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Where to put the camera for this setup


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#1 razerfish

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 10:36 PM

Will be filming a comedy sketch in a few weeks and would like advice on where to put the camera (setups). I'll try to diagram the layout of the actors below using X's. It's an overhead view.

The actors are all seated. Three are at a table seated directly across from two applicants in chairs, kinda like a job interview.




X X X (these actors are seated at a table facing the O's)



O O (these actors face directly across from the 3 X's)

What would be a good camera position this scenerio? The main character is the 'X' in the middle, but all the characters have dialogue. Both O's speak to each X, and vice versa.

I was thinking about splitting O's with a camera to film the X's, but my partner hates the idea of using any head on shots. I was thinking about doing the same thing to film the O's. Is this a poor strategy?

Can someone give some advice how they'd cover this?
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#2 Gordon Highland

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 10:07 AM

If there's a lot of tension or the characters have opposing agendas, I'd start with an establishing shot from one end of the table showing them both in profile ("against" each other). I'd probably just lay down a track behind one side and dolly left to right and then flip to the other side and dolly right to left. CU and MCU shots over a blurry shoulder (a "dirty over"). Having the dolly change shoulders can help avoid "crossing the line" or make it more ambiguous. If I need to re-establish the line, I'll often go to an overhead shot.

There's a psychological inferrence that characters who move from left to right in the frame are good guys and vice-versa (which is opposite of the direction you're tracking, of course). I wouldn't worry about that, but it's interesting to observe in classic films.

Don't forget cutaway shots of non-speakers. Having someone turn their head to follow the conversation can help continuity as a transition device.
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#3 razerfish

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 04:25 PM

If there's a lot of tension or the characters have opposing agendas, I'd start with an establishing shot from one end of the table showing them both in profile ("against" each other).  I'd probably just lay down a track behind one side and dolly left to right and then flip to the other side and dolly right to left.  CU and MCU shots over a blurry shoulder (a "dirty over").  Having the dolly change shoulders can help avoid "crossing the line" or make it more ambiguous.  If I need to re-establish the line, I'll often go to an overhead shot.

There's a psychological inferrence that characters who move from left to right in the frame are good guys and vice-versa (which is opposite of the direction you're tracking, of course).  I wouldn't worry about that, but it's interesting to observe in classic films.

Don't forget cutaway shots of non-speakers.  Having someone turn their head to follow the conversation can help continuity as a transition device.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Thanks for the input. Not sure I follow where you'd put the camera. Would you just lay track and dolly across the three actors at the table, then turn everything around and do the same for the two guys seated?

For this shoot, we won't have a dolly. Just relatively static camera positions.

Can you do 'dirty' diagram of what you were suggesting? I'm not sure what you meant. As far as layout, it's similar to a courtroom scene where you have a judge in the middle and the opposing laywers across from him. Similar layout to that.
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#4 Gordon Highland

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 04:21 PM

i thought you meant everyone was at one table, three people on one side and two on the other. i get it now. i'd still do it with a dolly, but if that's not an option. . .

you could position them so that the two Os are spaced around the center X, so you basically see all five people in a row in the wide shots, some with backs turned. then for CUs, put the camera next to your protagonist (showing the shoulder might complicate) and pan to frame each person as needed from that same position without picking up the tripod. Flip around 180 and shoot your protagonist and the people on that side the same way, careful to be on the correct side of the character so that you don't cross the line. only my suggestion; i'd get other input.
5characterDiagram.jpg
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#5 Bob Hayes

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 07:22 PM

This set uo will work especially if your main characters are as I marked. That will let you play the XXX three shot and the X single as a Left to Right Look. And, the OO two shot and the O single as a right to left look. Some of the other looks may have screen direction problems. This style of shooting is called "Split Looks"

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#6 razerfish

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 11:36 PM

This set uo will work especially if your main characters are as I marked.  That will let you play the XXX three shot and the X single as a Left to Right Look.  And, the OO two shot and the O single as a right to left look.  Some of the other looks may have screen direction problems.  This style of shooting is called "Split Looks"

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Thanks for the diagrams, guys. I did a storyboard where I put the camera in the same position, though I had it in front of the XXX's instead of behind the middle one's shoulder. I like the behind the shoulder idea better.

My shooter was worried about having a flat three shot and people looking right and left, which is why I posted this question.

I realized a short while ago that this is somewhat like a courtroom staging. The X in the middle is the judge, who faces opposite the opposing attornings, with a space in the middle. [actors staged in an A patterns]. I'll try to watch some courtroom dramas to see how they film it.

Thanks for the help.
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