California-based director, filmmaker and cinematographer Ben Hess explains that when he shot our Music Matters campaign in New York City it was entirely handheld, so he knows a thing or two about smooth camera movement.
In this video, he offers ten tips for the smoothest, slickest, lightest touch when it comes to handheld recording.
“When filming the Music Matters campaign, I knew there were shots where I actually wanted that camera shake, but I also knew that there were shots where I wanted it to be smooth, so I usually combined a couple of these tips and techniques,” Ben explains. Over a number of years in the filmmaking industry, he’s tried pretty much everything so here he’s sharing his ten top insights into getting the smoothest shots using a handheld.
1. Hold your camera close to your body. “The further it is away, the naturally harder it’s going to be to keep steady because it’s further away,” Ben explains, “by holding it close it takes the weight off the camera… with your elbows tucked in right by your ribs, that’s a really smooth place to hold your camera”.
2. The ‘Heel Toe’ technique – “walk with your knees slightly bent and carefully step on your heel, roll onto your foot and then onto your toes,” Ben suggests, which produces a “really nice even walk and minimises the bounce”.
3. Sway side to side. Sway over to one side from the other using all your body weight with a nice even, smooth motion.
4. Shoot wide. On a closer, macro shot it’s going to be easier to see those little movements of your hands, but in wide the image is so big it’s hard to see those movements.
5. “In general, movement is more subtle when it’s slowed down,” Ben explains, so by shooting in slow motion it actually reduces any visible shake. Slow-motion if your friend.
6. Attach a camera strap around your neck, pull it tightly so your arms are outreached and this is going to force your camera to be steady by the tension from your neck.
7. Using a swinging motion - similar to the swaying tip - but this time your knees are bent and arms are relaxed and all the way down by your ankles, then swing the camera which takes out any handheld shake as it’s one movement.
8. Get a top handle – it’s so much easier to hand a camera from a lower angle.
9. Get a heavy camera. Add in all the accessories you have access to, from a camera cage to a top handle or an LED light, if it’s heavier it’s a little more stable than lighter models. “It’s going to make for a pretty convincing smooth shout – you’ll be surprised how smooth you can get it,” Ben says.
10. Invest in a warp stabiliser, Ben advises “this essentially takes any of the shake out of your footage and makes it very smooth, you can even combine it with any of these techniques”.