camera work is that it looks unnatural. All other camera moves (and even editing devices like the cut) all have a similar natural equivalent that we see with our eyes. A turn of the head to survey a room matches a pan or tilt. Switching from wide-angle to close-up is similar to the way we shift our attention from an overview of a scene to an item of interest.

However, my eyes never ever go wibbly-wobbly on me and if they did I'd be straight to see a Doctor! This is why I find it distracting because it is unnatural -- the only time you ever see it is on amateur footage. Even news teams try and minimise it as much as possible when shooting hand held (by shooting wide and moving in close rather than using long zooms).

The producers of 'NYPD Blue' etc obviously are trying to capture the look of actuality footage by shooting handheld but to my mind it ends up looking more 'filmed' than more traditionally (the temptation to say 'properly' here was quite high ) shot material. I suspect it is because the camerawork constantly reminds us that we are watching TV/film rather than allowing us to get lost in the story.

If you notice the camerawork then there is something wrong with it

Steven

RichardB
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Oh, I don't think anyone's arguing , I think we're just discussing an interesting point: The 'grammar' of camera movement, which I think is sadly overlooked, especially by teams in the UK.

As I keep mentioning, I think any badly applied technique damages the result, but loose camera work is just camera work: it's a camera movement and to be opposed to it *in principle* is as strange to me as saying 'panning is wrong, or when I see a track I want to switch off'.

I've seen plenty of bad tracking moves, pointless, unmotivated, distracting and just plain wrong - but I don't think we should burn down the Fischer factory just yet.

I don't think people over here - on the whole - take the subject very seriously. I've definitely witnessed 'jimmyjib-itis' - as in, we've paid for the jib for the day and now we're going to use it in EVERY shot, regardless. These are probably the same people who are just shaking the camera about. Do I think jib movement is wrong? No, it's a camera move - it's a tool, it's neither right nor wrong in itself, just well or badly applied.

The idea of 'the Proper Way' is a two-edged sword - let's have a quick think about all the things that were reviled as pointless, newfangled distractions, and a deviation from 'The Proper Way':

-Panning (makes people seasick)
-Characters moving while in close up (how can that head walk if it has no legs?)
-Colour photography (the art of the cinemaphotographer is now dead)
-Widescreen (only useful for shooting snakes and funerals)
-Lens flare (bad photography)
-Computer based non-linear editing (will encourage rapid cutting and destroy narrative)
-Wobbly Cam (just don't like it)

I personally find the triple-zoom - oh, and the time-slice - to both be very badly used these days, but I just think it's down to the team not knowing what they're doing. I'll happily watch both of them when they're used well.

RichardB
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Another thought on 'Traditional' technique is that a lot of the time it's, well, just plain - well, okay, maybe I shouldn't say 'lazy', let's just say 'it's the easy option.'

We have a generation of directors that were brought up through the studio 3 camera system, and their shot choice reflects the practicality of shooting in that system ('Now the reaction shot to give Cam 1 time to pull back for the wide, Cam 3 in for the OTS, cam 2 in for the reverse OTS oh damn! I've got the cables tangled!)
and when these folk actually get to make single camera drama they shoot it in exactly the same way.

And when they get to feature film level, same same, which is why we have a bunch of features that just look like big TV shows.

The idea that traditional techniques replicate the way we see isn't quite true- when you turn your head you tend to leap from one point to another, not take in all the in-between as in a pan, if my world veiw jumped from a mid-shot to a close-up I'd suspect I'd just had some sort of fit, and even when drunk and fallen over I've never seen the world as represented by the Dutch tilt (or is the Dutch tilt not recognised as 'Proper')

StevenBagley
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>>We have a generation of directors that were brought up through the studio 3 camera system, and their shot choice reflects the practicality of shooting in that system ('Now the reaction shot to give Cam 1 time to pull back for the wide, Cam 3 in for the OTS, cam 2 in for the reverse OTS oh damn! I've got the cables tangled!)
<<

I doubt it -- must of the directors doing TV in the UK now are post multicam work, remember multicam drama was pretty much dead after 'Edge of Darkness'. Anyone under about 40 doing drama is likely to have done more single camera work than multicam now.

Steven

RichardB
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Steven, you're speaking as if Directors over 40 are a rare thing!

There's a lot of three camera work still goes on, certainly a lot of stuff I've done is 3 camera (mainly sitcoms). And my point was more; even if it's not actually 3 cam, it still looks like it is. The apple just can't seem to fall very far from that tree.

tom hardwick
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In the early 70s I was experimenting with very wide-angle Super-8 moviemaking. I'd swoop and whoosh as I ran across the lawn, ignoring the viewfinder, abandoning level horizons, even lock down the camera and spin it into the air along with flapping, squarking hens (yes, really). Very arty, tom.

My brother was a tripod man and he'd 'wastefully' run that expensive Kodachrome for maybe 90 seconds at a time, simply on a close-up of a family face. Isn't hard to guess whose film has more value now, and thirty years later to watch my father as he chats (mute in his deckchair) is now quite remarkably fascinating.

Still, at least the arty stuff taught me a lesson, if you know what I mean.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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Yes, Tom, we know exactly what you mean :D

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

RichardB
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Joined: Aug 27 1999

Just out of curiosity Tom, what do you do now, and what does your brother do now? For a living, that is?

And just a thought Tom, are you saying that handheld camera movement as you described is 'wrong'.
There should never be anything off the tripod, ever?

Boy, you guys are hard line.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Richard, ask anyone who knows me what my photographic movie love is, and they'll tell you: wide-angle tracking steadycam. I perfected the bendy-knees/silly walk/pistony arms before Steadyshot came along. In those days we had to go with wide-angle and higher frame rates to smooth out the inevitable bumps. In my book handheld is right, as Mr Kubrick proved to perfection in the Overlook Hotel, chasing Danny along the eerie corridors.

Now I shoot weddings, parties, reunions, stage plays, dance, music vids, whatever calls for a VX2k + Aspheron widie. So rushing around the go-kart track all those years ago with the camera on the far end of the tripod, wide-angled and aimed back at me as I raced single handed around the track have paid off. Experience is a great teacher, and tripods sure do have their place.

Brother Richard took to stills and I should've seen it coming. I still think his moving stills are better than his still stills though.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Richard, nobody's saying that any of these styles is right or wrong (or rather, only you seem to be doing so), that's what I've been trying to get you to understand all along. There's no rule book. You can shoot any way you want, some shoot locked off and let action happen within the frame (e.g. "Playtime", Tati), some use tracks and jibs ("Touch of Evil", Welles), some fly cameras (Welles again), others throw them around. Any or all of those can be regarded as right or wrong, to taste. But I don't even do that, I just say what I do and don't like.

What I insist on, though, is that the shooting style should not distract from the story-telling. For example, the "Holidays In The Danger Zone" series is shot mostly on tripods, but with some sequences hand-held following the presenter. Given that he's often walking into or out of police traps, that's quite appropriate, it's immediate, the entire crew is ready to scatter if they have to. But when he's doing interviews, the camera's on a tripod. Again, appropriate. But even when it's hand-held, the cameraman is clearly doing his best to keep it level without a steadicam.

It's all horses for courses. What I'm steadfastly against is using wobbly-cam for effect when it distracts. It gets in the way of the story-telling and wrecks the mood. For me. Clearly it doesn't do that for you. That's fine. Like I said, there are no rules, only opinions.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

RichardB
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Joined: Aug 27 1999

Well, I'm glad we're finally both in agreement that there are no 'right' or 'wrong', or even 'proper' camera moves as such, only well and badly applied instances of them. I guess it must have been the comment 'I'd rather they did it [wobbly cam] the proper way' must have made me incorrectly think you were against it *per se*.

But my wider point is that we DO apply it badly here, I think it's because we don't understand it, and I just wonder why the TV industry here, with it's smaller budgets and shorter schedules, is so loath to be an innovator and is constantly playing 'catch-up' with it's larger American counterpart. If anything you'd think the Yanks would be more conservative, they have more to lose.

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Still not quite agreement, Richard.

What I said is there's no right or wrong way, because there's no rule book. I said I didn't like wobbly-cam if there's no practical need for it. That's personal opinion, not factual. For me, and possibly for me alone, using wobbly-cam for effect is distracting, I don't like it. That doesn't make me call it right or wrong, it only makes me switch it off. And that's only one of several reasons why I watch very little US TV, they've gone overboard on it to the extent that it drives me up the wall. I've no objection to hand-held when alternatives aren't available, as in "Holdays in the Danger Zone" when the presenter was trudging across a field to get a look at a secret armaments factory just before the police arrived, but deliberately throwing the camera around just because you can is very distracting and makes me switch it off.

If we can agree on that, fine

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

I'm right with Alan on this one.

infocus
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Joined: Jul 18 2003

You all actually seem to be saying the same thing in slightly different ways, and broadly I'm in agreement. "Right" and "wrong" aren't really the issue when it comes to style - a much better pair of words are "appropiate" and "inappropiate". Hence ANY style which enhances the narrative is appropiate, any style which detracts is inappropiate. By and large I agree with Alan, that too often "wobbly cam" IS applied inappropiately - too often it is solely used "to be different" - and distracts.

On the opposite side of the coin I was once involved with a shoot of the "exposé" type. The opening piece to camera featured "exposing" the contents of a field, and was shot two ways, both involving a helicopter. The first was a "Sound of Music" style pull back from the presenter, the second with presenter in helicopter and seeing the field over her shoulder. In the end the first one got used, and I think it was a huge mistake - the script said "hidden away", and the pictures gave totally the opposite impression. The second version gave the impression of "it's hidden away, but we've been clever and got you a view of it" and I think was the "appropiate" version, in spite of being more rough and ready. The second shot of the same story saw the same presenter supposedly sneaking through woods.... in bright red trousers....! It seemed a pretty naff piece all round when it went out.

A similar principle applies in respect to camera angles. I was always taught that when filming people, NORMALLY the ideal camera height was roughly on their eyeline and to be very aware that departing from that meant you were making a definite statement. (Point of view of a seated person, talking to somebody walking to them, maybe?) Without good reason I don't normally consider gratuitous low camera angles on interviews very clever, they also detract rather than enhance - the "oooh, what a small cameraman" effect! OK, sometimes the statement is there to be made, but too often what we see is just plain gratuitous.

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Agreed; what I'm really objecting to is the didactic use or "right" and "wrong" as descriptors. Even "appropriate" and "inappropriate" are subjective terms. This is such a personal matter that we can't lay down rules, that's my only point in this discussion.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.