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To Monitor or Not


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#1 Seung Han

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 02:14 PM

Should a director be directing from a monitor?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of watching a shot from a monitor? Are some shots more appropriate to view from a monitor?

Also, what is the relationship between Director and DP to the monitor?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 05:12 PM

Well you have to watch some shots from the monitor... Like a crane shot.
If you have 1 monitor, you can have 2, 1 for dir and 1 for Dp, else share.
I'd say directing from a monitor is fine (so long as you can hear) so you can see how it looks on screen. But I am not a director, mind you.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 06:30 PM

This seems to be a personal taste thing, some directors don't bother much with the monitor they just sit close to the camera and watch the performances. Others sit obsessing over it, moving the actors with their hands as they watch. The downside if the monitor is too far away, you lose direct communication with the cast and it becomes rather like a TV studio with the cast only hearing second hand through the AD.

In the past directors used to discuss with the camera operator if the camera framing etc. was good, so they're not essential. They often check things though the camera viewfinder during rehearsals or while setting the shot up with the DP or operator. Although some directors seem to think everything must come to a stop if a monitor isn't there.

Quite a few DPs also operate, so they won't be at the monitor.
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#4 Jim Keller

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 07:11 PM

Personally, I like the monitor to be there because it lets me know, in real-time, if I'm going to like the shot or not. That said, I always forget to look at it when the camera is actually rolling...
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 02:20 AM

Personally, I like the monitor to be there because it lets me know, in real-time, if I'm going to like the shot or not. That said, I always forget to look at it when the camera is actually rolling...


I want to work for you. I usually get the directors that have to stare at it even before there's picture. :lol:
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 04:08 AM

Has anyone tried clamping or bolting a flat monitor on an flexible arm to the director's chair? To me that would be the way to do it so you could be there for your actors but still keep an eye on the frame. I actually was going to try that with Blood Moon (assuming I don't do a role in it). I saw George Pal's Director's chair for sale in an auction catalog that I have and it had a fold up desk-like table attached obviously for him to take notes or make revisions so It got me to thinking because plasma screen monitors are very light, why not attach a spring loaded arm like a desk lamp might have to a 14 in wireless monitor with a folding sun hood for glare and add a desk table for notes along with the bag for scripts, pencils and maybe a small tape recorder and or still camera AND the Director's viewfinder, with of course a golf umbrella and a combo cup / sunglasses holder sorta like a what Cadillac might build if they made director's chairs.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 06 February 2009 - 04:10 AM.

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#7 Jim Keller

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 05:05 PM

I want to work for you. I usually get the directors that have to stare at it even before there's picture. :lol:


No you don't. I'm always trying to muscle in to look through the camera itself. :)
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#8 Tim Partridge

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 05:50 PM

A very well known DP who has shot many films that most of us here grew up watching said this to me about monitors: "I can't relate to how they make films nowadays. It is not the same. The directors these days... they don't direct anymore, they have these television sets, you know!"

I think a good director uses a monitor the same way a good driver uses a rear view mirror. This is to say that they are both one vital tool in the process.
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#9 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 06:15 PM

Personally, I like the monitor to be there because it lets me know, in real-time, if I'm going to like the shot or not. That said, I always forget to look at it when the camera is actually rolling...


That is what the eyepiece is for.. that is what the DP/ Operator (used) to be for....

I carry a monitor in my package.. but only a 9" Black & White.. for me, shooting film.. a monitor is for framing reference only... I put it away whenever possible! :ph34r:
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 06:50 AM

A friend of mine shot a film a year or two ago on S16. The director was a total film neophyte and was financing the movie herself. I think it was a few hundred thousand dollars. Anyway, he told her that he didn't want to have a monitor on set, and she said OK. So they shot the whole film without a monitor and they worked as they used to in the old days...the director watched the take and the operator told her if the take was good or not. There were no problems, no surprises, and the film looks great. I'd really love to work that way sometime.

As a steadicam operator, not only do I have a handful of people (many times more) watching the monitor, but I have to make sure that I provide a good wireless signal so that they can see the take. I've worked it out quite well now, but when I was starting out my wireless was a bit shaky at times, admittedly. I'm not a video assist operator.....I spend way too much time dealing with that crap! I've done so many extra takes because video broke up for half a second....it's just silly. The dependence on the monitor is downright ridiculous at times. When video assist became the norm, a certain amount of trust between the DP/director, and operator vanished. Now they don't need to trust their operator as much, because they're looking over his/her shoulder constantly. OK, sorry, rant over!
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#11 Seung Han

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 12:37 PM

Thanks guys. I appreciate all the great tips. I hope I find a balance between the two when the time comes.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 12:55 AM

No you don't. I'm always trying to muscle in to look through the camera itself. :)


Ah, that's OK. You get your very own mark on the diopter ring!
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#13 Jim Keller

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 01:01 PM

Ah, that's OK. You get your very own mark on the diopter ring!


Just remember, you are allowed to say, "I'm rolling, use the monitor!" :)
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#14 Daniel Porto

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 08:50 PM

Well it depends if you are a performance driven director or camera driven director or BOTH.

David Fincher: Is BOTH and yes he does work behind a monitor but it doesn't mean he is restricted by it. He is a masterful director and will do whatever is necessary to get the right performance, and sometimes that might mean yelling from behind the monitor or getting close and personal with the actor.

Steven Soderbergh: Is BOTH bur does not work behind a monitor because he operates the camera himself (most times) and says this is the best way to work as he is the closet person to the actors and is able to give feedback efficiently and effectively.


What do you think about those who DOP and Direct as a combined role?
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#15 David Rakoczy

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 09:18 PM

It has worked well for me... I had enough of seeing poor directors hack my footage together. This way, if anyone is going to screw up my shoot... it will be me!
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#16 Cas Gras

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 06:41 PM

Hiya,

I prefer Monitors by far.
The film or documentary you are shooting will end up on a screen. Therefore, it is the best way to actually see how a shoot will look like and whether or not the shot actually works. Also, don't forget, you trying to show a world out of a window! By simply using no monitor at all, it's like directing a theater play rather then a movie as you will have no idea how everything looks later on a screen, and only trusting in your Director of Photography can hurt later in the editing room.
I recommend use technology to your advantage if you have the financial availabilities, it cannot hurt.
If you can't, then make sure you have a look through the cam more then once!
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#17 Karel Bata

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:18 AM

I don't see any problem with watching a monitor during a take, providing you immediately turn to the actor to give feedback. They hate it if they give their all, and then are just left hanging there, ignored. But one problem with watching a monitor is that you haven't got full attention on the performance. So maybe it's better to watch the actor, and check framing after. So, whatever works best for you. I find it varies.

One persistent question is whether to allow actors to view playback. Difficult to stop them of course, but you may find them altering their performance in a way you don't like. Back in them olden days, before VA, some directors banned actors from even seeing the rushes. They had to wait till the premiere!

There's also another, very rare, use for video assist. I once shot something where, when we watched the telecine, we were shocked at how sloppy the framing was, until in one shot we were certain it had shifted. I could spend two pages here describing the saga that ensued (at one point we investigated whether the ground glass could be out. Panavision thought I was an idiot for even asking: "The next person to use that particular camera was Steven Spielberg. I think he would have noticed."). We'd shot reference marks (which were also out) and were shown SMPTE line up film that 'proved' the telecine equipment was ok, etc etc. In the end it was the video assist footage that held an unarguable record of what the framing should be. We took our business elsewhere, and our first choice of telecine (a place that had a Citizan Kane warehouse of cans of BBC stuff, all of it presumably transferred wrong? :huh: ) never pursued us for the bill. I've never heard of this happening to anyone else, but presumably it must do. So hang on to those little tapes. ;)
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:46 AM

Hiya,

I prefer Monitors by far.
The film or documentary you are shooting will end up on a screen.

I don't agree with this at all regarding documentaries. Are you going to do another take? No. I think a documentary director needs to be near the operator and being the eyes in the back of his/her head, so that important moments don't get missed. They'll see it all later anyway. If it's really a documentary there is no second chance, so sitting at a monitor is pointless.

This isn't the case with features and tv of course, but one good example of someone who rarely uses a monitor is Clint Eastwood, and look at his track record as a director. He knows what he wants, hires good people who he knows he can trust, and makes films that are constantly in the running for awards and do very well financially. His example is one of the best arguments for not using a monitor. And I don't think he's an anomaly, I think his process is one that works for him, and could work for other directors.
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#19 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:49 AM

Has anyone tried clamping or bolting a flat monitor on an flexible arm to the director's chair? To me that would be the way to do it so you could be there for your actors but still keep an eye on the frame.

An easier way to do the same thing would just be to use a wireless transmitter and handheld monitor. You can be very close to camera at all times and no one ever has to lug around your chair and monitor.
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#20 Karel Bata

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 09:49 AM

"one good example of someone who rarely uses a monitor is Clint Eastwood"

He's truly awesome. But not all of us are lucky enough to have Tom Stern behind the camera. :lol:
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