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Insert Shots/Cut-Aways


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#1 Jeff Kolada

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 12:38 PM

What are some films or cinematographers who use insert shots very well? I always have trouble with insert shots and making them fit cleanly in the scenes. The angles always seem tricky to me, having them cleanly cut with wider shots.

Thoughts on insert shots in general or films that use them well?
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#2 Matt Pacini

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 05:23 PM

I'll leave it to others to make a list for you, but I'll address the 'how to' aspect of it, at least from a low budget filmmaking angle, which it sounds like you're coming from.
The biggest factor in seamless cutaways, is not only your composition, but how well the action matches your wider shots.
Unfortunately, working with inexperienced actors usually results in very different action taking place in different takes.
I've even had actors a couple times trying to 'improve' their performance, from take to take, using totally different physical action, etc., every time. I've had to take them aside and explain what the hell I'm doing by shooting these different camera angles!
Anyway, a very important thing to do, is to storyboard your action.
That way you are making these decisions NOT during the chaos of filming.
Another thing to do (if you can afford it) is to shoot with 2 cameras from different angles. One wide or medium shot, one super close-up works best for me. That way you KNOW the action matches, because it's literally the same action!
It really is a hassle shooting with 2 cameras though, it takes a lot of pre-planning to light properly for both angles, and to keep each camera op from shooting the other!
I think it also pays to remember WHY there is a cutaway. It's better if they are motivated, not just random edits or whatever. Like, a character walks into a room, & reacts to something unexpected - you would cut to his/her view right after they look up.
Absurdly simple example, but you get my drift. There is a REASON you are cutting away - you're showing the audience WHAT the character is experiencing, & revealing more of what's going on, not just having them walk in, in a wide shot, and the audience sees everything right then... boring...

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 08:09 PM

Biggest problem I have with inserts is mainly that I don't get to shoot them, they are fobbed off to 2nd Unit or B-camera when they aren't doing anything, and then they aren't properly supported by grip & electric, AD, props, etc. to do a good job.

Another problem is that whoever is shooting them can be too literal about matching the wider shot -- by which I mean if I were shooting the insert, I'd shoot it a bit more like a product shot, adjusting the light and the depth of field to show the object in an effective way. But sometimes whoever is shooting the insert hears that the wide shot was done at f/2.8 and thinks that their macro shot needs to be shot at f/2.8 to "match" when you actually need a lot more light and a deeper stop to achieve a similar feeling of depth of field. I constantly tell people shooting inserts for me to feel free to take creative license to make the shot better, because I would if I were shooting it.

Probably the best shot inserts are in Ridley Scott movies, particularly his first three: The Duelists, Alien, and Blade Runner. Those movies are like textbooks for evocative use of inserts.

From a directorial standpoint, I like the way the Jane Campion uses inserts, like in "The Piano". And obviously, Terrence Malick is incredible in his use of cutaways. David Lynch too.

In terms of classical narrative directing, David Lean's use of inserts and cutaways are extremely precise and thought-out.
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#4 Robert Costello

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:55 AM

Writer/Director Ozu's movies are very well known and
praised for their use of "pillow shots"

here is a montage of color


and a montage of black and white signage


there was another great one on youtube of
"trains and automobiles" which might
still be online--

and a good website with lots of great stills
http://www.a2pcinema.../pillowshot.htm

apart from inserts, his movies developed a very distinct
cinematographic style--- influenced by actual
and stylized cultural mores in japan--
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