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Embracing the Art of Handheld Filmmaking For Conservation Videos

Ontario Environmental Video Production Company

Embracing the Art of Handheld Filmmaking For Conservation Videos

In the pursuit of capturing footage, filmmakers often rely on various equipment, including motorized camera gimbals. However, countless of hours of conservation filmmaking work in the field and post-production work has made me see a reality: buttery smooth footage isn’t exactly the way our eyes see life or environmental field work.

I Want To Be Real

Just to be clear, I’m referring to electronic motorized gimbals that produce ultra smooth footage. Using these gimbals means electronics are making movement decisions for you. To me, I think the resulting footage looks artificial. Ugh. Personally, I feel so unattached to my craft when using these gimbals. I want to be real. I want to feel like my arms are an extension of my camera! Occasionally I use a manual handheld stabilizer called a Wildcat (see the photo above). It’s not buttery smooth. And it’s real. My arms and hands move and control the Wildcat at all times. It’s is helpful when filming in rugged terrain and serves as a small tripod too.

When The Battery Dies, Your Day Is Done

Electronic camera gimbal stabilizers have become a staple in the filmmaking industry, providing smooth and steady footage. These devices use motors and sensors to counteract unwanted camera movements, ensuring smooth results. While motorized camera gimbals offer undeniable benefits such as improved stability and ease of use, they are not without their downsides. When the battery dies in the field, your day is done.

Organic Filming is More Real

By opting for handheld footage, there is a certain organic quality that is preserved, making the visuals feel more real. Ultimately, my goal as a conservation filmmaker is to make the experience of watching what I create be more visceral. It needs to convey the sense of being in the moment, right there in the midst of the action. It allows viewers to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds, enabling a deeper emotional connection and understanding of the importance of conservation efforts. This is how we drive actions to donate, support, volunteer, and champion causes that support conservation.

By holding the camera in my hands, I become an extension of the scene, enabling me to capture the raw emotions and unfiltered moments of the natural world. The handheld approach allows for greater flexibility and spontaneity, empowering me to react instantly to the unfolding narrative. My arms are at the controls. Not electronics.

Noise and Disturbance Factors in Wildlife Filming

The noise generated by motorized gimbals can be disruptive and unsettling to wildlife. Maintaining a respectful and non-intrusive approach to filming is paramount in conservation storytelling. The mechanical whirring and buzzing of a motorized gimbal may startle or disturb animals, altering their natural behavior and compromising the authenticity of the footage.

Gregg McLachlan
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