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Rules for sitcom? Angles, etc


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#1 Neil G Randall

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 02:42 PM

I'm relatively inexperienced but have made a few docos in the past for various clients. Having not been to film school, I pretty much learned the craft by watching the Beeb and copying the ingredients and approaches.

However, an ex-colleague has commissioned me to shoot the pilot for his sitcom. It's a seven-day shoot, mostly interiors (flat-based) and the crew is me as cam-op/director plus a sound man. Natural/in-situ lighting, DSLR, fast and dirty, three-figure budget.

Thing is, my experience here is lacking. Instinctively, I'd aim to shoot each scene wide, then mid/two-shots, then CUs (singles or OTSs). I'll shoot some cutaways but I'm guessing I won't require anything too film-like, as it's character-based antics, rather than lustrous landscapes that drive the drama.

Does anyone know of any sites or books that cover the basics of single-cam coverage for sitcoms/soaps, etc?
I'm cutting it, too, so I want to be sure I'm not going to miss anything fundamental or critical, eg, for a doco, realising you forgot to grab any GVs, leaving you with nothing to put between talking heads or under VOs.

Much thanks in advance.

Edited by Neil G Randall, 16 November 2012 - 02:43 PM.

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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 07:17 PM

Sit coms are oftem shot using multi cameras since the performances are so importantant.

Lustrious landacsapes rarely drive drama, unless they're acting against the characters.
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#3 Neil G Randall

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 03:04 AM

With respect, I understand that. However, as I stated, this is a three-figure budget, so a multi-cam shoot is out of the question.

My point about the landscape is that I'm not shooting a Coen bros. flick. This is a flat-based sitcom, a la Men Behaving Badly or Friends, if you're American.

Really, I'm looking for some resources about angles, eyelines, magic line, etc.

Thanks.

Sit coms are oftem shot using multi cameras since the performances are so importantant.

Lustrious landacsapes rarely drive drama, unless they're acting against the characters.


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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 03:24 AM

The angles are driven by the performances and how the action is blocked out. Look at what the actors are doing and ensure that you've got coverage for the key action and reactions from the actors. Many US sit coms have quite wide shots so that you can see the body language. The shots are commonly limited by where you can place the cameras in a multi camera set set up, so basic rules apply. In some ways you can get closer to the eye line with a single camera.
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#5 Neil G Randall

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 09:20 AM

Ok, ta.

In terms of procedure, would you shoot wide, then mediums/two shots/OTSs, then CUs/singles; or shoot all angles from one side, then the others?

And for punch-ins, do I retain the same angle and zoom in, or can I vary the angle? I'm guessing the former.

Cheers.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:34 AM

The normal shooting proceedure of working in closer would apply. Working from one side then the other would depend on the logistics, go for which ever allows the actors to give their best performance. Working into the closer shots does allow the actors to build their performance with the director, although ideally they should've had rehersals before shooting begins. .

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 18 November 2012 - 04:35 AM.

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#7 Matt Stevens

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:25 PM

Natural/in-situ lighting, DSLR, fast and dirty, three-figure budget.

The kiss of death. Those words, whenever spoken, are used by people who just don't get it. Can you shoot something that way? Yes. If you know what you are doing.

If you don't, then you are in for a final product that can only disappoint. I've seen it happen. I've been asked to get involved with such 'productions' and declined. In those particular cases the end results were either disastrous or they never even finished.

Make sure your sound guy is a real pro. Bad or even mediocre sound = EPIC FAIL.

You need to be planned out on this and know exactly what you are shooting. You need to rehearse the poop out of it and if you can, shoot those rehearsals from all possible angles and then put it together like it's the final product. That way you can see what shots you need.

Do you have good glass for the camera? A single kit lens won't give you many options. You need choices.

Do you have a goof tripod? A god shoulder rig? Hand held DSLR is pure golden urine.

Edited by Matt Stevens, 18 November 2012 - 12:26 PM.

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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:40 PM

Indeed, a seven day shoot should be pretty controlled for a half hour sit com single camera job, but fast and dirty has the promise of a mess.
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#9 Neil G Randall

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 01:48 PM

The client is well aware of the underfunded nature of the shoot. However, he also wants to see what his pilot would look like filmed. He's not submitting it or trying to flog it. It's little more than a filmed rehearsal. And that's my job - to shoot it, not write, rehearse, scout, cast or anything else. I might cut it, though.

Maybe you can afford to turn work down. I can't. But I'll do my best and what's necessary to complete the job. Having top-grade gear and all the time is the realm of the top echelons. I don't work there. My clients are typically public bodies, non profits and tiny orgs with about £400 to make a short promo. I provide a service that's woefully underspecced and insultingly paid - I could earn more on the bins - but I'm working, I'm learning and I'm contributing to firms that would otherwise have no access to film media.

Glass-wise, I'm running an EF-S 17-55 F2.8 USM IS, EF 100mm F2.8 USM IS Macro, Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 and a Rokinon fisheye for a drugged haze scene. I've got a full shoulder rail rig, monitor, matte box, FF, OVF and UV/CPL fllters. Add in the Tascam DR40 recorder, Rode NTG-2/pole w/dead kitten and a Sachtler Ace head/legs. Dollies, Steadicams and a month-long, multi-cam shoot are out of the question.

Ultimately, I understand your points. But film-making is about collaboration and risk, and I can either turn round and say 'I won't help you' or I can do my level best. For such an institutionalised cynic, I can be unerringly positive sometimes.

Edited by Neil G Randall, 18 November 2012 - 01:52 PM.

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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:59 PM

Multi camera sit coms are commonly filmed in a day, especially if they've got a live audience, they can be pretty simple from a coverage point of view.
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#11 Neil G Randall

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 04:32 AM

The SP definitely calls for a single-cam setup. That, and the fact that a small flat in west London wouldn't accommodate even multiple DSLRs.

Multi camera sit coms are commonly filmed in a day, especially if they've got a live audience, they can be pretty simple from a coverage point of view.


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#12 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 04:47 AM

That's the practical aspect, just pointing out that sit coms typically don't have long shooting schedules. I'd check out "Him and Her" on BBC3 for ideas for doing this in a small location like a flat.

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 19 November 2012 - 04:48 AM.

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#13 Neil G Randall

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 06:18 AM

Ok, thanks.

That's the practical aspect, just pointing out that sit coms typically don't have long shooting schedules. I'd check out "Him and Her" on BBC3 for ideas for doing this in a small location like a flat.


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#14 rob spence

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Posted 22 November 2012 - 05:38 AM

I would suggest shooting everything on your shoulder rig, that way you can keep up the momentum of the shoot. Using tripods etc will only slow everything down without the proper resources like grips or assistants. Concentrate on performance.
and try to get at least one redhead for filling in, or bouncing light.
best of luck on your shoot
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#15 Neil G Randall

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Posted 22 November 2012 - 05:53 AM

Ok, that makes sense. Thanks.

I would typically hire three RHs but having seen the flat, I doubt I'd be able to shoot any wides without at least one light being in shot, if not two. Might pick up one, based on your suggestion.

I would suggest shooting everything on your shoulder rig, that way you can keep up the momentum of the shoot. Using tripods etc will only slow everything down without the proper resources like grips or assistants. Concentrate on performance.
and try to get at least one redhead for filling in, or bouncing light.
best of luck on your shoot


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