Since DSLR video cameras are incredibly light and not very ergonomically friendly for handheld work, using them without some type of stabilization system can render many of your shots unusable do to unpleasant camera shake. This camera shake draws audiences’ attention to the camera, which breaks the 4th wall and the illusion of reality, which as a director, you’re trying so hard to create. You wanted gentle movements that had a sort of “feather” quality to them and you’re not going to achieve that look by holding the camera in your hands while shooting. If you hold a DSLR camera in your hands it’s going to pick up the jitters from your morning coffee, your heartbeat and the movement of your breathing. These little machines are remarkable, but they are incredibly sensitive to movement.
Older, heavier video or film cameras had a weight to them that helped stabilize hand-held work. However, even those older and heavier cameras were generally mounted on the camera operator’s shoulder to help further stabilize the shot.
A shoulder mount is a dynamic piece of equipment that moves with the camera operator. It’s not static like a tripod and it allows you, the filmmaker, the flexibility of movement, which can really help increase efficiency during production.
Some filmmakers, and some audience members for that matter, don’t like the hand-held look – and that’s fine. They claim it makes them dizzy and nauseous. Fair enough. But some incredible films are being shot using this style of movement so we shouldn’t reject it as a legitimate shooting style. Essentially, a shoulder-mounted camera helps filmmakers create a sort of visual metaphor for something happening in the narrative of the film.