The introduction of the Steadicam by Garrett Brown in the 1970s marked a significant evolution in cinematic language, particularly evident in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”
The era of New Hollywood in the late ’60s and early ’70s was characterized by a departure from classical storytelling, embracing a more realistic, rough-around-the-edges filmmaking style.
Directors sought to challenge audiences with a visceral immediacy, often employing handheld cameras to achieve a sense of realism.
However, Brown, a self-taught filmmaker and camera operator, recognized a fundamental flaw in this approach: the inherent shakiness of handheld footage did not truly represent the human experience of a stable perception of the world.
Brown’s invention, born from his frustration with the limitations of existing camera stabilization methods, was a game-changer. The Steadicam provided a solution that allowed for smooth camera movements while maintaining the craft of operating.
His “30 Impossible Shots” reel, showcasing the Steadicam’s potential, caught the attention of the film industry, leading to its integration into notable films like “Bound for Glory,” “Rocky,” and “Marathon Man.”
However, it was Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” that fully realized the Steadicam’s revolutionary impact on cinematic storytelling.
Kubrick, known for his obsession with image stability and precise compositions, saw the Steadicam as a tool to revolutionize film shooting. The collaboration between Brown and Kubrick led to the development of “low-mode” and other advancements, enabling iconic shots like Danny’s Big Wheel ride through the Overlook Hotel.
The Steadicam’s ability to deliver long, smooth camera movements with a dead-centered composition added a new dimension to the film’s visual language.
This collaboration not only transformed “The Shining” into a masterclass of Steadicam use but also set the stage for its widespread adoption in the industry.
Directors like David Lynch, James Cameron, and Martin Scorsese would later harness the Steadicam’s potential, integrating it into their unique cinematic styles and continuing the evolution of film language initiated by Brown’s groundbreaking invention.