July 12, 2013

Watch This Documentary on the Camera That Changed Filmmaking Forever

"Moving pictures" have been around in one shape or another since as early as 900BC. However, the more contemporary forms (after Muybridge's zoopraxiscope and horse gait experiment) come quicker to our minds, like the Lumiere Brother's cinematograph and Edison's kinetograph -- the first moving picture cameras. And, as history reveals, old cinematic rivalries die hard. French and American filmmakers once again found themselves vying to be the first to revolutionize cinema over 60 years later, only this time, it was with the invention that changed the way we, especially independent filmmakers, approach filmmaking: the handheld camera. Check out this great documentary on its history after the jump.

It's pretty easy to take handheld cameras for granted. People my age grew up in a time when making a movie was as easy as grabbing your parents' handheld and running around in the dark with a flashlight trying to recreate The Blair Witch Project(When I was 13, I shot my first "movie" on a VHS camcorder.)

But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, cameras were the size of Lincoln Continental, and capturing footage meant careful staging and planning. But when French anthropologist Jean Rouch used a wind-up handheld camera meant for amateurs to make Moi Un Noir, it changed filmmaking from there on out.

The documentary The Camera That Changed The World, walks us through the history of the handheld camera, and you can check it out below:

Filmmaking became an accessible and revolutionary approach to capturing the human experience after the handheld camera. Though it started out as a wind-up amateurish device, it has evolved in such a way that it has allowed people like us to have the freedom to simply go out and make a film -- even those early films you wouldn't even show to your mother.

What do you think about the contribution handheld cameras have had on filmmaking?

Links:

[via Cinephilia and Beyond]

Your Comment

22 Comments

I still miss my CP16.

July 12, 2013 at 11:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Nah, the invention (Ampex, US, 1956'ish) and the subsequent miniaturization of VCR and its subsequent versions, including the current digital era, was far more important. The smaller format (9.5M Pathe, 8/16 mm Kodak, AGFA, etc) had been around for a long time, going back to the 1930's. And, if one wanted to add sound to film post-1940's, he could have synchronized it with the magnetic audio recorders that the Germans (von Braunmühl and Weber) perfected by 1941.

July 13, 2013 at 12:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

But the Ampex or previous smaller formats didn't change the history of cinema. That is what this docu is about.

July 13, 2013 at 8:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jowjow

Well, I would argue about that. I mean, most of WWII footage was shot with these 8/9.3/16 mm cameras. Add a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, sync the sound and there's your documentary cam.

July 13, 2013 at 5:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Sorry, you need more than just a portable reel-to-reel. Wind-up cameras can't do sync sound, you need a camera with a crystal-controlled motor. Otherwise you get major sync drift, really quickly.

July 14, 2013 at 2:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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A significant change came with music vids using 16mm camera's in the early 80's. With low budgets and needing to get 7 minutes in a one day shoot, they realised with fast paced cuts they could get away with two 16 mm cameras, one hand held even.

We used to revamp high ends sets off commercials to suit what ever was required - Paris street scene no problem, just dress in some facades from the scene dock.

Those early vids are lessons on economical set design and lighting.

July 13, 2013 at 2:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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While this film is good, it still doesn't hold up to Dziga Vertov's "Man w/ a Movie Camera". Dziga defined the language of film that is now used in most films. His use of juxtaposition and camera angles have defined 20th century filmmaking and beyond. This version is cut to the band the Cinematic Orchestra and brings out the pace of the editing, while showcasing his skill as an editor, cinematographer and filmmaker. Easily my favorite film of all time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iey9YIbra2U

July 13, 2013 at 2:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gavin

Well, I wouldn't really compare the two docs -- apples and oranges. And Man with a Movie Camera was more well-known for its editing and influencing cinéma vérité rather than juxtaposition. Eisenstein was more of the catalyst for that. But still, Man with a Movie Camera is excellent and a must watch for people who want to know anything about editing.

July 13, 2013 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

See although: Cinema Verite - Defining the Moment by Peter Wintonick.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0220364/

July 13, 2013 at 4:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Axel

"Most people my age grew up in a time..."

I'd say everyone your age grew up in that time

July 13, 2013 at 10:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fresno Bob

shaddup.

July 13, 2013 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sjk

I'm glad you caught that. I'll check my sources more closely next time.

July 13, 2013 at 8:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

Back in film school in 2008, I actually shot a 5 min documentary on the same style 1963 Eclair NPR 16mm in this film. Great camera, nearly silent, really portable.

It's fun to see some history of it.

July 14, 2013 at 7:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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What I find interesting is that film-makers in the 1960swanted to make the camera hand-holdable (smaller/lighter).. Now-a-days most everyone wants to maker cameras bigger/heavier, and therefore less hand-holdable, by adding cages and on-camera monitors. People even put cages on Canon C300 cameras.

July 14, 2013 at 3:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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c.d.embrey

"Now-a-days most everyone wants to maker cameras bigger/heavier" I really don't think people want to make their cameras bigger and heavier today. Being larger and heavier through caging and rigging is a by-product of adding greater functionality like a shoulder mount for added stability or a matte box for filters and flare control or a follow focus for easier and more precise focus pulls. The added bulk and weight are unfortunately a necessary evil that comes along with these added features. Now these things are not always nessary and shooting with a stripped down camera maybe the best way to go if the situation calls for it.

July 14, 2013 at 11:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I was kind of interested for a while. But when the film describes the B&H Filmo as "a camera used only by amateurs", it completely ignores it's spectacular and well-known history as a war-correspondent's camera. Since there's no way the filmmakers couldn't have known this, they must've decided to fudge their facts a little to glorify Jean Rouch's decision. What a stupid thing to do! Rouch's contribution to film history need no flattering. To stoop to such shenanigans severely damages the film-makers' credibilty.

July 18, 2013 at 4:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Arzlo

A quick google reveals the Arri 16ST came out in 1952. That was a 'professional hand-held camera'. Googling isn't fact-checking, but these guys clearly did neither.

July 18, 2013 at 5:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Arzlo

This is ridiculous. My father took 16mm hand held home movies in the 1950s with his hand wound Bell and Howell, as thousands of others did. As noted above, war photographers brought back hand-held images in WWII.

July 19, 2013 at 1:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kevin

I'm not talking about docs here. I'm talking about narrative features.

July 19, 2013 at 4:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

this is really amazing to see those ancient footage's and good cover up. i enjoyed watching it and more opened my mind. truly amazing!

July 19, 2013 at 2:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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In 1984 I received a phone call from Bob Drew. We discussed filming a documentary in South LA titled "Warnings From Gangland." That began a long term friendship and professional relationship with this visionary producer (see http://www.drewassociates.net), which formed my understanding of real storytelling. I had worked in radio and TV since 1970, but learned more during my experiences with Bob than I ever did in college or in the industry. In 1985, I convinced Bob to use my newly acquired Betacam BVW-3 (serial number 90001) for an award winning documentary, "For Auction: An American Hero." We worked long, hard days and the only commandment was "roll tape, don't stop." (see http://www.marccurtis.com/page4.cfm).

This film, "The Camera That Changed Filmmaking Forever" made me proud to have worked with one of the great pioneers. Since then, I continue to get smaller, stealthier cameras that allow me to capture life, without interfering with it. The past 3 years I've been shooting with a Canon T2i. In 2010 I was invited by high level government officials in China to be the first foreign director/cameraman to produce a documentary film on their behalf (http://www.kashgarfilm.com). I owe Bob Drew a world of thanks, along with the other pioneers who made this style of filmmaking a reality. This program tells my story, even though I'm not mentioned in it. As always, stealthy in the background where I belong!

July 19, 2013 at 3:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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September 11, 2013 at 5:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM