HDSLR Video Cliches – Are You Falling Into The Trap?


When DSLR cameras capable of shooting professional HD video at affordable prices hit the market, the magic filmmaking doors opened, giving low to no budget filmmakers access to “looks” and “styles” traditionally reserved for big budget flicks.  Now that HDSLRs have been widely available for several years now, there are some “cliche” camera movements, angles, and shots that some critics say are becoming extremely overplayed.  I remember one of my professors in film school commenting on then rising “HDSLR Revolution”.  “I hate when they do the behind the tree shot, peeking out” he said.  After hearing that, I was pointing out the “behind the tree peeking out shot” to myself every time I saw it in a student film….I kind of agreed with him!

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann on

Recently Kastenskov, of Bombay Flying Club, published an article The Concise List of Overdone HDSLR Video Cliches.  I read the article, and may or may not have found myself falling into a “cliche trap” here and there.

According to Kastenkov, the list is as such:


1. The Moving Still Portrait

“This one is a classic. Somebody stares into the camera in a comatose way for 15 seconds, you think it’s a still and Whoops! he/she blinks. Thanks; it worked nice in the beginning, but not anymore. If you want to add surprise to your story, try NOT to do this one!”

2. The Time Lapse

“By now we’ve seen anything from slugs to clouds and stars race across the screen. Usually it doesn’t propel the story forward though. If there’s no logic reason in the story for doing so, changing speed will not grant your story success, mate.”

3. The Shallow Depth of Field Trick

“Another classic as old as 5D mrkII and the 85 mm f/1.2 lens. It was one of the things that lured us into doing HDSLR video in the first place. That sense of the cinematic big scope production. All for a meager 5.000+ US$. It looked amazing – and absolutely everybody is doing it by now! You don’t get ahead in this business by stepping in the footsteps of others. Find your own visual style and trust it to be good enough for your story.”

4. The $50 Dolly Shot

“Known as the ‘analog Kenn Burns’ or the ‘everything’s moving shot’ the low cost dolly rig was one of things that really lended an air of big budget to low cost video. It’s with dolly shots as it is with everything else in your movie: Just because you can, you don’t have to!”

5. The “Meaningful Branches of the Tree Blowing in the Wind” Shot

“If subjects tell their stories to camera, you sometimes need the B-roll shot in order to visually cover an incident you otherwise didn’t have access to. In comes branches, leaves, waves, time lapses (see above), out of focus shots and out-of-context photography B-roll can be down right necessary, but pleeeeze – be original. Let’s see something that actually has something to do with the story.”

6. The Bullet-Time Slo-Mo Twixtor effect

“It is with this one as with number 4). Just because you can, you don’t have to. Real world moves in real time, but sometimes it just looks too cool not to do that suuuuper slow shot. Sometimes you want to focus on that fraction of a second, that decisive moment and then let it explode. But how many decisive moments can there be in any one story? If there’s five of them, I guess the other ones weren’t that decisive then…”


After reading the article yourself, you will discover that it IS okay to still shoot and use these in your next production.   Just don’t use them “because you can”  use them if it makes sense, or if it will make sense when your project goes into post.  Personally, what I feel makes these aspects of filmmaking “cliche” is the MISUSE of them.  Every shot doesn’t have to immense depth of field or dolly to or from the subject, but hey throw it in when appropriate and it can really take your project to the next level.

To read Kastenkov’s full article, visit the link below

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