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how to shoot a conversation in a movie with only 1 cam


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#1 Danielito

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 01:14 PM

Yo!

You remember when seeing a movie and two people are arguing about something then the camera switches all the time from the back of the one to the other..

in my film we need to shoot a conversation with two people. so normaly as I have seen they put a camera behind each person and then they switch the camera from one to the other who is talking in post.

now we have only one camera so it looks not that professional to put one camera only in front of the two actors and film the conversation instead of showing the scene from one perspective to the other... how can I trick that out with only one camera ?


Many thanks!
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#2 Jason Debus

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 01:20 PM

Most feature films are one camera shoots. They shoot one side of the conversation first and then the other side next, then edit the takes together in post. Of course there are situations where you can shoot the whole conversation in one 'take', shooting the action as it takes place.
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 01:29 PM

This is the function of editing. The beauty of filmmaking is you don't have to capture the moment in real-time.

Probably light and take the master two-shot first. Then set up your first OTS, and run the scene again. Then set up the reverse OTS, that is, over the shoulder from the other side, like you have explained, and run the scene again. Then shoot the inserts (hands fidgeting, close-ups and ECUs perhaps). Then cut all those shots together in the edit to show the full event with the highest dramatic impact, using the best takes from the best shots, keeping the pacing appropriate for the scene.
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#4 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 01:47 PM

They shoot one side of the conversation first and then the other side next, then edit the takes together in post. Of course there are situations where you can shoot the whole conversation in one 'take', shooting the action as it takes place.


I think you're confusing the word "shot" or "angle" with "take".

A "take" is usually one instance or attempt at getting a shot/angle of a portion of the scene. You can do several "takes" of one shot.

A "shot/angle" is a position/perspective from which the camera/audience is going to see that particular scene.

You can do a scene in many shots or just one shot. And you can do several takes of a shot or just one take of a shot.

So in the situation he's presenting, he's not editing together the takes (even though you can edit _between_ takes) as much as editing together different shots.

When you shoot a scene in "one take" it usually means that the take of that particular shot/angle was so good that you don't need to do another (at least you would hope so) - it doesn't have anything to do with how many angles or shots the scene has.

When you shoot a scene in one shot (a "oner"), then you have found a way to cover the action of the entire scene in such a way that you don't need or want to do coverage (ie- more shots).

AJB
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#5 Jason Debus

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 04:37 PM

Of course there are situations where you can shoot the whole conversation in one 'take', shooting the action as it takes place.

I think you're confusing the word "shot" or "angle" with "take".

A "take" is usually one instance or attempt at getting a shot/angle of a portion of the scene. You can do several "takes" of one shot.

A "shot/angle" is a position/perspective from which the camera/audience is going to see that particular scene.

Perhaps 'sequence' would have been a better word? To me, 'shot' implies a general camera angle where 'take' can include moving from one camera angle to the next (such as a multi-person conversation around a table). Not trying to split hairs here as I'm not familiar with how this should be discussed on a set.
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#6 David Sweetman

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 05:16 PM

To me, 'shot' implies a general camera angle where 'take' can include moving from one camera angle to the next (such as a multi-person conversation around a table). Not trying to split hairs here as I'm not familiar with how this should be discussed on a set.

I think a distinction should be made for the sake of communication. An editor will split hairs if the director or producer asks to cut to a different take when he really meant cut to a completely different shot.

You could say, "first we'll take the car going into the driveway, then we'll move in and take the door opening," but those wouldn't be referred to as different takes. On the slate, the "take" number starts over with each new scene number, which changes every shot. So say the master was slated as scene 1a, then the next shot (the first OTS) would be 1b, and the reverse would be 1c. In each of those scene numbers, you'd have 1a take 1, 1a take 2, and so on, until the director was satisfied with the performance, then you'd move to 1b take 1, etc. So it is important to distinguish because everyone can start getting really confused if you use terms loosely, and since a director's entire job is communication, it's pretty critical to be able to say what you mean!

Here's a picture of a slate if it helps visualize it:
Posted Image

(btw, "roll" changes with each new load of film on the camera [or each new tape, I guess, if you're slating a video project])

Edited by David Sweetman, 18 September 2006 - 05:18 PM.

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#7 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 05:37 PM

Perhaps 'sequence' would have been a better word? To me, 'shot' implies a general camera angle where 'take' can include moving from one camera angle to the next (such as a multi-person conversation around a table). Not trying to split hairs here as I'm not familiar with how this should be discussed on a set.


On set it should be discussed like this: (at least on my set)

If we want to do another "take", it means the exact same angle or movement from the camera of the same action in front of the camera (unless I'm unhappy with the shot/blocking from the first take and I want something minor adjusted in which case I will instruct that the first "take" be disregarded).

If I want to move the camera to another position to cover the same scene from another angle, I will call for the camera to move to the next angle or the next "shot" (setup) (not the next "take").

To me, the word "take" in this context can only mean one thing: that the same shot is being done again for whatever reason.

"Sequence" can have a number of meanings. It can refer to a number of shots/moments that run together and create a smaller arc within the larger arc of the story.

AJB
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#8 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 06:34 PM

i know there are some people who like to get both sides done at once for quicker finish and also as to allow "improv" in scenes. However, if you dont have two cameras, this wont be an option really. You will have to do a single camera shoot and probably stay tighter to the script. I know it can create interesting variations by allowing one person to bounce off of another and you can seriously get wicked improv that way, but honestly, you would sacrafice the best lighting that way also.
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#9 Albert Smith

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 05:23 AM

I havent read the posts completly on here but the simple answer is this...basic "coverage" (good word to know) of 2 person dialog consists of....the scene is ran 5times...you want your actors to be able to pretty much keep the lines the same in every take for the easiest editing. if lines vary it can get you into trouble sometimes.

2 over the should shots from each person or medium-wides
2-closeups of each person
1 "master" which in this case would be 2 shot with both people in frame...master is usually done first....masters are generally wider shots used to save your back and give you more to cut to.

that is as basic as you get and if you watch most hollywood films you will see this formula alot and its a good starting place....also a thing that you abslutly need to know and remember is not to cross "the line"


the line refers to an imaginary line that goes right through the middle of the two actors or in almost any scene. if you shoot on one side the actors you stay on that side. so if you shoot over one actors left shoulder you shoot over the other actors right shoulder. if you dont do this the shots will not cut together well and visually not make sense.



btw, most film are shots with one camera, because lighting is set for one angle....and it would often just be a waste of film ( assuming they are shooting film)....additonal cameras are usually only brought on for action sequences or special fx.....or if u had a 2nd camera unit.

Edited by Jake Zalutsky, 19 September 2006 - 05:25 AM.

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#10 Michael Collier

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:19 AM

Some directors (cough cough....michael mann) use multiple cameras because imho they are too timid to do a scene in one camera. Rather than plan a scene they would rather 'cover' it. Rather than know what angles need to have a solid take during which parts of the scene, they just shoot the hell out of it and use the mamoth pile of film to find the scene later.

When I direct (which I rarely do it unless I really like the story) I always set up my ideal cut before hand. That is I know what word (and often what sylable of a word) I would prefer to cut on. That lets me know what portions of which angles need to be clean and strong. Then when those sections are right, we can move on. I don't know if its lazy, timid, or just a different style that prompts multiple cameras, but I have always favored one camera work. When you think about it, a cut by its very nature is always misleading (thats the idea of a cut. I don't believe in cutting to find the best combined performance, only to emphasize or de-emphasize a point) and so slight mismatches have never bothered me (thats the foder of nerds who if they catch all of them, must mean they liked the movie enough to watch it 50 times)
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#11 Adam White

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 09:51 AM

Hey Danielito,

On more of a creative angle. . .

I would agree with Jakes definition of coverage if you want to give director/editor maximum flexibility, however there is no reason stopping you from filmin the conversation in one shot if you so wish.

How do you want to cover the scene? Forget how "professional" your camera total is and work from the basics: the storyboard/tone/aims/characters and go from there.


In terms of effective "one shot" conversations, I think the one at the start of UNBREAKABLE, with the two characters shown through a gap in train seats, is a good example of using restrictions to make something more interesting.

anyone else got some good examples?
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#12 Jason Debus

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 09:59 AM

To me, the word "take" in this context can only mean one thing: that the same shot is being done again for whatever reason.

After thinking about this I think I should have wrote in my original post 'long take' (which is more to the point than 'long shot').
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#13 Albert Smith

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:26 PM

In the film I just shot we chose to do some long steadicam takes and it worked very well and also did some slightly unusall coverage, it just depends on what you want. there is sooo much possibility for diffrent ways to show scenes, but i think its a good idea to start with basic coverage and get an understanding of what cuts well together before trying to do diffrent stuff. If you only shoot one angle and turns out when your editing it doesnt really work well your done for. it takes time to devlop a sense. I still have alot of trouble with it and we have been shooting stuff for the last few years....if you dont start with some basic "rules" or "guidelines" you dont gain any understanding of what really works and your just shooting around the dark.
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#14 Danielito

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 12:44 PM

thanks to all for the good advices !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Danielito

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