I want to shot some scenes using a tripod, and some others handheld (with an IS lens).

Can I mix both types of scenes in a short (4 minutes) movie, or is it unprofessional?

From what I've seen:

  • Many movies are shot handheld: it is barely noticeable, but in most scenes when it looks like the camera is on a tripod (for example a 10 seconds scene of a woman who talks to her husband in a restaurant), the background still moves a little all the time.

  • Short movies where tripod is used use it consistently: all scenes are shot with either a tripod or a slider. An example: Philip Bloom's Postcard series.

3 Answers 3


You're asking for an opinion, because there's no rule book to consult here. So, IMO...

'Pro' movies are shot with all manner and mixtures of techniques, including dolly, mount, rig, crane, Steadicam, fixed, zoom, drone etc. I think many people would find a short film that mixed tripod with deliberate "shaky cam" to be a bit jarring without a good cinematic justification, but just mixing IS handheld with tripod should be no sin. Story trumps technique anyway -- if your viewers are watching how the camera moves, your story isn't compelling -- or they're film students. (-:


There is nothing at all wrong with crossing shots of different types and levels of stabilization. It depends entirely on the look you are going for. It is pretty rare for a shot to be truly "hand held" in the professional world though, at least in the way most consumers do it.

At a minimum, most professional camera rigs are setup to be shoulder mounted and pointed using hands. Alternately, full body steadicam rigs may be used for stabilizing a shot when the cameraman needs to be able to move quickly and fluidly without having it jostle the camera. Finally, many moving shots are done using a dolly rather than hand holding and thus achieve maximum stability.

There are exceptions to this where the scene or style of a film calls for unsteady shooting. (Blair Witch Project for example.) The choice of how steady to make footage should be determined by what you need for the final piece to flow well. It is generally jarring to go between stable and highly unstable shots, but in some cases, this may be a desirable thing. If you are just doing a standard shot, you will probably want to heavily stabilize the handheld shot prior to use, but it isn't a one size fits all solution and isn't always what's best.

Use your editorial judgement and do what fits for your film.


I agree with the other commenters that it's a stylistic decision. I just want to mention a great way to transition from tripod to handheld. I can't remember what movie it was in; might have been James Cameron action flick. (Love his camera work!) The camera is static or moving smoothly, until there is an explosion that appears to jostle the camera. The next shot is handheld, as are subsequent shots.

I've seen many movies where the camera work, and the editing, are designed to match what a viewer's eyes would do. They dart to interesting elements in the scene; they look at the person who is talking, or who has the most important emotion or reaction in a conversation. If you use a style like that, you could start increasing the pace of the cuts right before you move to the handheld shots. And to "come out of" the handheld section, you can slow down the shakiness, and use a character's emotional transition from erratic to calm to motivate the camera's transition from handheld to static.

As I've been writing this, I realized that the camerawork (editing pace, tripod vs. dolly vs. handheld, etc.) can match the emotions of a character or the emotions of the scene, if you want. That will make the different camera styles "feel" right to the audience. But just like you don't want your actors to overact, you don't want your camerawork to be overdone either.

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