While hand-held shooting has basically been around since there was a camera light enough to do so, it's safe to say that the Steadicam (which is technically a Tiffen name) constitutes a cinematographical revolution all its own. Hand-holding dates back as early as 1911, but it was a long time before cinema gained the dolly's fluidity of motion coupled with the hand-held operator's freedom of travel. Audiences would first meet the 'Steadicam shot' in 1976's Bound for Glory, and the first impressions were enough to earn the film an Academy Award for Cinematography. Larry Wright of Refocused Media recently created a supercut called The Art of Steadicam, paying homage to the ground-breaking invention and the artists who helped reshape the possibilities of cinematic movement -- check it out below.
This comes to us from Mentorless via /Film, who point to Larry Wright and Refocused Media's original presentation of the edit. Here's Larry himself on why he chose to put the piece together, followed by The Art of Steadicam. The full list of films, in edit-order, is available from Larry's full write-up.
I was inspired to make this homage to the art of steadicam cinematography when browsing the database of “top” clips over at steadishots.org, which are rated by the community. After locating what sources I could from the top 50 or so, I decided to stick with the order presented on the site (accurate as of March 1, 2013). While I do hope you enjoy my video, there are many other clips that I was not able to source as well as many great clips that have yet to be rated into the “top” ranks, so please head over to steadishots and show your appreciation for the great service they provide.
Those of us who are, experientially, more of the shoulder rig-type may sometimes forget just how physically demanding being a Steadicam operator can truly be. For one thing, the nature of the system means the amount of weight (in many cases) and its distribution upon the operator's body is a far removed from the likes of shoulder mounting. The shoulder-mounted camera pushes downward on the back (via the shoulder, of course) -- which means it's effectively supported by the strongest weight-bearing column the body possess, give or take some arm stress. The Steadicam contrasts to this because instead of pushing down upon the back of the operator, it's basically pulling forward against it. And while most professional Steadicam ops agree that proper technique (and no prior back problems or susceptibility thereof) results in injury-free operation, there are others that have apparently told would-be career operators to be ready to befriend their chiropractors.
How has the advent of the Steadicam come to affect your work directly? What have you been able to accomplish that would've been impossible without the Steadicam system?