View Full Version : camera shots?

10-10-2005, 08:09 PM
Hi everyone,I have a newbee question.That is when you are viewing say a three actor scene and you see cuts to different angles on different faces is it safe to asume that there is usualy two cameras allways filming?In short is it common for more than one camera to be filming?If so would it be silly to try all these types of things with a couple or three super 8S?Would that be an editing nightmare for a newbie?Also Im doing a documentary in Iraq this year for my first project if any one has technique sugjestions or anything at all about documentaries?Thanks folks,I love this site!

10-10-2005, 08:23 PM
Most productions are one-camera set-ups. You shoot the master shot first.

Just Another Yokel
10-10-2005, 08:30 PM
it's really dependent on the director. some just do coverage (i.e. switch the position of the camera for each scene) and some run multiple cameras. it's just the director's aestethics when directing a scene. i'm a fan of a lot of screwball comedies and those are done with two-shots with long takes where the characters just throw dialogue back like it's a kung-fu movie fight scene. yet you may have a different aestethic altogether. rent a lot of dvds with director's commentaries to see different directors opinions on dialogue scenes. like david fincher didn't want to do alot of coverage when there's the scene where brad pitt's character and morgan freeman meet for the first time so he used a low-angle two shot with a long take. spike lee uses the two camera setup alot, especially on 25th hour which is a great primer for dialogue scenes with two cameras.

the best thing to do is just fool around with a cheap format like super 8 or hi-8 video and find your abilities and then move on to more complicated setups in the future. like, you wouldn't buy a gibson flying v guitar just to learn how to play and then give up when you could play a barred A chord. but with documentaries, i don't imagine that you would want a ton of camera setups for stuff because you're in the moment and something could go wrong. the only reason to use a lot of cameras would be if you were filming a concert or live performance. then you would probably have a lot of them running to grab as many angles and edit together for continuity.

Boz Uriel
10-10-2005, 08:37 PM
Three actors are set up like the letter A or L shape. Draw a circle around all three. Split that circle in two 180 degree sections. Set up your camera in one half of the circle and DON'T cross that line (known as the 'line of action') when you reset your camera to capture another actor's dialog.

Like indie sez, the first shot you shoot includes all three actors. This is the master shot. You do this so the audience knows where everyone is. Then you do your iso's or over the shoulder shots. Don't cross the line of action without a good reason. A reason like one of the actors moves (moving actors is called 'blocking').

Incidently, two actors is known as the I position. So it's easy to remember A I or L.

Documentaries I have no experience with, sorry.

Will Vincent
10-10-2005, 11:17 PM
Boz: technically speaking, the 180 degree rule confuses things when dealing with a scene that has 3 or more characters.. because the line can and will be crossed whenever a character turns to look at another in the scene..

It's not terribly complex, but it does take some 'spatial thought'

For a good helping of all the "camera angle theory" and whatnot you need check out "Film Directing: Shot by Shot" and "Film Directing: Cinematic motion" both by Steven Katz.

generally documentaries are more of a standard "interview style" or like the 5 o'clock news type of reporting coverage, so it's completely different worlds (usually).

airbayforce: you might consider talking to a local TV news camera person and/or some cable access people. Also check with your local cable access station chances are they offer a basic course or two that might help you quite a bit. In the mean time.. burn up as much dv footage as you can afford and find the time to shoot, because nothing will help you to learn better than just getting out there and doing it. You will likely develop your own 'style' too, but before you get to that, concentrate on the basics... framing, coverage, etc. Remember, Documentaries aren't usually known for their amazing cinematic camera moves, but rather the material being covered; be it a bunch of penguins marching across the frozen tundra to find their life mate, or some kids talking about how great it is to spend their free time in the park (both of these are actually real docs... the first of course being "March of the Penguins" which is in theaters all over right now, and the second being the uber long doc about a park in California somewhere that was listed as only being 20 or so minutes long that I fell asleep during at the student film festival I went to last year.. it was really more like 2 hours long, I slept on and off for about an hour after struggling through the first half hour or so and it was still going when I finally got up to leave. Ugh.)

10-10-2005, 11:21 PM
Boz: technically speaking, the 180 degree rule confuses things when dealing with a scene that has 3 or more characters.. because the line can and will be crossed whenever a character turns to look at another in the scene.
The number of actors should not be a problem. No matter how many actors, you don't want a shot of an actor looking screen left, and in the next shot he's looking screen right.

Will Vincent
10-10-2005, 11:33 PM
right, but in the case of multiple actors.. the way Boz described it isn't quite right.

No you wouldn't want to cut from the actor looking screen left to then looking screen right, unless you include the head turn, and it's already been established that he has an actor on either side of him.

Boz Uriel
10-11-2005, 12:00 AM
Can you give me an example of that Will? I can't imagine crossing the line of action would do anything but cause further confusion.

10-11-2005, 06:23 AM
Thanks guys!Truely impressed with what goes on here.Actualy my doc. in Iraq is strictly panasonic in my pocket.My "technique is as far as an external mic,thats about it Im picturing" BUT! When I come home I am going to film a super 8 blockbuster!I just have to learn how to write,shoot,edit,zoom,pan,sound ect.

Will Vincent
10-11-2005, 06:41 AM
I think I have a diagram in a book, I'll take a look when I get home from work tonight.

10-11-2005, 10:02 AM
I have a sample of a tutorial series I'm developing online...this one only deals with 2 actors, but shows camera placement and the resulting frames:

with one camera, you would repeat the scene to get the coverage (other angles). If you are simply doing interviews (not repeatable), you'd want to stick to the master to make sure you're getting all of the interviewees in the shot. If you feel confident enough, you can do two-shots (pairs) and swing back and forth between the two two-shots. Singles will work this way too, but the two-shots will show reaction within the shot and add some dynamism to it.

Make sure not to switch framing while they are speaking. Use the interviewers questions as a chance to reframe. When finished with the interview (with the questions written down that you had asked), turn the camera around and get footage of the interviewer asking the questions with the interivewees having left.

Make sure to get noddies...shots of the interviewer making "that's very interesting" reactions. The questions will be edited where you are removing the reframing motion and the noddies can be put in where ever the interviewee makes eye contact with the lens, or to cover up parts when the interviewee coughs (which is edited out) or fumbles their words, or thinks too long for the next phrase. Try to make the interviewees look well spoken and thoughtful where possible, they will tend to take longer to answer a question than you want to show onscreen. Use editing to tighten up their responses (make sure you don't alter the content or context-that's unethical).

10-11-2005, 11:49 AM
bee you tee full

Boz Uriel
10-11-2005, 01:44 PM
Well I don't want to steal this guys thread so I'll do another post on this. Thanks Will.

10-13-2005, 05:57 AM
All good stuff here. The only thing that I'd add is that it often a good idea to shot some "cut aways" for any scene.

A cut away can be shots of details like hands, or shots of details of the room/location that the scene is taking place in.

These are your editing "get out of jail free cards," because on the rare occassion that you just can't get a clean edit from one take to the next, you can cut away from the action for a moment, let the sound carry you forward and then when you cut back into the action the mismatch is irrelevant.

A good DOP will get their cutaways shot during the line up and rehearsals.