Jump to content




Photo

First Master Scene and Coverage or viceversa?


  • Please log in to reply
19 replies to this topic

#1 Duca Simon Luchini

Duca Simon Luchini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director

Posted 27 September 2015 - 03:42 AM

Hi everybody,

reading some books about directing, I met a controversial topic:

many directors prefer to start a scene with close shots (Coverage) and work backward toward the master shot. The rational being that the actor will look fresh and have more energy earlier in the workday. Many others prefer absolutely start with Master shot and then keep going with Coverage.

What kind of experiences have you had and what suggestions can you give on this subject?

 

Many thanks for a reply!


  • 0




#2 Tyler Purcell

Tyler Purcell
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2350 posts
  • Other
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 September 2015 - 12:32 PM

I like shooting masters first and here's why. Normally actors will make the most mistakes early in a scene and late in a scene when they're tired. Since master wides are rarely used as anything else but cutaway's, if the performance isn't perfect, it's not the end of the world. So once you get through one or two takes of a master wide, the actors should be more prepared. With close-up's, if you're doing typical over the shoulder, single camera, start with the stronger of the two actors and then move on to the weaker. Let the weaker actor have more time in the scene to make sure it's right.

I get the other philosophy of starting close-up's and moving to wide. This catches the actors mistakes and sometimes good actors will give you awesome mistakes, which are repeatable in later takes. If you know your actors well, you may use this trick, but in my opinion it depends on their quality more then anything else.
  • 0

#3 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18788 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 September 2015 - 03:18 PM

Besides what Tyler said, that the wide shot is almost another chance to rehearse the performance in broader strokes so that can be fine-tuned in the coverage, often the master goes from head to tail whereas a close-up might just cover sections depending on the blocking.

But mainly it's because the wide shot determines where the lights can go and be out of the frame, and shows the practical sources. If you start on close-ups, you might end up lighting from a direction you can't match in the wide shot.
  • 0

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18788 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 September 2015 - 03:23 PM

Occasionally you get some highly emotional scene where you decide that it is safer to start with the close-up if you get the sense that the actor is going to go for broke in the first few takes, but this is not standard operating procedure, not to mention that doing the master first is more "democratic" since all the actors work in the shot and interact on camera. It can be hard on the other actors if all of the early takes have them acting off camera, and it can affect their blocking unless you thoroughly rehearsed first with no camera in the room.

Another reason to shoot wide first is to establish continuity of everyone's movements and positions. Again if you thoroughly rehearsed and blocked and marked the scene in advance, then perhaps you can start with coverage though the DP will be forced to light backwards, i.e. light the wide shot in their mind and then light the close-up first, trying to imagine if they can recreate this look when they pull back wide. There is also the practical consideration that it is easier to move in closer and closer, removing whatever furniture is in the way and bringing in more and more equipment, than to do the reverse, keeping cleaning up and rebuilding the room as you back up.
  • 0

#5 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18788 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 September 2015 - 05:33 PM

Most scenes are not highly emotional confrontations or breakdowns, so most directors just want to shoot in whatever is the most efficient manner to save time, because time saved from setting up and lighting is more time that can be spent with actors.

 

And sometimes the lighting for the wide shot still works for the close-ups with very minimal adjustments, but generally if you start with the close-up lighting, you'll be relighting for the wide shot.

 

Now the opposite of the inefficient method of starting with tight shots and working backwards to wides would be to "block shoot", where if you have a three scenes in the same room, you shoot the coverage all at the same time for the scenes, i.e. if you set-up for a close-up, you shoot all three scenes for that set-up, rather than shoot out all of the coverage of a scene before moving on to the next.

 

Sometimes block shooting works but it is not a cure-all, just like sometimes "cross shooting" (i.e. shooting opposite directions at the same time to get both sides of the coverage at once) works and sometimes it doesn't, in terms of efficiency or effectiveness.

 

The big problem with block shooting is continuity, actors and the script supervisor have three scenes of details and dialogue to keep track of in their heads and match.  If an actor is delivering a big monologue while building a complex object, let's say, it can be hard to remember on when they picked up "x" prop on which line if they are having to jump between three scenes on every set-up.  And emotionally, it can be very hard.


  • 0

#6 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5189 posts
  • Director

Posted 27 September 2015 - 06:12 PM

I agree with all of David's extensive points. I always work wide to tight.  I also don't cut wide shots when mistakes are made, I just tell the actors to pause, re-take, and keep going.  There will always be lot's of other coverage coming up, so why waste time stopping and re-slating, it takes forever.  I also give instructions over the camera while it rolls.  I don't really understand directors who insist on a perfect master shot from beginning to end?  Plus since I seem to work with kids and animals a lot, there will never be any such thing as a perfect master.  I let the camera roll and deal with it in post.  It's much cheaper and more efficient this way, it costs me nothing to sit at my computer with FCP and piece a scene together.  It costs a lot to keep the crew up and running ever hour.

 

I will also frequently break the continuity of the master in the coverage, I will also "rotate" actors to new backgrounds on the coverage, even though a sharp eyed DP watching might say....hey that would not be that actors background!

 

Fact is 99.99999999% of audience members will ever notice and the public doesn't really understand how movies are made anyway.  I go for the best final looking scene, even if it means breaking cinema rules to get there.  This of course can cause my continuity supervisor to have a bit of a fit.  :D

 

R,


  • 0

#7 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11222 posts
  • Other

Posted 27 September 2015 - 06:55 PM

I'm becoming somewhat alarmed that all I have ever had to do, and thus all I really know how to do, is to grab the first third of the wide, cut in the middle of someone's line, get the overs, and move on  because we have to do this seven more times before 6pm.

 

Gah.


  • 0

#8 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18788 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 September 2015 - 08:08 PM

Certainly outdoors in nature you can get away a lot more with cheating actors positions to take advantage of where the sun is or to save time.  The old rule in b-movie westerns was "a rock is a rock and a tree is a tree" in terms of cheating backgrounds.  And if you are shooting coverage on longer lenses with soft backgrounds, this is even more true.

 

I've worked with some crew people, particularly beginners, who don't understand just how far you can cheat something because they aren't looking at the image or they aren't editing savvy.  I remember once setting up a close-up with a soft background and moving a floor lamp two feet over so that it would be nicely framed over the shoulder of the actor and the set dresser moved it back, saying I couldn't cheat the furniture for the shot, everything had to stay where the production designer placed it... until the production designer explained later to this person that it was OK if it made the shot better, which was the DP's call.

 

Just this year on "90 Minutes in Heaven" while spending three days in the same hospital room that had the only window next to the headboard of the bed, so that there was no way that the sun would ever hit the face of the person in bed, I finally got fed up and when the real sun crossed the room, I moved the whole bed over to the window and rotated it 45 degrees so that the sun would hit the actor's face and the window would be in the background, which was a major geographical cheat but in a close-up, it would be hard to tell.

 

This shot shows the normal layout of the room:

90M1.jpg

 

As part of a time montage, I moved the bed over in these shots to shoot in natural light:

90M25.jpg

 

90M26.jpg


  • 0

#9 Tyler Purcell

Tyler Purcell
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2350 posts
  • Other
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 September 2015 - 09:09 PM

To Richards point, absolutely spot on. Ya gotta let the camera roll on those master wides, even if there are many mistakes. This is why I like to be very close to the camera, if not operating. This way I can give direction if something happens. I also tell my cast and crew to try and keep going no matter what, unless there is absolutely a reason to stop. Since most of my narratives have been on 16mm, I always load a new mag before every scene with a wide shot so if it goes long, I've got plenty of film. I try to get the entire scene covered in a 400ft roll if possible. With digital it's not so much of a problem, but I guess the main idea is to let the actors do their thing and keep the energy high. The moment you stop, everyone's energy drops and resetting can sometimes take a lot of time.

David's point about lighting changes between wide's and close-up's is also spot on. I've never been able to shoot wide's and close up's with identical setup's. Usually I'll throw a bounce close to their face so it's better lit. Hard to do with a wide because the bounce would be out of shot. So it's nice to get that base lighting setup dialed and then go in for those close-up's.
 

I'm becoming somewhat alarmed that all I have ever had to do, and thus all I really know how to do, is to grab the first third of the wide, cut in the middle of someone's line, get the overs, and move on  because we have to do this seven more times before 6pm.


Yep, that's a pretty typical way on ultra low budget stuff. Even with my stuff, I always insist on a good master wide before going for closeup's. I will admit, that tactic has caused some scuffles with timing/locations, but I've found it to be worth it in the long run.
  • 0

#10 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5189 posts
  • Director

Posted 27 September 2015 - 10:26 PM

Well David would you believe it was Denis Maloney who taught me how you could cheat actors and angles on coverage to get much better shots.  He's awesome at it.  After that experience I used it with great success on the next two movies.  And you're right, outdoors is much easier as the audience can't track what's behind an actor on a wide shot.

 

This is a big part of what makes film, film.  Otherwise I might as well watch live theatre.

 

R,


  • 0

#11 Duca Simon Luchini

Duca Simon Luchini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director

Posted 28 September 2015 - 11:08 AM

Most scenes are not highly emotional confrontations or breakdowns, so most directors just want to shoot in whatever is the most efficient manner to save time, because time saved from setting up and lighting is more time that can be spent with actors.

 

And sometimes the lighting for the wide shot still works for the close-ups with very minimal adjustments, but generally if you start with the close-up lighting, you'll be relighting for the wide shot.

 

Now the opposite of the inefficient method of starting with tight shots and working backwards to wides would be to "block shoot", where if you have a three scenes in the same room, you shoot the coverage all at the same time for the scenes, i.e. if you set-up for a close-up, you shoot all three scenes for that set-up, rather than shoot out all of the coverage of a scene before moving on to the next.

 

Sometimes block shooting works but it is not a cure-all, just like sometimes "cross shooting" (i.e. shooting opposite directions at the same time to get both sides of the coverage at once) works and sometimes it doesn't, in terms of efficiency or effectiveness.

 

The big problem with block shooting is continuity, actors and the script supervisor have three scenes of details and dialogue to keep track of in their heads and match.  If an actor is delivering a big monologue while building a complex object, let's say, it can be hard to remember on when they picked up "x" prop on which line if they are having to jump between three scenes on every set-up.  And emotionally, it can be very hard.

 Great explanation, many tanks!


  • 0

#12 Duca Simon Luchini

Duca Simon Luchini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director

Posted 28 September 2015 - 11:10 AM

Well David would you believe it was Denis Maloney who taught me how you could cheat actors and angles on coverage to get much better shots.  He's awesome at it.  After that experience I used it with great success on the next two movies.  And you're right, outdoors is much easier as the audience can't track what's behind an actor on a wide shot.

 

This is a big part of what makes film, film.  Otherwise I might as well watch live theatre.

 

R,

Great suggestion don't stop running Master shot even if someone makes a mistake.


  • 0

#13 Duca Simon Luchini

Duca Simon Luchini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director

Posted 28 September 2015 - 11:20 AM

Well David would you believe it was Denis Maloney who taught me how you could cheat actors and angles on coverage to get much better shots.  He's awesome at it.  After that experience I used it with great success on the next two movies.  And you're right, outdoors is much easier as the audience can't track what's behind an actor on a wide shot.

 

This is a big part of what makes film, film.  Otherwise I might as well watch live theatre.

 

R,

B)


  • 0

#14 Duca Simon Luchini

Duca Simon Luchini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director

Posted 28 September 2015 - 11:45 AM

Certainly outdoors in nature you can get away a lot more with cheating actors positions to take advantage of where the sun is or to save time.  The old rule in b-movie westerns was "a rock is a rock and a tree is a tree" in terms of cheating backgrounds.  And if you are shooting coverage on longer lenses with soft backgrounds, this is even more true.

 

I've worked with some crew people, particularly beginners, who don't understand just how far you can cheat something because they aren't looking at the image or they aren't editing savvy.  I remember once setting up a close-up with a soft background and moving a floor lamp two feet over so that it would be nicely framed over the shoulder of the actor and the set dresser moved it back, saying I couldn't cheat the furniture for the shot, everything had to stay where the production designer placed it... until the production designer explained later to this person that it was OK if it made the shot better, which was the DP's call.

 

Just this year on "90 Minutes in Heaven" while spending three days in the same hospital room that had the only window next to the headboard of the bed, so that there was no way that the sun would ever hit the face of the person in bed, I finally got fed up and when the real sun crossed the room, I moved the whole bed over to the window and rotated it 45 degrees so that the sun would hit the actor's face and the window would be in the background, which was a major geographical cheat but in a close-up, it would be hard to tell.

 

This shot shows the normal layout of the room:

90M1.jpg

 

As part of a time montage, I moved the bed over in these shots to shoot in natural light:

90M25.jpg

 

90M26.jpg

 

Uhm, if I've rightly understand, the second shot "OTS" the actor was filmed in profile without any changing of illumination. The light color mood changes turn to a gray/green cause this is the background color from that POV (We can see in the wide shot as well). The third shot was filmed, instead, changing the postion of the actor to catch the sun light on his face. I'm wrong?


  • 0

#15 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18788 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 28 September 2015 - 12:18 PM

The wide shot was from another scene just to show you the true room layout.

The second and third shots were made at the same time using two cameras and were just shot to build a montage of time passing. No lighting other than an LED eyelight.
  • 0

#16 Duca Simon Luchini

Duca Simon Luchini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director

Posted 29 September 2015 - 01:20 AM

Ah okay, so wide shot confused me. okay, thanks for your reply!


  • 0

#17 Oron Cohen

Oron Cohen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 208 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Tel-Aviv/London

Posted 29 September 2015 - 01:07 PM

The wide shot was from another scene just to show you the true room layout.

The second and third shots were made at the same time using two cameras and were just shot to build a montage of time passing. No lighting other than an LED eyelight.

Great example Mr Mullen, I personally LOVE to cheat coverage shots all the time, as long as it looks good and feels like it will cut well, why not? 

 

Wanted to ask, what did you mean by LED eyelight? is it a specific light?  

 

Thanks, 

Oron. 


  • 0

#18 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 18788 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 29 September 2015 - 02:41 PM

Nothing unusual, just an onboard LED light over the lens to get a glint in his eye.
  • 0

#19 Oron Cohen

Oron Cohen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 208 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Tel-Aviv/London

Posted 29 September 2015 - 06:42 PM

Nothing unusual, just an onboard LED light over the lens to get a glint in his eye.

okay, thanks! 


Edited by Oron Cohen, 29 September 2015 - 06:44 PM.

  • 0

#20 Diego Treves

Diego Treves
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts
  • Student
  • Milan

Posted 06 October 2015 - 12:59 PM

-

Edited by Diego Treves, 06 October 2015 - 01:02 PM.

  • 0


CineLab

CineTape

Willys Widgets

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

Technodolly

Abel Cine

Pro 8mm

Glidecam

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Tai Audio

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Paralinx LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Zylight

Rig Wheels Passport

Glidecam

CineLab

CineTape

The Slider

Tai Audio

rebotnix Technologies

Abel Cine

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Willys Widgets

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

Pro 8mm

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Aerial Filmworks

Zylight