Movie Motion Sickness
July 27, 2004 10:42 PM   Subscribe

So tonight I went to see The Bourne Supremecy, and after about 20 minutes, I had to run out of the theatre and throw up. More inside >>

Seriously. It seemed as if it was something with the camerawork or something, yet this has never happened in a movie before. Has this happened to anyone else here? What happened to me?
posted by Quartermass to Health & Fitness (33 answers total)
According to the Entertainment Weekly article, that's what the filmmaker was going for.
posted by drezdn at 10:45 PM on July 27, 2004

Could possibly have been the method of projection. Does the theatre use a DLP projector?
posted by Evstar at 10:49 PM on July 27, 2004

Blair Witch made me throw up, most likely motion sickness induced by the hand held camera. I'm told sitting further back in the cinema helps. FWIW it has never happened since.
posted by arha at 10:57 PM on July 27, 2004

Fark thread on the subject....

... I guess it's pretty common. I've heard similar complaints about films like "Dancer in the Dark" and "Blair Witch". It's motion sickness I think. Directors sometimes go for it to get that "real" feel, like watching an episode of "Cops". I think the effect goes away on a smaller screen. You might want to be careful of films by Wong Kar-Wai.
posted by bobo123 at 10:58 PM on July 27, 2004

My girlfriend said the effect made her nauseous. We were pretty far back in a sizable theater. Some friends complained it made them miss the action. I loved it. Thought it added a great realism (the franticness, the chaos) of the fight and chase scenes. But yeah, I would suspect motion sickness (in the same sense that it afflicts many video game players).
posted by rafter at 11:14 PM on July 27, 2004

I can see how that would happen. Like rafter, I also quite liked it. I thought they might have gone a bit overboard with it in parts, but it sure got in my head like most action scenes don't.
posted by The God Complex at 11:18 PM on July 27, 2004

[matt damon looks calmly at an old (russian) family photo.] [the camera shakes wildly.]
posted by Marquis at 1:56 AM on July 28, 2004

The camera work was completely overdone. When I pay $9 to see a movie on the big screen, I damn well want to be able to see what's happening.
posted by Galvatron at 2:37 AM on July 28, 2004

Are you absolutely sure it wasn't the acting?
posted by skylar at 4:18 AM on July 28, 2004

I've never thrown up from camera work, but I've been made sick-to-my-stomach by a revolving camera. You know those "romantic scenes" in which a couple is face-to-face and the camera goes round and round them. In one movie (I forget which), it was revolving particularly fast and I got so dizzy and sick-feeling that I had to look away.

But then I don't deal well on roller-coasters, either.
posted by grumblebee at 5:17 AM on July 28, 2004

It's really weird how some people can be really badly affected by this, but other people have absolutely no sense of anything unpleasant at all.

Perhaps they should give warnings out to people sensitive to this sort of stuff, like they do if there are lots of strobe effects which can give epileptics big problems (connection here with epilepsy, maybe?)
posted by wackybrit at 5:46 AM on July 28, 2004

I'm usually more sensitive to camera movements than most people, but oddly enough Bourne Supremacy didn't bother me. Can you guys remember what was happening onscreen when you became ill?

On the other hand, a year or two ago, SciFi channel broadcast a sequel to Cube that even on the smaller real estate of a tv screen, left me with a migraine after the first ten minutes...
posted by JollyWanker at 6:03 AM on July 28, 2004

wackybrit, I doubt it's a connection with epilepsy. More likely it's related to motion sickness and so the inner ear. It's like travelling in a car. Some people get violently sick when the go on trips. Some people get violently sick if they try to read while on trips. Some people can go on long trips, read and binge drink and feel fine.
posted by substrate at 6:03 AM on July 28, 2004

I hear that a large percentage of movie-goers had the same reaction when they saw "Gigli".
posted by madman at 6:21 AM on July 28, 2004

This movie had the most exaggerated use of this new 'effect' that I have ever seen. At some points, it simply was ridiculous. You could not tell anything about what was going on.

Too bad that had to tarnish what was a good movie otherwise..
posted by eas98 at 6:41 AM on July 28, 2004

so this is the new "bullet time"? I got dizzy seeing Matrix the first time too.
posted by casarkos at 6:54 AM on July 28, 2004

I didn't barf at the Blair Witch Project, but I came close. It really took me out of the movie. To this day, I'm unsure whether I just didn't think it was a scary movie, or I was just too queasy to give it a chance.
posted by willpie at 7:28 AM on July 28, 2004

As others have said, it is most likely motion sickness, which can be somewhat selective. For example, I have, thus far, only experienced with First Person Shooters. I can't play one for more than 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the engine) without feeling quite dizzy and developing a headache. And yet I have no problem with anything else, including film. I've seen it most often on sail boats. Ye olde sea sickness as it were.
posted by juiceCake at 7:48 AM on July 28, 2004

We went to see it, and my buddy gave it a nickname: "Collision Cam"
posted by Irontom at 8:48 AM on July 28, 2004

The only problem I had with the camera is that it let them cheat by showing an elbow here and a fist there instead of any real martial arts.
posted by callmejay at 8:59 AM on July 28, 2004

My girlfriend had a similar reaction - the constant camera motion made her nauseated and gave her a headache. Me, I loved it. I thought it was completely appropriate and added texture and dimension to the film - which I thought was one of the better spy/action movies in recent years. I'm definitely going to read the book. (I read the first one before I saw the movie and it kind of detracted from my enjoyment, so I thought I'd see the second movie before reading the sequel.)
posted by widdershins at 9:05 AM on July 28, 2004

I, Robot had some really bad instances of dizzying camera shots, as well. It is worse the closer you are but, I'm stuck as the wheelchair space in theaters is always about row 4 or 5.

I wish theater owners would realize that some of us hate sitting that close and would like a choice in the matter.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:13 AM on July 28, 2004

Shooting an entire film hand-held is what is called "a home movie".

I was not made nauseous by the camera "work" in Supremacy, but it was incredibly distasteful and really, really distracting. Like, within seconds of the opening shot I was thinking "what's with the fucking handheld camera???". As an audience member I shouldn't really be thinking about the camera at all.

Throw in the abysmal writing and you've got one stinker of a film. On the other hand, one of the people I was with thought it was the greatest thing since four-wheel brakes.

Oh, and on the topic of the question: my wife gets tremendous headaches from movies, made worse when there is lots of spinny stuff (like grumblebee was talking about). On the other hand, Supremacy DIDN'T give her a headache. Go figure.
posted by dragstroke at 9:23 AM on July 28, 2004

On this topic, much of the camera work in "Super Size Me" seemed like it was done by monkeys.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:34 AM on July 28, 2004

Yeah, like dragstroke said, it was almost entirely shot with a hand-held, to the extent that you can notice in the film when they finally (about ten minutes in) use a dolly, and then immediately switch back. I got a twinge in the back of my neck and the beginnings of a headache before Matt Damon finished writing in that notebook.

Although I've never gotten to the point of vomitting, I do get uncomfortable when the camera work in a movie gets too avant-garde. I find the best way to prevent a nasty headache is to sit far enough back so that I am aware of the edges of the screen. That way, if things get too insane, I can focus on the steady black border and feel a little bit better.
posted by mmcg at 9:48 AM on July 28, 2004

I haven't seen the picture (Matt Damon makes me want to barf), but there's a fair amount of research done on the relationship between perceptual style and motion sickness. This work gets done to study the phenomenon of people who get sick with virtual interfaces. Remember that what we see is composed from a 2D surface on our retina, and is constantly updated by aggregating the information contained in lots of small rapid eye movements, compensating for our own motion, our blind spots, various algorhythms that determine what's close, what's far, and so on.

Some of this research looks at visual frames, which basically looks at individual differences in our interpretation of what is stationary versus what is moving in our perceptual field. People also to talk about the effect of field dependent and independent perceptual styles.

So you might have a perceptual style, or may have been sitting close enough that it was hard for you to get grounded in the at-rest frame of the movie screen, and kind of got drawn into the motion of the camera's point of view.
posted by jasper411 at 9:51 AM on July 28, 2004

I hear that a large percentage of movie-goers had the same reaction when they saw "Gigli".
So, what, two out of the three people that saw it?

Jittery hand-held shots won't make you queasy if your eyes can get any feel for how the camera's moving. It sounds like what happened here was that your eyes and brain couldn't sync with the movements. It really depends on who's actually holding the camera, as everyone jitters differently.

Sorry to hear about you going through that. Matt Damon makes me puke in in static triposd shots, though, so I can't really help you past that myself.
posted by chicobangs at 10:07 AM on July 28, 2004

When I went to see Dancer in the Dark there were warning signs in the lobby and ticket window to the effect of, "WARNING: Do not see this movie if you easily get motion sick or dizzy." They were right.
posted by bradhill at 10:46 AM on July 28, 2004

Dancer in the Dark was one of the worst freakin' movies I've ever had the misfortune to see.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:26 AM on July 28, 2004

fff: I'm totally with you on that. I don't understand everyone's fascination with it.
posted by bshort at 2:13 PM on July 28, 2004

The musical parts, my friends. The bits in between were, admittedly, tripe, but the musical parts were magical (though if you hate Bjork, then that's no consolation)
posted by wackybrit at 7:39 PM on July 28, 2004

a similar thing happened to me during the movie twister as well as the movie traffic. in traffic, in addition to the nausea, i got a crippling migraine that lasted well beyond the actual movie.

dancer in the dark didn't impact me, but i saw it at home and not on a big screen...
posted by maybeiam at 11:43 PM on July 28, 2004

It's on my list to see with MoPix captions, which are offscreen. I have a lot of experience looking back and forth, but I wonder if peripheral viewing of shakycam footage is gonna be noticeable. And actually, watching it on ultimate home video with captions is gonna be interesting, since they're onscreen and not jittery.
posted by joeclark at 7:52 PM on July 30, 2004

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