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Old October 16th, 2005, 11:15 PM   #1
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Directing dialogue

I'm just curious what everyone's technique is on shooting dialogue. What kind of shots do you typically get.

For each shot, do you focus it on the actor, and have them play out the whole scene? Or do you have them just do a certain chunk.

I'm just curious.
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Old October 17th, 2005, 01:12 AM   #2
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It definitely helps the actors to have the emotional continuity of doing the full scene through each time. It also really helps in dialog to have both parties fully participating, even when the close-up is on one.

I almost always shoot the master 2-shot first. This gives them a bit of a warm-up before hitting the close-ups. Typical coverage means shooting the 2-shot, then the close-up over A's shoulder, then the close-up over B's shoulder. If you have the time and the need, you can shoot XCU, or medium shots over each shoulder also.

It really comes down to how you want to tell the story. If you have two people talking across a table, for instance, it is very different to tell the story with one wide shot of them with the table between them than it is to show it with alternating intimate close-ups.

Good luck and have fun.
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Old October 17th, 2005, 10:29 AM   #3
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I hate to just say "What he said" but "what he said"...

2 shot and then one to the OTS. Just by tweaking the framing in those three setups you can get dramatically different results. I'm a big fan of film noir so I'll use a lot of up angles and OTS shots where the foreground is farther in the frame than normal. But that's just me, and I really don't know what the hell I'm doing. I sure have fun at it though.
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Old October 28th, 2005, 10:51 PM   #4
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What does everyone think about shooting line for line? Meaning, you set up the camera shot, "action!" the actor speaks a line, "cut!" then work with them on that one line before going onto the next. Does anyone do this? I'm just curious.
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Old October 29th, 2005, 12:50 AM   #5
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What Barry said.

And no, I wouldn't consider shooting single lines at a time. Can't see an actor keeping up a fluid performance that way, and imagine the time it would take!!!
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Old October 29th, 2005, 06:14 PM   #6
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Stopping after every line is inadvisable for several reasons:
  • It is too time-consuming.
  • It is bad for continuity.
  • It is unnecessary; if you have enough coverage you can use the best parts from each cut and angle and splice them.
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Old November 2nd, 2005, 10:36 PM   #7
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Usually, I shoot one or two master shots of the two actors saying there lines. After that, I experiment with a few different angles: from below, from the side, or from behind. Finally shooting dialogue with close ups involved. It also helps to ask your actors in what order would they like the dialogue to be shot, regarding camera angles. I don't know whether or not this will help; probably won't, but the what the heck.
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Old November 2nd, 2005, 11:51 PM   #8
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I pick up on actors pretty well (I'm told). I had one stair scene I shot in the traditional way, 3 takes with the two shot, 4 takes MCU on A, 7 takes MCU on B, a little coverage stuff. I went back to edit those and realized, talent A is better early and talent B is much better later. I reshot on the steps with two cameras. We did nine full takes and spliced them. Worked like a charm. So to a certain extent, I think you have to know your talent too.
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Old November 3rd, 2005, 08:01 AM   #9
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Very true, Dennis. I remember working with an actor who would quickly get burned out, so I concentrated on getting his stuff first. Ideally, one should not have to contend with this, but welcome to the real world...
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