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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old April 13th, 2006, 05:22 PM   #1
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How do you film scenes?

I guess this question doesn't really have an answer, but I'm sure each method has its shares of pros and cons. Lets say you're filming a character's monologue...Whether it be an interview, a corporate video or just a narrative character speaking. You want a shot from the front, an extreme close up of their lips, a shot from the side. How would you do it?

For the sake of argument, the monologue will be the alphabet.

Would you first film the front angle of your character going: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ and then set up your shot from another angle and have them do it again, or would you first film them saying ABCD from the front, then set up the shot for the extreme close up and have them go EFGHIJK, then set up the side shot and have them finish off. I imagine that method saves time, but also gives you less control when you're editing.

Which do you use? Especially if doing an interview like some of the new CNN documentaries, where they have stylistic shots of extreme close ups of lips and strange angles. Do they make the interviewee repeat his answers?

Then when filming a two person dialogue, where you're cutting between close ups of your characters, how would you do it? Would you have character A say his lines to character B, with no reply from B, or would you film character As lines, just focusing on him, while Character B returns replies and then visa versa?
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Old April 13th, 2006, 08:33 PM   #2
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Aviv,

With film, you would have to make some of these difficult decisions due to the expense of the film. However, tape is cheap, so it makes sense to shoot extra coverage. Get the whole bit of dialog from each angle.

Many of the interviews you mention are actually shot with two cameras, but that is news gathering, not narrative cinema.

When you shoot one side of a two-person exchange, you should go through the entire scene, including both characters dialog. Sometimes the reaction to the dialog is more important than seeing the speaker utter the words. If you watch carefully, edits back and forth in films rarely exactly match the lines of dialog. Usually they cut back and forth as people are speaking.

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Old April 13th, 2006, 09:33 PM   #3
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my experience...

i recently shot a short film (7mins) using what i guess we should call 'method B' (a shot of abc, then a shot of cde, then another shot of jfk etc. etc.).

My learning from the experiment was this...

I had started with some very specific ideas, I want this shot this way, this shot that way, etc. etc., but the final shots were not always the way I wanted them, I was left wanting while I looked over my tape.

In future, I would find a few angles and shoot the whole scene from there, then shoot the whole scene with a freecam a few times, then find choice moments that I specifically wanted to work with in some ways and grab those smaller shots.

Denno what the endalll is with this.... these are just some thoughts.

edit: seeing the previous post I think it's important I mention that I was working with DV.

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Old April 13th, 2006, 09:54 PM   #4
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I would definately get coverage in DV. Shoot the whole thing from the different angles...let the actor know what the frame is so they can use body motion appropriately. This will allow you to have editing options if the piece you edit doesn't flow the way it did in your head. Options are possible now in the DV world.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 04:09 AM   #5
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Have any of you found that the repitition causes your subject's vocal patterns to change with each shot, so their audio sounds different when you cut between angles using each angles sound track? Or, if you're just using the audio from one angle, that the syncing is off when you cut to a different shot?
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Old April 14th, 2006, 05:42 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aviv Hallale
Have any of you found that the repitition causes your subject's vocal patterns to change with each shot, so their audio sounds different when you cut between angles using each angles sound track? Or, if you're just using the audio from one angle, that the syncing is off when you cut to a different shot?
The ability to deliver lines and business exactly the same way over several takes is one of the skills a film actor needs to develop. Retakes of the same shot are not always done because of mistakes but often are done in order to achieve several different readings of the scene so the editor and driector have options in post. It's the part of the director's job to help the actor zero in on the performance he wants and the continuity person is there to remind them when getting ready for CU Take 23 that the actor was holding the cigarette in his right hand back in the 2-shot Take 2 and it was burnt halfway down.

The syncing shoudn't be off from shot to shot. You can use sound from shot A under visual shot B if "B" is a reaction shot or cutaway but each sync scene should be using sound recorded with that scene. One of the jobs of the sound person is to insure things like mic placement differences occasioned by different camera angles don't cause a noticable difference when intercutting. When you might run into real sync differences is if your intercutting scenes where the mic is close to the subject with scenes where it is far away (one of the problems associated with on camera mics) - there is a delay between the time the light gets to your camera and the sound reaches your microphone - if you're in the back of an audititorium 100 feet away there's an almost 100 millisecond time difference and that's 3 frames difference in sync.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 10:48 AM   #7
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Actors also spend many hours learning to enunciate their words, the separation between the words, that brief instant of silence can be used as a "Cut" from one angle to the next for synch...or the sound from the previous take can be placed under the video from another...rewatch "El Mariachi" by Robert Rodriguez and listen to the dialog...most of the dialog was recorded just after the take was shot to get clean audio and then hand synched in the edit.

I would say find the best audio deliveries from each of the takes and piece them together into a final performance, then use the video and cut for performance. Spend some time making the performance and the audio look like they belong together. The audience will generally be more forgiving if they are given the best of each together convincingly...if you keep each of the takes on their own separate track in the edit, you can pick and choose what gets used when more easily in this type of application.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 12:51 PM   #8
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There are other benefits to running the camera more often than not. In nearly every film I have made, I ended up using a shot that was not originally intended for the film. It may be a reaction while an actor was waiting between takes and talking to someone else. It may be someone goofing around in character. There is always something that is unintended and really works, and you don't find out until editing. Editing is the final draft of the script, remember.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 01:30 PM   #9
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hey

I have read about these two methods to shoot a scene, only for narrative then. the first method is the European, and thats where you shoot the shots apart ( abc def). If you want to use that method you have to be very carefull with your continuity as was stated. The second method is the American way where they use a mastershot. One camera films the whole scene from one point just to be on the safe side.
the proside of the american way is that your actors are not interupted that much and they can get in the flow for the scene, and above all you can edit much easier in the post, also with the american way you can get multiple ways of editing the footage.
the proside of the European way is ofcourse to work carefully. each shot has to be perfect so there is no place for mistakes. You have to get the scene in your head, so in other words, be very prepared (script storyboard etc). This kind of working is rather the difficult way but you are more concentrated wich can make the footage on a better level instead of the American way " we"ll see it on the editing room".
I'm not bashing on the American way as you may assume. I think both ways are good methods. It's just how you prefer to work.
I've red a funny anekdote about Hitchcock. Hitchcock himself from England used the European method. Many producers (especially david o. selsznick) cursed his "goddamn jigsaw cutting" because no editor could edit his scene bacause they had no idea how Hitchcock had his scene in mind. Only Hitchcock's decoupage was the right editing way

Well I hope my explanation was any helpfull

greets Dimitri
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Old April 14th, 2006, 02:46 PM   #10
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Hitchcock was one who so perfectly visualized his films in advance, he simply shot them mostly in sequence, a just moved the camera from shot to shot, only shooting what was necessary. On his films, the editors simply had to "assemble" the footage and trim it up a bit.

That is one approach, but on an indie film with untrained or unexperienced actors, they really do require a mutual exchange to get into the character.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 04:41 PM   #11
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Here's some rules of thumb I keep taped to my camera:

- If you don't know where to begin, it's because you don't really have the ending.
- How you shoot a scene is not determined by what looks the most interesting, but what tells the story the best.

More than anything else, the intent of your video defines what shots you could & should use.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 08:45 PM   #12
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yeh shoot lots. There is nothing worse than shooting only what you think you need - the close up of ABCD, then the long shot of EFGH, then the side shot of IJKL, because unless you have a REALLY good eye for continuity and your actors are very careful, the chances are you will have trouble getting shots to cut togethr nicely. Its always good to shoot extra "coverage"..or at least overlap your shots, so you have more leeway choosing your edit points
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Old April 14th, 2006, 09:43 PM   #13
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Get LOTS of coverage. Now, having said that, don't take all day on a scene, even though running through the scene in each set-up isn't expensive, tape-wise in DV/HD/HDV. But time is money. I usually do 4-6 set-ups per scene, at most 8 or 9. If we have time, we'll run the scene all the way through the key set ups (wide, mediums, etc.) and small bits for cutaways (hand, food, etc.).

With film where money matters most, I shot list, rehearse and only run the whole scene for mediums. We'll then run small, important parts of the scene in close ups and wides. That's my style, but I haven't shot on film in years.

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Old April 15th, 2006, 08:54 AM   #14
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What Dimitri means, with the European and American way, is not that one or the other is bad, but in the American way, it's a bit more 'mechanic': you have the mastershot and then the closer shots.
But in the European way, you have one very distinctive way to shoot things, which gives it more of an own style.
Some American directors work with the European way, and some European directors will work on the other way.
It's not about getting enough coverage: that's of course very important, in which way you prefer to work.

But some directors, like Spielberg, like Kubrick, like Hitchcock with his 'Rope', love to use long shots to cover a whole scene or shoot a scene in only 2 shots, but (in Spielberg's case) very elaborate shots, with a travel, and going from medium to totalshot,...

I don't know if it's still correct to put those styles of working in classes like 'European' or 'American', but I've read the same book as Dimitri, where they classified them in such a way.
I also think everyone should decide for his own what he likes the best, of course with some reserve shots to be sure.

But I love longer shots too, and of course, you can blame that Hitchcock method about only shooting what he needed, Spielberg and Clint Eastwood would work on such a way too (editing in their head) because of course they are very experienced directors who exactly know what they want.
And I think, that Hitchcock method (only shooting what you need, so the editor actually doesn't have many choice in his editing), besided the big downside (you don't have any reserve) has, to my opinion, a very big upside too, in a way that it's completely the film of the director, it's very artistic in that sense: no editor or studio can mess around with your work afterwards, or it's at least much more difficult.

I think a kind of combination of this 2 ways is the best for me, but everyone should decide for himself.
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Old April 15th, 2006, 09:28 AM   #15
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I have always shot with one mastershot and at least one other cam doing close ups and cutting between subjects. This has always proven to be the best for me, just in case something should go wrong... not like that has ever happened! But, if it should, you at least have one decent shot to cover yourself with, even if it is a little static and boring.
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