On Camera Shake in TV Shows

Camera shake in TV shows is not something new. However, I’ve never really experienced it until I watched Brooklyn Nine Nine and then Modern Family.

Camera Shake

My first experience with camera shake in TV and movies that I can remember was in Cloverfield. It thought it added a nice touch to the movie and made it more organic. However, after Cloverfield, there weren’t any other shows or movies that I watched (that I can remember, at least) that had camera shake.

Some time ago, someone told me to watch Modern Family. They thought I’d enjoy the type of comedy in the show. However, after watching the first episode, I just didn’t like it. However, I couldn’t put my finger on the reason as to why I didn’t like it. That was, until I went back and paid close attention. It was the camera shake.

Proponents of camera shake will argue that it adds an extra dimension for artistic creativity in shows. By adding this shake, you make a show look more organic, as if it were filmed by a hand-held camera. Very much like a documentary. And yes, I do agree that there exists a certain niche for this type of filming.

However, for shows like Modern Family, I simply don’t think it’s necessary. Even for shows like Brooklyn Nine Nine, I think the producers can still preserve the quality of comedy, while removing this shake.

The issue I have is the overuse of artistic techniques solely due to laziness. While I am not claiming that the producers were lazy in either of those shows, as I cannot comment on the reasons why they chose to film the shows in that way, you can easily see why using a hand-held camera might be a preferred route. Using a hand-held camera removes the need for expensive stabilization equipment. You can shoot scenes much quicker too, because aiming the camera at the point of attention is much easier.

I’ve ranted on the laziness of game developers for using pixel art in the past. And I think that having camera shake in TV shows also sits in the same category. Personally, I can’t stand it. I think it looks sloppy and unprofessional. Shows that have this camera shake look like they were shot by someone doing a high-school project.

Some people would argue that if the content is engrossing enough, it should allow you to look past this shake. But I don’t think that’s a viable excuse for its use. Content of a TV show should definitely play an important factor when judging it. However, there are other factors at play too. Some shows are shot so well, and that, in itself, speaks to the artistic quality of the show.

Now, I have a simple rule: if there is any camera shake in a TV show, it better be justified, or I simply don’t watch it. There are tons of great TV shows out there, and I’m not particularly desperate to start on new ones. i’m perfectly happy with the ones I’m watching right now.

So, do you watch any shows which have camera shake in them? Do you notice the shake? Does it bother you? And what are your thoughts about it?

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