The dreaded shaky cam. WWE thinks it helps add to the show, but you just can't see anything.
A constant bane of the existence of the Fightful review panel. The shaky camera utilized by WWE has been an unfortunate go-to since The Shield debuted in late 2012. Since then, you can't go long without seeing a zoom on a bump, or reckless shaking. Former WCW President Eric Bischoff tells Fightful that he's not a fan of it.
"I hated it! I hated it! I still—every time I see it at home, I’m like, “Oh, my God, that was cool for like five minutes back in the early 90s.If you produce those interviews, and by producing them, I mean not just where the camera angle is, “should we shake it or not shake it?”, or zoom in and zoom out. That’s like production 101 nonsense. But, producing that talent is finding the elements of the character that you can get them to say, that communicates the overall story and character elements you’re trying to convey, but doing it in a natural way in their voice. Not in some writer’s head, that has possibly only met the talent once or twice or has limited interactions with the talent other than just how to get things done and when to do it. You gotta get to know that talent and produce according to their strengths and minimize their weakness as opposed to saying, “Okay, this is what we want you to read,” and then talent goes back, and they memorize it and someone goes, “Three, two, one,” and you’re on live TV and you’re not feeling what you’re saying. You’re remembering what you’re saying and there’s a world of difference between the two," said Bischoff.
Why does it happen, and more importantly, why does it continue after so many have expressed displeasure!? Bischoff does his best to explain how and when he's okay with that kind of thing happening on wrestling TV.
"There’s an ENG style—Electronic News Gathering—meaning you’ve got a [camera on your shoulder], there’s a fire over there, you’re filming it as you’re running. Okay, that ENG style of shooting and production enhances, if you’re trying to communicate a sense of chaos and urgency, it works. If it’s a backstage segment it works even better because those backstage segments almost always suck. Because they can’t bump off the concrete. You can, but not really. They’re usually street fights and pull aparts and brawls, which look better if the camera’s not locked on the action because if the camera’s locked on the action you’re gonna see some shit you don’t want anybody to see through, right? But, if it’s that backstage environment and it’s that ENG style and “Oh, my God, there’s a burning building! Let’s go rush and see who’s in it.” I’m cool with it."
When asking Bischoff for a comparison or an example of why it was so popular, and seeking some expansion on his thoughts, the former WCW President didn't disappoint in his response.
"If we’re backstage and you’re giving me one of these handheld “zoom in, zoom out, go around in circles?” Look, Sean, while back I took flying lessons. I got my own airplane. I decided I wanted to get my instrument rating. One of the things you do when you get your pilot’s license, and even more so when you get your instrument rating, or trying to get it, is they put you under a hood where the only thing you can see, just below your eyes, are your instruments. The entire cockpit of the cockpit is blacked out, you have no sense of what’s up, what’s down, forward, backward, nothing. You’re relying solely on your instruments because your brain will play tricks on you. Once you lose your equilibrium or you go into a state of vertigo, you have no idea what’s up and what’s down. That’s how John F. Kennedy, Jr. got killed. He flew upside down because he thought he was flying right side up and he ended up in the ocean. Watching those cameras zoom in and zoom out on backstage interviews induces the same level of vertigo that my flight instructor did when he was trying to teach me to look at nothing else but my instruments. The only difference is, when I see that now, I’m not looking at my instruments, I’m looking for the remote. I hate it. Sometimes I think it can be effective, if it’s not overused and / or if it’s not being used to camouflaged the bump. In other words, I see a lot of times—and, again, this is not a criticism, this is like I worship the freakin’ ground they walk on kind of a comment—the WWE production team is so good, they are so good. They’re almost too damn good, and their timing is so perfect, it’s almost too perfect. As a result of their being too perfect, they can easily make those quick cuts, or zoom in-zoom out at the right time to perfectly camouflage something that needed to be a little enhanced. Live TV, you don’t get a chance to edit, right? Back in the day when everything was taped, you could edit around that stuff. Take a wide shot, take a crowd shot, whatever. But, now that it’s live, you can’t. So, I think often times you see some of that because your director, your cameramen, whoever is calling the shots—your director is calling the shots—doesn’t want to take a shot the audience can see through. But, what happens is you become overly reliant on that and then when it starts happening so often it actually takes the audience out of the moment," said Bischoff.
You can see Fightful's full interview with Eric Bischoff at the top of the page, but you can also check him out with Conrad Thompson on his 83 Weeks podcast each Monday on Westwood One. For bonus and ad-free episodes, you can also subscribe to Ad Free Shows.