Outtakes: Snorricam

December 10, 2011 07:09 pm | Updated 07:09 pm IST

Truly subjective The housewife in "Charulata" caught between dreams of heaven and the responsibilities of earth

Truly subjective The housewife in "Charulata" caught between dreams of heaven and the responsibilities of earth

What it is…

SnorriCam (or Bodymount camera) is a cinematographic apparatus in which the camera is strapped to the body of an actor so that the camera follows her as she moves. The result is that the actor remains static with respect to the camera and the surroundings seem to move around her. As an alternative, the camera and the actor could be placed on the same moving platform to achieve the effect.

Why it is special...

The SnorriCam realises, in a way, what some theoreticians of film always wanted the camera to be: an extension of the human body. It makes the camera truly subjective: that is, bound to a subject. In its own abstract way, it locks the subject in position, allowing him no latitude. For instance, the SnorriCam shot at the beginning of Peepli Live (2010) aptly forecasts the situation that the farmer will find himself in.

When it is deployed...

The SnorriCam is one of the techniques that is often used solely for its snazzy nature: a visceral stimulation, an effect without an affect. It is of little surprise that the device feels at home in music videos and television commercials, in which “anything goes” is one of the guiding principles.

Where to find it...

Satyajit Ray, paying tribute to Jean Renoir in the process, uses a prototype of SnorriCam in Charulata (1964) in the scene in which we see the eponymous housewife on a swing. The camera is fixated on her face as the ground and the sky appear to rise and fall in tandem behind her. It is a purely visual representation of Charu's delicate situation: caught between dreams of heaven and the responsibilities of earth.

How it is used…

Drug trips

The SnorriCam, thanks to its iconic employment in Mean Streets (1973), has become a staple of sorts to illustrate the drug-induced hallucination of characters. In such a scenario – shot with a wide angle lens – the actor seems to move waywardly through a crowd that seems to orient itself around him. Similar uses of the Snorricam can occur in dance sequences, in which the camera appears to dance with the actor it records.

Spy camera

Although never intended as one, the spy camera functions as a SnorriCam in which the person (or the object) to whom the camera is pinned to remains stationary in the frame while the world around moves. The same effect is replicated when a person records herself on the move with a mobile-phone camera.

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