August 29, 2014

Impossible Shots: The Steadicam Video That Revolutionized the World of Camera Movement

Garret Brown Steadicam Rocky
Every now and again, something comes along that revolutionizes the way we think about camera movement. In 1974, Garrett Brown did just with an invention that we know today as "the Steadicam."

Believe or not, there was once a time when camera movement was limited to either the dolly or handheld. The thought of a camera freely and smoothly floating through the air, thus combining the stability of a dolly with the unrestrained freedom of handheld, was an absolutely preposterous one. In the early 70s, however, a Philadelphia-based filmmaker and inventor by the name of Garrett Brown undertook the challenge of creating a new camera movement system that would capture the world in a way most similar to how the human eye perceives it. It was out of that desire that the Steadicam was born.

At first, Brown used his new device only on his own films and commercials. But he soon realized that the invention could have a significant impact on the world of narrative filmmaking. With that in mind, Brown put together a demo reel of the types of shots that the Steadicam could accomplish -- shots that would be impossible on a dolly -- and he shipped it off to Hollywood. Although many of the original shots in that video have since been lost, Brown recently digitized the 10 salvageable shots and shared them with The Hollywood Reporter. So without any further ado, here's a glimpse at the video that revolutionized camera movement.

 

Ever since Impossible Shots took Hollywood by storm in the mid 70s, the Steadicam has been used to masterful effect on a few iconic high-profile films. This awesome retrospective from Vimeo user Jery October touches on a few of the most famous of these shots.

And who could forget this glorious Steadicam montage, which we shared about a year and a half ago?

All in all, it's easy to see the line of demarcation from the pre-Steadicam era to the post-Steadicam era. Garret Brown legitimately revolutionized how the industry perceived camera movement, and since Impossible Shots made its debut in 1974, inventive cinematographers have been utilizing the Steadicam in increasingly clever and complex ways. It's safe to say that even though 40 years have passed since the Steadicam made its first appearance, we still haven't seen the full potential of Garrett Brown's invention.

What's even more inspirational than the sheer creative potential of the Steadicam is that many of the engineering concepts behind the device have been adapted by other companies like Glidecam, and even Freefly with the MōVI 3-axis gimbal, which makes products that even the lowest-budget filmmakers can afford. We live in a time where not only digital camera technology been democratized, but so has the equipment to create camera movement that was, at one point in time, impossible.

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