How to Film a Dialogue Scene: Angles, Framing & Rule of Thirds - Tutorial 17

Uploaded by polcan99 on 03.02.2011

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.