Steadicam Shot: What Is It & What Is It Used For?
The invention of the Steadicam left its mark on Hollywood and the film industry.
As a filmmaker, you must understand how your choice of camera equipment affects the mood and effect of your footage.
In this article, I’ll walk you through Steadicam shots. You will learn about their history and some notable examples. Let’s get started!
Are you interested in more about filmmaking? Check out our filmmaking guide!
What is a Steadicam shot?
A Steadicam shot is captured with a portable camera stabilizing system that absorbs shake and any drastic movements.
It operates by mechanically isolating the Steadicam operator’s every move. They wear a vest attached to a camera rig for more control and better weight distribution.
Steadicam shots are stable and flexible. They give a smooth, fluid effect to scenes and are used for different shots.
Steadicam shot effect
Steadicams help the audience fully immerse themselves into your story.
They connect with characters when they feel like they can step into their world or see things from their perspective.
The history of Steadicam
Cameraman and inventor Garret Brown debuted the Steadicam on the set of Bound for Glory in 1975. He sold it to Cinema Products Corporation and they used his device in several projects like Rocky and The Shining.
Directors globally recognized that a Steadicam shot combines the stability of dolly shots with the ease and flexibility of a handheld camera.
They adapted the technology, and Steadicams became the go-to equipment for following sequences and action montages.
How Brown’s Steadicam changed cinema
Steadicam shots changed cinema drastically. They enabled filmmakers to create smooth POV footage which opened doors to new possibilities.
Steadicams reduced the cost of tracking shots made with expensive cranes or labour-intensive dolly tracks.
The audience could finally immerse themselves and align with characters by putting themselves in their shoes - or eyes, rather.
When to use a Steadicam shot
There are many cases where a Steadicam shot can elevate intentional camera movement.
It shouldn’t be mindlessly used and abused, though! Here are three examples in which experienced filmmakers may call for a Steadicam:
Tracking shots are a classic example of how to emotionally involve viewers while keeping them at the edge of their seats!
A Steadicam is an excellent tool to follow your characters through various terrains without feeling like an observer.
POV or point-of-view shots are shot from a character’s perspective. They can be static or utilize various camera movements.
A POV Steadicam shot can perfectly imitate walking along with friends at a concert or going for a run at the beach.
Shots where space is limited
Brown’s invention allowed dynamic camera movement in settings where it hasn’t been possible before. Before the Steadicam shot, only shaky handheld camerawork could cut it in tight spaces.
Now, directors are free to film smooth, energetic footage on trains, in caves, tiny corridors, and much more. The only limit is their creativity!
3 Iconic Steadicam shot examples
The list of movies that utilized the Steadicam to draw in and captivate the audience goes on and on.
Here are three of the most iconic Steadicam shot examples from the film.
One of the quintessential scenes from Rocky, the training montage, heavily utilizes the Steadicam shot. Director John G. Avildsen sets the pace and captivates the audience by taking them along for Rocky’s journey.
The success of the movie launched the Steadicam to commercial success.
2. The Shining
In The Shining, young Danny pedals through The Overlook Hotel on his tricycle before meeting the Grady twins.
The tracking shot uses classic film techniques like masterful framing to set the mood.
Kubrick’s directing style perfectly complimented Brown’s invention which critics and movie fans noticed.
In Scorsese’s iconic scene from Goodfellas, we follow the perspective of Karen as she discovers the perks of having powerful connections. She and Henry tour the busy kitchen and club while giving the audience an introduction to the dinner club.
The audience is engaged and curious to explore more of the life in the mob.
Explore more camera movements and shots
Steadicam shots are a practical part of any filmmaker’s toolkit. They create a captivating viewing experience that encourages the audience to emotionally connect to the characters.
Want to expand your skillset? Explore more camera movement and shots.
What is a Steadicam shot?
A Steadicam shot is a type of dynamic camera movement shot on a camera stabilizer attached to the camera operator by a harness.
When was the Steadicam shot introduced?
The Steadicam was first introduced in 1975 in Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory.