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A Master Class in camera placement


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#1 Joseph Nesbitt

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 05:55 PM

I thought I knew something about this, but I'm still kinda confused, I know the axis of motion obviosly as well as the 30 degree rule, switching shot size in each camera, exposing and lens adjustment same for every camera, but I keep reading things that touch on subjects I'm not familiar with, what are the more advanced or intermidiate parts of camera placement, any links or am I just over thinking this?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 06:41 PM

I don't think there are any advanced "rules" -- they are pretty simple, like the screen direction rule. And really they are just guidelines. The main reason to follow them is when intercutting close-ups of people looking at each other when there is not a strong sense of geography in the shot, hence why it's less important in wider shots to follow the 180 degree axis rule because it's more clear as to who is talking to who and where they are standing. You don't want to get too hung up on following these rules; in fact, I spend a lot of time thinking about when I can ignore them...

The general guideline is whether you want to make something clear to an audience, like that two people are looking at each other when intercutting. If it's clear even if you break the rule, or if you deliberately want to make it unclear, disorienting, then you can ignore the rule.

Look at this scene from "The Shining". You see that the two wider angles cross the 180 degree line because they are dead opposite to each other, symmetrical to the room. So the two actors switch sides of the screen. But once Kubrick cuts into a close-up, he has a "correct" reverse angle close-up in terms of screen direction, not crossing the line:

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So essentially he matched the coverage to the second wide shot, but he may have shot coverage to match the first wide shot as well, who knows.
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#3 Joseph Nesbitt

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 07:14 PM

I think I get what your saying, i've seen that movie a million times and it is scenes like that and always kinda wondered about that.Thankyou for the advice
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 04:37 PM

Just think of the ways that that scene could be covered, too.

If I had that location and were to do it, I probably would have done something where you move in and cover the conversation with Jack in the mirror. Something like the butler's closeup but move the camera a bit to the right and block Jack so he's in the mirror. It would fit well for me with the suggestion at the end of the movie as to jack's reality or origin (or lack thereof, however you take the ending).

I'm sure other people here could suggest many other ways to approach it.
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#5 Bob Hayes

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 07:16 PM

Placement of the vanishing point was really important to Kubrik in ?The Shinning?. Here it is right between the characters.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 07:53 PM

Also, the sense of architecture (symbolic of soul-crushing human-built institutions) surrounding and imposing itself over a character, often destroying them. Hence the wide-angle lenses and symmetrical compositions.

This is why Kubrick probably wouldn't opt for the more dreamlike staging of a scene as a reflection in a mirror, unless he could use wide-angle lenses and maintain the formalism of the architecture, as opposed to abstraction. Not that he doesn't occasionally opt for abstraction and longer lenses.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 08:07 PM

I was trying to illustrate another possible way to do it. ;)

While we're here, how about an exercise. How would some of you approach that same scene? Forget what Kubrick would or would not have done. Think about the script and how you might do it.
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Visual Products

Ritter Battery

FJS International, LLC

Paralinx LLC

CineLab

Metropolis Post

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Willys Widgets

New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment

Technodolly

Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Tai Audio

CineTape

Wooden Camera