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Using a handheld camera with no damping and a lot of movement. Imagine trying to take a clear photo while running up a flight of stairs; you might get the subject in the frame, but it is not going to be perfectly centered or balanced against the rest of the background. It deliberately throws off the expectation of the meticulously directed scene with perfectly proportioned shots.

This technique imparts immediacy to the sequence, because it forces the viewer to pay closer attention to catch on to what is happening. It was originally a documentary technique, eventually becoming more common in TV episodes. Often an integral part, if not a nigh-mandatory side effect, of In-Universe Camera. Often used in conjunction with fast cutting (especially during fight scenes) as a method to convey energy, like saying "Things are so crazy the camera can't keep up!"

Combines frequent use of the Whip Pan and the Repeat Cut. The antonym of Steadicam. Sometimes referred to as "Shaky Cam" but that was coined by Sam Raimi in the use of the closely related trope Shaky POV Cam (using a POV shot of something moving, which would generally employ the use of the Jitter Cam).

Its popularity has increased recently, often overlapping with the style of the Faux Documentary and Mockumentary. It can show up in non-live action works as well, see False Camera Effects.

Of course, jitter cam has also managed to gather a large Hatedom from people who feel that it's overdone and used to cover up badly choreographed action scenes. Like many things, it isn't inherently a bad thing to use but when used in excess (either too shaky or in too many scenes) many people will describe it as "headache" or "nausea" inducing.

Contrast Screen Shake. See also Camera Abuse, Shaky POV Cam, Dizzy Cam.

Examples of Jittercam include:


Anime & Manga

  • Fullmetal Alchemist, in the first episode and an opening sequence.
  • In the final fight scene in the first episode of the anime Samurai Champloo, the camera not only jitters, but also loses focus at one point. The effect shows up in a few other episodes as well, always in a fight scene. Looks cool, although drawing attention to the camera raises the question of what a cameraman was doing in Edo Japan. Or a cartoon.
    • And given the whole premise of the anime, probably deliberately.
  • Flag is told entirely from the point of view of various cameras and a computer screen. As such, the cameras can vary often end up moving around quite a bit, particularly when the photographer or the chosen camera is being used in combat.
  • The very first episode of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha used this while Nanoha was running back to the animal clinic containing Yuuno.
  • Anime Director Satoshi Kon likes to drop hints that he knows his camera (before his Author Avatar explicitly brags it in Paprika,) and a few times in Paranoia Agent, the Shaky Cam effect is illustrated to enhance an impact. It's especially noticeable in the late season fight between Maniwa and Slugger.
  • Black Lagoon also uses it. Eg: in a car chase with the Robo Maid, the impact with a palm tree is accompanied by jittering camera tilt and shake, along with sustained motion-blur on palm tree itself.
  • Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, so much. While jittering, the camera constantly goes in and out of focus as well.
  • Eve no Jikan uses Jitter Cam a lot. Sometimes, it's used to accentuate dramatic scenes, but mostly just for the hell of it.
  • The "camera" in Sword of the Stranger is pretty shaky during the fight scenes, and sometimes seems to have trouble keeping up with the combatants.
  • Used in the opening sequence for Haibane Renmei.


Film

  • In Children of Men, a combination of Jittercam and long sequences made for a very nervous movie, in which half of the screen time consists of The Oner with Parkinson's.
  • Cloverfield, a giant-monster-eats-New-York story shown as "documentary footage" filmed by a guy with a camcorder, is eighty-five solid minutes of this.
  • Used in the Transformers Film Series, which is generally a staple of Michael Bay. The first film had the camera mostly at ground level, showing how big the robots are and how chaotic it would be. Later movies tone it down somewhat, as more emphasis was put on robot vs. robot rather than the military vs. the bad robots.
  • The Blair Witch Project arguably made this trope popular, if it didn't invent it.
  • The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, the first film (by a different director) used it at times but was otherwise more traditional. The other two would have a tilting camera even during quiet dialogue scenes.
  • Used for effect in 2001: A Space Odyssey in the third act: "My God, it's full of stars!"
  • The 2004 film Friday Night Lights.
  • Path to 9/11 does it start to finish, even when characters are seated, socializing, and completely relaxed.
  • Diary of the Dead occasionally suffers from this but mostly only in zombie attacks. One could assume that as the characters are film students they may have a sort of steady cam device, although you never see one.
  • Twelve Rounds.
  • Man on Fire has a lot of it.
  • Rachel Getting Married combines this with a lot of long shots. Justified in that the movie is basically presented as home videos of the wedding in question and numerous characters are seen with camcorders.
  • Hancock.
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Minority Report
  • Schindler's List
  • Lost in Translation
  • Star Trek (the 2009 movie), largely replacing the old "tilt the camera and make everyone fall down" trick, better known as Screen Shake.
  • Public Enemies
  • Some parts of District 9 - but done well enough to seem natural, but not nauseated.
  • The independent film Amreeka uses Jittercam more or less all the time, supplemented by a devout belief in the Close-Up. Not a great combination.
  • Paranormal Activity
    • Though since the camera is on a tripod or stable surface for 3/4 of the movie, it doesn't offend nearly as much as most other "found footage" films.
  • Serbis
  • Crank
  • The main flaw of the otherwise good Feast is its overuse of this. It gets to the point where you can barely even tell what the hell is going on in a few scenes.
  • How to Train Your Dragon uses it 3 times with a refreshingly light hand.
  • Home Movie
  • Black Swan is filmed like this, even the ballet sequences.
  • WALL-E was meticulously animated to contrast Jitter Cam-like shots on Earth with Steadicam-esque shots aboard the Axiom to add another layer of Technology vs. Nature to the film.
  • Hot Fuzz uses this technique excessively, to the point of parody.
  • Quantum of Solace uses shaky camera techniques heavily during the action scenes. Despite the fact that jitter cam was used only sparingly in its predecessor, Casino Royale.
    • The Bourne Series is similar: jittercam is used sparingly in Identity but heavily in Supremacy.
  • Silent House and its predecessor The Silent House uses it as part of their gimmick of the movies being one continuous shot.
  • The Hunger Games uses this throughout, primarily to prevent the violence from entering R-rated territory. One review sarcastically remarked, "may the Dramamine be ever in your favor."


Live Action TV

  • Came into wide TV use in the US with Hill Street Blues...
  • ...and in the UK with The Bill.
  • Later, NYPD Blue would use the technique heavily.
  • The Shield goes so far as to have twitchy zoom and focus; for actual action scenes, they go to a higher shutter speed.
  • Lost, particularly in the pilot, when the illusion of running through the jungle was created with actors running in place and filmed by a very shaky camera.
    • It was also used quite brilliantly in the fourth episode when John Locke stood up for the first time after his paralysis had been healed. But yeah, other than when characters are running it's just annoying, but I guess shooting in the jungle can't be easy.
    • However, the camera became less jittery as the series went on; later, this only came up when it made the most sense-during action scenes.
  • 24.
  • Firefly was notable for being the first show that simulated the jittercam effect in its CGI sequences.
  • The 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica. The use, at least in the space scenes, was actually called for by writer/producer Ronald D. Moore, in his manifesto on "naturalistic science-fiction." The idea was that while in conventional film-making it is important never to draw attention to the camera in order to avoid breaking Suspension of Disbelief, CGI special effects shots tend to fall into a sort of Uncanny Valley effect. The CGI shots in Battlestar Galactica were therefore shot using only camera placements and techniques that theoretically could have been used if the show were, in fact a documentary.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters".
    • The more recent episodes are entirely filmed with Jittercam. Just look at "Let's Kill Hitler", for one example.
  • Most battle scenes in Band of Brothers.
  • The Office, both UK and US, since it's a Mockumentary
  • The 2006 Friday Night Lights series, continuing the tradition of the film.
  • Boston Legal
  • The X-Files episode "X-Cops", since the episode was presented as a show much like Cops.
  • Kath & Kim (the original Australian version)
  • Medium
  • Law and Order.
  • House, from about the third season on.
  • The Thick of It, especially in the first series.
  • A staple of British young-lawyers drama This Life.
  • Breaking Bad
  • Power Rangers RPM makes use of this during the fight scenes. Thankfully the Ranger suits are so brightly coloured so you can just about tell what's going on.
  • Stargate Universe might as well be named Shakycam Universe. There is roughly 4 combined minutes of not shaking for a 45-or-so minute TV series.


Video Games

  • Happens when the player sprints in Gears of War, despite the game being third-person. Word of God says that this masks the fact that running isn't really much faster than normal speed.
    • Third Person Shooters, First Person Shooters and other genres use this trope during sprinting.
  • The Transformers video game based on the movie.
  • In Fallout 3, whenever you use the VATS.
  • Resident Evil light-gun spinoff The Darkside Chronicles uses this; although it results in a more cinematic presentation than the game's predecessor, The Umbrella Chronicles (which does not feature a shaky cam), it also makes it much more difficult to hit enemies in critical areas, and accuracy is one of the criteria upon which the player is rated.
  • Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days uses this trope as a portrayal of Lynch's mental state.
  • The Mass Effect series simulates it, mostly for flybys and establishing shots.


Web Original

 Harley: Well, this shot's boring! Too stationary. Let's get some camera-shake! (Jittercam) Feels like you're really there. More camera-shake. (Stronger Jittercam) More camera-shake! (Stronger Jittercam) ...Too much camera-shake.

Freddie: This isn't Bourne Identity! You ain't Matt Damon!,

  • Bum Reviews used it to review The Hunger Games, listed above (complete with complaining that the IMAX makes it even more nauseating).


Western Animation

  • The pilot for Moral Orel used this during dramatic moments, mainly when Bloberta was alone (not sure about the rest of the series).
  • Mocked in South Park when South Park is attacked by guinea pigs. Even when just walking around normally, Randy Marsch breathes heavily and shakes his camera around manically, going from his wife's face to his shoes and making a big show for dramatic effect until his wife tells him to knock it off.


Real Life

  • Played straight and subverted in basic biology. Look immediately to your left. Now look immediately to your right. For a fraction of a second, you were blind. In short, your brain "cuts" the transition from one eye movement to the next, allowing you to look around without getting dizzy. Yes, this means that your brain is Genre Savvy enough to avert Dizzy Cam by using Jittercam. However, look around too much, or stay in motion long enough, and you'll get to the "subverted" part...
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