Even though there are plenty of powerful camera stabilizers on the market, sometimes just some good, old-fashioned handheld camera work is what your project needs.
From Steadicams to sliders, there are countless tools out there that you can use to stabilize your footage, and if you're like many filmmakers, you probably have a couple of them that you bring with you every time you shoot a project. But in situations in which simplicity and versatility trump smoothness, it'd be wise to know how to handle your camera without the aid of a stabilizer. In this video, Anders Øvergaard of Andyax not only shows you a few techniques that you can use to up your handheld game but also explains why going handheld is sometimes much better than using a fancy stabilization rig.
Every decision you make when shooting a film should be an intentional one and going handheld is no different. In other words, you don't shoot handheld because you're lazy or because you don't have a stabilizer—friggin' don't be lazy and make a DIY stabilizer—you shoot handheld because it's the best choice for the shot.
How do you know if it's the best? Well, you've gotta break it down and ask yourself some important questions, some practical, some creative:
- Do you have enough time to set up one or more stabilization rigs?
- Are you at risk of missing any important shots while you're busy fudging around with a stabilizer?
- Can you handle shooting with a stabilizer for long periods of time or will you get too fatigued?
- Is it practical to transport your stabilizer to your location? Will you be carrying it around?
- Is butter smooth camera stabilization right for your shot or does messy, unpredictable handheld work better?
- What are you trying to communicate in your scene?
If you decide that, yes, going handheld is the right decision for your shot/scene/film/etc., then the next step is learning how to shoot handheld. This, of course, depends on the aesthetic you're going for, but let's assume that you're saving the frenetic handheld camerawork for another project and you're going for buttery smooth. In this case, you'll want to create a multi-point contact between you and your camera. One way of doing this is by throwing your camera strap around your neck and holding your camera out in front of you to create tension. (This creates three points of contact: your neck and your two hands.)
Now, this isn't going to magically create super steady footage, but it will definitely be more stable than footage you shoot without a strap. You'll also want to be light on your feet as you move around, being careful to keep your body movements as smooth and slow as possible. Lastly, you'll want to avoid zooming in, since that will only magnify any movements.
Beyond that, you can always try to clean up any unwanted shakiness in post. Premiere Pro's Warped Stabilizer is a fantastic tool that works really well. You can also try to ensure that you use cameras and lenses that have auto-stabilization.
What are some other ways to improve your handheld camera work? Let us know down in the comments.