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Shooting a Dialogue


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#1 Daniel Meier

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 09:30 AM

What's best practise to shoot a standard dialogue scene using only one camera?

Is it that actor A will do his whole part and the camera records all of that and then the same thing goes for the reverse angle of actor B. And then the editor decides who is to be seen during what phrase?

Or this decision made by the director on set? The more economical way, so to say. (to only record that parts of an actor, that will make it in the final edit)


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 09:47 AM

Generally the first, not the second, if you are shooting standard coverage -- wide master, mediums/overs, singles...

Of course there is no rule that you have to shoot conventionally, it depends on the dramatics of the scene and the dialogue. You can imagine, for example, two people sitting across from each other but it's a police interview scene and the arrested person is the main character but the person asking the questions is a minor character, and you design a dolly move that starts over the shoulder onto the police officer but starts to arc around and lands on face of the main character and then creeps in until the end, so that the second half of the police officer's questions are all off-camera and the second half of the scene plays entirely on the face of the main character.

But if you set-up conventional overs and singles, you aren't going to stop and start the camera just to record only parts of the dialogue unless you have a very good reason -- it's better for the performance to let the actor run through it straight at least a couple of times, plus you don't want to totally lock yourself in in terms of the cutting, you never know if you may need to trim the scene in post and need one of those two angles in order to chop out a section of the dialogue.

Now after one or two takes, you may only shoot pick-ups of sections of dialogue if that's all you need and it's not going to throw off the performer.

And you may decide that the closer coverage only would be used in the more intense part of the scene and make a decision to not cover the dialogue in close-ups for the first half of the scene if it was not dramatic enough to warrant close-ups.

But for cross-cutting dialogue, traditionally you get both sides and then cut between them in post.
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#3 Daniel Meier

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 10:02 AM

Thanks David, for this very in-depth answer.


Edited by Daniel Meier, 10 May 2016 - 10:02 AM.

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#4 Mark Dunn

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 12:47 PM

Static single-camera can allow for optimal lighting for each setup, so if you look carefully the singles and overs often don't match perfectly. Viewers don't notice because their attention is on the face, not the back of the head.


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#5 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 12:56 PM

Now I'm going to be looking for a good reason to do something like that moving dialog shot you described, David. :)

 

I try to design shots that help dialog scenes feel the way that the director describes them, rather than always relying on the shot/reverse method all the time, so I'm always looking for ideas to draw inspiration from.


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