Hi, my name is Tom Antos and today I’m going
to show you what to keep in mind when blocking a simple dialogue scene. Things you should
avoid and aim for when deciding on the framing, angles and lens choices.
Here is a simple scene where two people are having a conversation. The simplest and most
common way to film a scene like that is with 3 camera angles. A wide shot that frames both
of our subjects, and two over the shoulder shots that move in a bit closer for each of
the subjects. Now as simple as this 3 camera setup is, I
still very often see people make the most basic of mistakes when setting it up… All
because they either never learned the fundamentals of good cinematography or because they forget
it the second they’re on location. It’s real good to know the theory but if you don’t
ever remind yourself to apply it when actually setting up your scenes then it’s useless.
Some of the things I see people forget most often is the rule of thirds. If you don’t
know it then let me quickly explain it. Rule of thirds is simply dividing the screen into
3 equal parts vertically and horizontally, and using those lines when framing your shots.
What that means is that you should frame your subjects on those lines or in one of the 3rd
portions of the screen to avoid putting things dead center. Like if you have a very clearly
visible horizon line, instead of putting the horizon dead center, it’s best to tilt up
or down to have the horizon fall on one of the lines. This just makes the shot balanced
a lot better. Same if you’re framing a person, if you put the subjects head in the middle
like most people do when taking a vacation photo, then you get this. But if you quickly
pan to place the subject on one of the lines and then tilt to have their head fall on the
other line then right away you get a well balanced shot. AGAIN just because it called
the rule of thirds doesn’t mean its an actual rule you always have to follow. There’s
many exceptions where this doesn’t apply, like if you’re trying to show the importance
of your subject and stress the fact that they are actually the center of attention, in which
case you would frame them in the middle like you see here. This is a shot from a music
video I did where I wanted to switch the viewers attention from the first girl with the umbrella
to the homless girl. But even here you see that I keep her head on the top line, because
if I were to keep it completely in the center then we’d end up with a lot of empty, and
pointless space above her head. Going back to our scene with the two girls
talking. A lot of people make a mistake by framing both subjects dead center in over
the shoulder shots like these. The reason why this doesn’t work is because you end
up seeing the back of the head of one of your subjects. In this type of a shot it’s better
to give 2 thirds of the shot to the main subject by moving the camera over a bit and framing
the less important subject in only 1 third of the frame. And also to pan down so the
subjects eyes fall on the top line. This way we eliminate this empty space above their
head. We do the same thing in the other angle. As you can see It’s a small difference but
it makes the shots look a lot more balanced. Another thing to know before you attempt to
setup a scene is what effects you get with different types of lenses. Like, how depth
of field or perspective is affected when using long, telephoto lenses versus wide angle lenses.
You can learn more about that by watching my previous tutorials.
In short though, long lenses such as this 100mm Im using here has a tendency to make
your shots look compressed. Things that are in the background seems larger or closer when
compared to your subject and it’s also easy to hide the surroundings with a long lens,
since you’re only showing a small portion of the background. That way you can make the
shots be more about your subjects and not where they are. As opposed to wide angle lenses
such as this 35mm I’m using here. Where you right away get a sense of where the scene
is taking place. The framing of the subjects doesn’t change here, we still see the girls
full frame in both version but the perspective changes and along with it the mood of the
shot. Also when we use the long lenses in the close up over the shoulder shots it tends
to make the two girls look like they’re a lot closer to each other. Makes the shot
feel more intimate since all we really see are the girls. But if I were to again use
the 35mm lens then the shot looks a lot more relaxed, and natural, since the 35mm lens
on a 35mm image sensor more or less matches the perspective of a human eye. Which is not
the case when shooting with a long lens. So as you can see the lens choice can drastically
affect the mood of your shots… but unfortunately a lot of the times I see people make mistakes
where they switch from one angle to another angle where they use a completely different
lens, and because of that they suddenly change the mood of the scene. Most of the time they
are unaware of that, so they’ll keep on cutting back and forth from one angle that
is shot using a long lens to a another angle that’s shot on a much wider lens which makes
the editing and lens choices that much more obvious because they’re in fact constantly
changing the way the scene feels. So next time you’re filming, if you decide
to go for a more relaxed feeling to your scene then choose a lens that looks that way and
stick with it as you change the angles. You can always reframe your shots from a wide
shot to a close up by moving your camera closer to the subject. It doesn’t mean that you
can’t change the lenses from shot to shot but try to keep them similar. A 35mm lens
in one angle and a 50mm lens in another is a small difference and doesn’t change the
mood that much. But 35mm to a 100mm is drastically different.
Another thing to keep in mind when reframing your shots is to make sure you’re shots
are different enough from each other so that later on when you edit the scene you don’t
end up with a jump cut. Jump cuts occur when you edit two different shots that are actually
too similar to each other and end up creating a noticeable jump from one shot to the other.
Something that you want to avoid in most situations. Like you see here. I cut from a shot of the
two girls to a single shot which looks too similar. I only moved the camera a few feet
closer and kept the same lens. But if I were to move in even closer to the girl creating
a noticeably different framing then the cut works a lot better. Same thing goes if you
want to change the angle and not the framing. Make sure you move your camera to a noticeably
different angle so that the two angles cut well together later on in editing.
So in short, next time you’re setting up your scene remember to pay close attention
to the framing. Using the rule of thirds is a good guide.
Also, remember to keep your lens choices consistent so your scene doesn’t drastically change
the mood from one angle to the other. And finally, remember to make each shot, whether
it’s the angle or the framing different enough from the other shots so you avoid jump
cuts later on when you put the scene together in editing.
That’s it! Hope this helps you next time you’re out there filming. Good luck.