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-   -   Dialogue shooting tips or Book reccomendations? (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/open-dv-discussion/10916-dialogue-shooting-tips-book-reccomendations.html)

Bryan Roberts June 16th, 2003 02:56 PM

Dialogue shooting tips or Book reccomendations?
Hey all. I've shot a few shorts now but I keep running into problems shooting dialogue sequences. Does anyone know of any helpful websites or books out there that describe techniques used in the industry when filming dialogue scenes? For example, like shooting say three lines twice from two OTS shots then cutting them together or tricks like this. I use these techniques but keep running into snags and things generally are lacking a professional look. I'm using a Panasonic one chip cam (dv 852) and a VX2000 when using the schools. Also, I'm cutting in Premiere. Thanks for any input!


Richard Alvarez June 16th, 2003 03:26 PM

"Shot by SHot" is a good one, so is "The Five C's". One of the most comprehensive books on overall filmmaking is "Into Film" by Jay Kaufman... probably out of print.

Basically, you can approach the shot in a master, and two OTS for dual dialogue. Make sure you don't "cross the line" and it should all cut together fine. What sort of problems are you having?

Ken Tanaka June 16th, 2003 03:27 PM

Hi Bryan,
Take a look at Jay Rose's "Producing Great Sound for Digital Video". It's filled with excellent information on the subject.

His companion book, "Audio Postproduction for Digital Video" is also excellent. Both would be good, long-term investments in your video library.

EDIT: Oops. I interpreted your post from an audio perspective, rather than an editing perspective. Sorry. But I'll leave my note here ... they're still good references.

Don Berube June 16th, 2003 06:34 PM

Blocking your shots and "The Line"
Hi Bryan,

It will help you to become familiar with "The Line" when blocking your shots. You may have heard about the "line" or "180 degree rule" - it's actually very simple to understand. If you are shooting two people talking and you want to break up the Master Shot or two-shot with some OTS (Over The Shoulder) shots, imagine one straight line going through them, as if each of them were standing on that same line.

Right Way:
The "line" rule says that when you are choosing shots for this scene, you must shoot from one side of that imaginary line only. It doesn't matter which side you choose, but it does matter that you stick to that side. This means that the camera placement for each OTS shot for each person should remain on the same side of that line.

Wrong Way
If you put the camera for each OTS for each person on opposite sides of that line, you are crossing the line. You want to avoid doing this. Crossing the line confuses the audience and looks odd. Again, keep the camera placement for each OTS shot for each person on the same side of that imaginary line.

Of course, rules are always meant to be broken, when appropriate... hehe

Here's some more books regarding this process:

- don

Bryan Roberts June 16th, 2003 07:12 PM

Hey guys, thanks for input so far.

I actually have the book "Shot by Shot" which was a help, but I didn't quite get what I needed to out of it for some reason, but I studied all the shot pages they had trying to get a feel for shots flow.

Yeah, I should have given more info on why my dialogue looks so awkward. I am completely fine with the 180 degree rule or the line etc., I shoot shot reverse shot fine and two shots etc. The shots seem to be fine when ordered together, it's more of the process of actually filming my shots. I generally work with free actors who don't memorize a scene, so they can only do say 3 lines each without a script, so the filming is very choppy and what happens is the final product looks quite choppy. I blend all the audio together in premiere so it's not like there's a click or any abrupt change in the audio quality when changing shots. Editing is without a doubt my strong point. I guess I'm curious, when you guys shoot a dialogue scene say between two people, do you literally shoot a master two shot of the actors as they act out the entire scene and then shoot CU's and reaction shots to cut in during post? Maybe I can get a little snipit from a short of mine down to say 5 megs and host it on my school site. I'm only going with a film minor right (grad. this fall)now but have serious aspirations to attend film school fall 04'. I would rather email a select few of you the link to the snipit because, I'm rather embarassed of the quality of my dialogue scenes. I have been most pleased with all of my other work with shorts and produced pieces with the HUGE EXCEPTION of dialogue filled shorts. Thanks for all help!

Keith Loh June 16th, 2003 09:13 PM

Okayyyy... if you can't get your 'free' actors to memorize lines... (I'd say feed them one line at a time as a compromize).

When you edit, do one pass for dialogue and then break up the scene by having the dialogue flow over reactions or long shots. A long shot where the lip synching may not be obvious. Reaction cutaway shot where the person speaking is off camera.

John Threat June 17th, 2003 05:34 AM

You can shoot the master shot by shot as well.

I usually ask actors to try to memorize the whole scene, and shoot 2 takes of it in a master at two differnt focal lengths.

Then I do the CU of each person in the conversation with specific lines or all the lines one by one, then one take of them running thru the whole thing.

Then, if you have time. Get coverage of each actor in CU/MED just responding/reacting to another persons dialouge.

One thing to remember, is that keeping the camera in one place while you get the coverage you need to cut with is a good rule. Even if you break it later with handheld or a moving camera, it can't hurt to have the base coverage you need to cut it together. It will save you everytime.

One thing that will help in coverage of a dialog scene is continuity. If someone picks up a coffee cup at a certain point in the master, be prepared to have that person pick that cup up in their close up, and in the reverse over the shoulder, so that it cuts together seamlessly.

Also, study some films closely for how they did their dialouge. It's an obvious piece of advice, but it helps to figure out how they covered it.

Bryan Roberts June 17th, 2003 07:16 AM

John - that's a great help, thanks! Yeah, we always watch heavy dialogue movies before attempting a dialogue scene, this time we watched Devils Advocate (because it's very Classical Hollywood style) and some of Pulp Fiction though most strays from classical style.

Richard Alvarez June 17th, 2003 09:18 AM

It sounds to me, like most of your problems stem from the inexperience of your actors. (I assume you have a grasp of camera angles and editing techniques.).

You can only "fix" so much of a performance in post. You will be amazed at how free you feel when editing good (well delivered) dialogue.

John Threat June 17th, 2003 09:15 PM

You might want to try a rehersal before you go to shoot. Blocking everything ahead of time and practice is how those scenes become really tight, before any film is shot.

With DV.. its a lot cheap to just use some scratch tape and record a few sessions before the day of the shoot and see what the problem areas in dialouge are.

Bryan Roberts June 17th, 2003 10:07 PM

These are all great suggestions, I'm dying to either re-shoot the dialogue in my last short or shoot another dialogue scene.

On a completely unrelated question rather than starting a new thread: I have some comical VO's in the short I just shot during dialogue scenes and I am having trouble making the VO's stand out from the spoken dialogue of the character. What are some ways that you guys make your dialogues seem different? I noticed on some TV shows, there is a slight echo effect on the VO.

Thanks everyone!

Don Berube June 18th, 2003 06:47 AM

Hi Bryan,

What type of microphone was used to rrecord the VO? What type of room emnvironment was the VO recorded in? How much ambiance or room tone is embedded into the VO?

- don

Bryan Roberts June 18th, 2003 06:54 AM

Don - for the VO's, we used a SHURE shotgun/condesor mic VP64A in an apt room with the door shut. For the actual short, we used the on board mic on the VX2000 for personel reasons (no one was willing to hold the boom for the million takes the actors required). The short was filmed in the same apt with a constant AC hum in the background (we planned this, it had to be on the entire time because heat from the lights, it was 90 degrees and raining in Raleigh :( ) Can I add echo or some other audio effect in Premiere to make the VO stand out or what? Thanks everyone!

Don Berube June 18th, 2003 08:13 AM


Rule #1: NEVER commit to a location if it is not exactly what you need.

Rule #2: Always use a soundman

Rule #3: Always use the microphone that is needed.

Bryan, I'm sorry if this seems harsh or unnecessary, but my point is simply that if you at any time violate these rules, you pay for it in post. Bigtime! And it usually adds up to a lot of tedious tweaking which ultimately could have been prevented by following a few simple rules.

I know your current project is a mere grain of sand compared to the many, many awesome and enriching projects that lie before you in the future, so don't give up just yet. I'm sure there is something you can do to fix the problems you are encountering. My feeling is that it will not be just one solution, but a combination and sum total of many.

Perhaps some of the other readers here may have an idea or two which they could suggest???

>>>>for the VO's, we used a SHURE shotgun/condesor mic VP64A in an apt room with the door shut.

- Technically, this is the wrong type of microphone to use for VO. The VP64A is an omnidirectional handheld mic designed for a reporter to use for news gathering, the more open pickup pattern is more forgiving if they forget to place the mic right up to the person's mouth - but it has a more open sound and will record a lot of ambiance. Too much ambiance for a VO application. You really should use a hypercardioid microphone with a large diaphragm such as an AKG 414, Electrovoice RE20 or Sennheiser MD-441 or something equivalent. These large diaphragm mics sound humungously better over standard handheld mics when used for VO, as the large diaphragm yields a very, very warm bass sound to the voice, especially when placed close to a person's mouth. There is a reason why most DJ's use these mics. Another good mic to use if you can't get your hands on one of these is a short hypercardioid shotgun mic such as a Sennheiser 416 placed over the person and towards their mouth.

>>>>For the actual short, we used the on board mic on the VX2000 for personel reasons (no one was willing to hold the boom for the million takes the actors required).

- could you maybe have rigged the shotgun mic up over the actors with some C-stands at least? The stereo mic on the VX2000 is not meant to be used for dialogue. It is best used as a stereo ambiance microphone. The reason that you are hearing so much room tone in your dialogue recording is because you used this microphone, rather than a shotgun or at least some lav mics on each actor passed through a mixer.

Now, please do not get me wrong, I'm not trying to harp on the fact that you made some critical judgement calls which adversely affected the outcome of your footage. Let's try to find a solution here.

I recommend that you re-record all of the VO with the proper microphone in a very tight and dead-sounding room. This may sound like a lot at first, but it is no way near as difficult as re-shooting. Having this improved VO will in the very least add contrast to the poorly recorded dialogue and it will also serve as an "auditory break" for the viewer, hopefully keeping their attention to the short in between the poorly recorded dialogue.

Not really knowing what the synopsis of your project is, I would at least suggest that perhaps the footage can be edited in such a way with some appropriate music where you do not rely so much on the dialogue audio and perhaps tell the story in a more visual way. The idea is that with the two above combined strategies, you will minimize subjecting the viewer to that difficult-to-understand dialogue.

Perhaps you could also retain the dialogue footage but re-record the dialogue audio (loop the audio)? You may have to end up doing this if you are striving for a polished finished project.

>>>>Can I add echo or some other audio effect in Premiere to make the VO stand out or what?

- You can do anything you choose really, adding echo to VO which already has a high amount of ambiance doesn't sound like a good idea to me,,, but hey, try it, who knows?

Without knowing what your story is about, what the footage actually sounds like, etc it is a bit difficult to suggest "THE" solution. I would say that you consider investing in some Sound Editing software such as BIAS SoundSoap http://www.bias-inc.com/soundsoap/home.html to clean up some of the dirty ambiance sound. Still, you will have to deal with the fact that you used a stereo camera mic to record your dialogue.

As I suggested, there is most likely a solution (combination of a few techniques that is) for you to use which will bring the level of intelligibility and quality of the dialogue tracks up to a level where you can finish the piece and move on to your next project!

If anyone has any additional recommendations, please do chime in.

Bryan, do keep in touch and let us know how things are going!

- don

Bryan Roberts June 18th, 2003 10:01 AM

Don - thanks so much for the advice, everything you said was extremely valuable. Yes, this project was "ghetto" production quality value at best other than the shots. The shure mic we used was the mic that the school studio's tech guy suggested. Yes, thank god, there is a good bit of music and sound FX going on during the short in the dialogue scenes so that helps cover up some of the sound problems. The dialogue is understandable however, as you already know, shotty at best. I will remember your knowledge for our next project (hopefully I'll have a script done in the next week or so). Of course, this project was not supposed to be of any high quality but surprisingly, we blew away all other projects in our class - doesn't say much because people were really struggling with basic continuity and editing. Hopefully, one of my next few shorts will prove portfolio worthy and might get me an in to a decent film school or internship or any film work other than corporate vids :D Thanks again!

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