The observant angle: filming 101

A previously unreleased article by Jim Klok, which had collected so much dust we figured it was time to finally release it. Illustration done by Jim Arendse.

The way we view documented skateboarding is traditionally divided by 1): long lens or 2): fisheye. As far as I can remember (which is probably a maximum of 5 years ago) I have been obsessively figuring out camera set-ups of filmers while watching a skate clip.
When I was younger, skate video’s looked all the same to me. But when I skated for a couple years I started to recognize the difference in camera use, vignetting, if the steadyshot was left on, if a microphone was used…  sometimes it’s even possible to tell from the colour settings who is filming the clip.

I remember hating the Sony vx2000. It always looked over-exposed and the Century mark 2 fisheye wasn’t a pretty sight either. It didn’t have the nice vignetting I was so accustomed with and it seemed like all filmers with a vx2000 blatantly left steadyshot on. The microphone also sucked for some reason (until the Polar promo came out and Pontus Alv showed how to use the vx2/mk2 combination properly).

Anyway, since the rise of iPhone filming and the new Panasonic HVX camera’s, I started noticing a new kind of angle in which skateboarding was documented. It wasn’t a long lens dolly shot, and it also wasn’t a ultra-close up fisheye shot. It was something I called, for lack of a better term, the ‘observant’ angle. Popularized by Johnny Wilson and his blogs, the angle is preformed best while having a fisheye on your camera, standing up straight, looking through the viewfinder and slightly filming downwards. Filming fisheye lines standing up straight or filming single tricks from a distance with a fisheye, it shows a kind of ignorance or even irony which of course makes sense in this day and age.

Someone who mastered this angle is Bill Strobeck. Filming people talking to each other or saying something close to the fisheye, showing supreme box logo shirts or blowing cigarette smoke in the lens, it allowed for a lot of personality to show during a skate video.

This angle is a parody on filming itself, but by doing that making it a super good working one. A filmer not trying to film something properly while a heavy trick is going down. Trying to not try hard and making it seem like you’re not trying to… it’s a skill that most of us wish we had.

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