Cinematographer Richard M Nathan: Shooting with hand-held camera is physically exhausting!

Cinematographer Richard M Nathan, who recently completed work on Tamil action-thriller Naan Sigappu Manithan, says shooting a film with a hand-held camera is physically taxing and takes a toll on the body

He says even if he’s paid a hefty sum by producers, he won’t shoot a film using a hand-held camera at least for the next two years.

“Shooting with hand-held camera has been physically exhausting. When you’re using a hand-held camera, you (cinematographer) have to literally carry its weight on your shoulder. A hand-held usually weighs about 18 kg and you have to carry it for at least 12 hours a day. You can imagine the physical damage,” said Nathan.

“Even if producers are willing to pay me more for a film, I’m not going use a hand-held camera at least for the next two years. I have already been admitted to hospital a few years back for a back problem. I don’t want to face the same fate,” he added.

Nathan had to seek medical attention after working on the 2010 award-winning Tamil drama Angadi Theru. “We spent over 100 days on this project. It was completely shot using hand-held. By the time I finished the project, I had hurt my spine. I was admitted to a hospital and I recovered with great difficulty. Since I’m six feet tall, I need to bend a little while using the hand-held camera to capture the shots from the required position. This puts a lot of strain on my spine because we’re shooting for long hours in such positions,” he said.

For Naan Sigappu Manithan, the cinematographer shot 40 percent of the film using a hand-held device, while the remaining movie was filmed using a moving camera. “The visual treatment in the film changes pre and post interval. When you watch the film, you’ll realize that a lot of emphasis is given on the close-up shots. We did most of it using a hand-held. We also mixed it up with traditional camera shots at regular intervals,” he said.

So, what’s the advantage of using a hand-held camera? “It saves a lot of time. Instead of wasting time and setting up a camera, you just pick up a hand-held and start shooting. Scenes that usually take a couple of days can be shot in about a few hours using a hand-held. It also provides greater freedom in motion while capturing,” he said.

He says while films still use hand-held cameras every now and then, rarely can you find a film completely shot using it. “It’s impossible to zero in on a style and shoot a film nowadays. You can only shoot using hand-held camera when you have strong control over your lens. That’s why very few films are made completely using a hand-held,” he said. In the past, Nathan has worked on Tamil films such as Ko and Vanakkam Chennai.


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