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Old October 30th, 2005, 10:45 AM   #1
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Thoughts on Staging

I'm curious of everyone's thoughts on staging in film. Specifically, cuts compared to long masters.

I noticed in some films (the only example I can think of is Arlington Road), you notice there are long masters, where instead of cutting, they physically move the camera to reframe. I think Woody Allen does this as well. What are the benefits to this method? And when would you be most likely to use it.

In other films, Road to Perdition for example, there is camera movement, but only in short bursts. The director tends to cut from shot to shot, rather than physically move the camera. Again, what do people think of this technique?

I'm just curious as to everyone's thoughts.
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Old October 30th, 2005, 02:01 PM   #2
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The overriding goal in mainstream cinema is to hide the technique in order to better present the story and captivate the viewer. With this in mind, camera movements can be seen as an alternative to cutting, which breaks the natural flow of space and time. If the movements are motivated, and not distracting (i.e., too fast, too jerky, etc.), then they can help the film-makers achieve the aforementioned goal. If making the viewer feel comfortable is not desired, then the rules are different.
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Old October 30th, 2005, 02:32 PM   #3
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I agree with Emre. To hash it out a bit, I think long masters lower the tension in a scene and seem to impart a bit of levity and curiousness to the audience. I don't think it's an accident that you saw long masters in Woody Allen's comedies.

Master/cuts, on the other hand, increase tension in a scene, and seem to impart seriousness to the audience. I don't think it's an accident that you saw those in a drama like Road to Perdition.

Alternating the two techniques as you change scenes in a movie, can be an effective way to give the audience a nice range of emotions to ride/breathe. For example:

scene 01: master/cut (eek! high tension)
scene 02: long master (phew, haha! low tension)
scene 03: master/cut (eek! high tension)

As Emre alluded to, you could also use the techniques to balance the tension in a scene. For example, if a highly charged dramatic scene is too difficult to watch, using a long master shot can lower the tension for the audience. I believe there was a bit of this in Road to Perdition.

Vice versa you might use master/cuts in a comedy to increase the seriousness of a scene so that it doesn't get competely absurd, I'm thinking of Jim Carrey as I write this.

The classic Kung Fu/Western showdown is a great place to see the tension balancing technique in action.
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