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Crossing the line

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Ali Jafri
Crossing the line
on Jul 6, 2008 at 1:11:14 am

Hi people :) hope i'm posting this in the right forum! Okay here's the question: suppose a girl and a guy are sitting on a bench both facing north. While they talk they turn to look at each other but predominantly are still facing north most of the time. So in terms of camera placement and positioning is the line east/west or north/south? Meaning, is the line drawn perpendicular to the bench or alongside the length of the bench? I'm thinking north/south or perpendicular to the bench. What you say?

Some people see things that are and ask, Why
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.


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Todd Terry
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 6, 2008 at 3:35:38 am

In this instance, the traditional line would be east/west... i.e., an invisible line connecting the two subjects and extending to infinity in each direction. It doesn't matter that the actors are both facing north, the line is still drawn between them, which would make it east/west and parallel to the bench, not perpendicular to it.

Traditional directing theory would then dictate that you should keep all camera positions on one side of the line, which would basically be a position in front of or behind the bench... and not "crossing the line" unless you physically do a camera move that accomplishes that, or come up with some other device or cutaway to let you cross it.

BUT...

Rules are made to be broken, and I can see how you might be able to establish a north/south line (perpendicular to the bench) and still make it work... you would have to have much more careful blocking though.

It's all just theory, ya know...


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ali Jafri
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 2:32:49 pm

Hmmm, I was thinking that if in one shot the couple are sitting with their bodies facing left (even though they are looking at each other), if I drew the line connecting the two subjects the next shot will have the couple sitting with their bodies facing right (even though they are looking at each other) - I thought that would be visually jarring for the viewer, but I'm still learning.

--------------------------------------------
Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.


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Steve Wargo
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 3:40:32 am

Set up for a two shot. Look at the people.

As they look at each other, that is called an "eye line".

Stay on your side of the line. On your monitor, two people having a conversation will never look to the same side of the frame.



Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
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2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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Todd Terry
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 2:42:09 pm

[Steve Wargo] "On your monitor, two people having a conversation will never look to the same side of the frame."

Well, that's true only if the people having the conversation are looking at each other... (the way people normally do when they talk).

However, in this instance, I think the conversation will be with two people both looking away in the distance at something... in that case, since the "line" is still between the two people... then yes often the two parties will be looking at the same side of the frame.

That's perfectly normal, you see scenes like this all the time. The most common way you see it is with two people driving in a car. The line is between the driver and passenger, perpendicular to the direction of travel. If you shoot a CU of the driver or the passenger from the same side (which is perfectly acceptible), then they are both looking at the same side of the frame. What you wouldn't want to do is move the camera position to, say, the back seat (without some device for getting back there), as would be "crossing the line."


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Todd Terry
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 5:00:22 pm

The water seems to be getting a little muddy (or just hard to explain) here, so I whipped out a little drawing that hopefully will make it clearer...

Here you see the two actors sitting on the bench and a bunch of camera positions, seen from above...



Tradition and usual blocking theory would dictate that the "line" goes between the actors (shown by the dashed line)... and that you should keep all the camera positions on one side or the other. That is, you can shoot from any of the blue camera positions, or the red positions... but not mix-n-match. You can move from the blue area to the red area if you have a physical camera move (such as a dolly from the blue area to the red) which re-establishes the camera position, and then you would stay on the new side of the line until you have some other visual device to get you back to the other side.

But then again, rules are made to be broken... and the lines can constantly move... you see this a lot in big dinner table scenes where you have a bunch of actors in a circle... the lines are constantly being re-established. You'll also sometimes see scenes in movies where the director pays no attention to the lines at all... sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Those usually work best in scenes with lots of action, lots of camera moves, and lots of general movement going on.

Other dramatic changes can allow you to cross the line as well. Lets say you started with a wide establishing shot from behind the actors (in the blue area). You could then cut to a closeup of one of the actors from the red area, and that would be fine, even though technically it is "crossing the line." But you would probably want to establish a "temporary" line that is perpendicular to the other one and stay on that side of the camera line for that particular cut.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ali Jafri
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 6:23:40 pm

All this is really fascinating - and at times thoroughly confusing! But I'm getting there! Also, would be great if I got some leads on finding more resources on blocking theory. Frankly, I don't even know what it is!

--------------------------------------------
Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.


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Todd Terry
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 6:49:46 pm

Well... "Film Directing Fundamentals," by Nicholas Proferes is a very good book....

http://www.amazon.com/Film-Directing-Fundamentals-Second-Shooting/dp/024080...

...but I will warn that it gets into some fairly advanced stuff. It might be a good second book to read, maybe starting first with something on a little more basic filmmaking technique and perhaps after you've done a bit of experimenting and shooting on your own.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Don Greening
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 7, 2008 at 7:07:41 pm

Somewhat off topic but still informative reading for aspiring film makers:

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/language_of_film.html

- Don



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Randy Lee
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 8, 2008 at 2:58:40 pm

Another excellent book, which I've heard highly recommended time and time again, is Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven Katz. It covers everything from story-boarding to blocking, angles and lenses, and more. The book goes through quite a variety of situations, all well diagramed, to explain the line and how it could be used. I believe there were 10 examples of completely different situations for shooting 2 people talking, and that is before it even gets into situations with more people involved. It is easy for a beginner to understand, but can really help you get in depth, too.


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Rick Amundson
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 8, 2008 at 3:12:18 pm

I think the the Steven Katz book is great. It will definitely help you understand the technical side of shooting multiple people.

Don't forget, however, to use your frame and angles to help tell the story. Is there tension between these 2 people? Are they intimate? For example, you could frame a pole in the background so it lands right between the characters on the 2 shot to give a sense that the characters are isolated from each other. Maybe you can use tree branches to create a vignette to bring them closer together.

Anyway, don't forget the art in your technical pursuit.

Best of luck!

Rick Amundson
Producer/Director/DP
Screenscape Studios
Bravo Romeo Entertainment
http://www.screenscapestudios.com
http://www.bravoromeo.com
http://www.indeliblemovie.com


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Tim Kolb
Re: Crossing the line
on Jul 8, 2008 at 5:21:54 pm

I think often the rule is tossed out as either a law or an outdated rule that should be broken in the name of rebellion...

I almost never see anyone talking about why the hell these guidelines exist...

Whatever it is you are making in our business...indie film...detergent commercial...whatever...we are making it so someone will watch it on a flat surface of some sort and be able to have an intuitive 3d sense of where things are and how they are interacting. "Intuitive" in this case implying that they do not have to spend conscious thought trying to figure out what direction things are moving, who is chasing whom, etc.

Once the direction of action or the context of who is 'acting' and who is being 'acted upon' (action/reaction sequences with obvious cause/effect visual juxtaposition) takes conscious thought to figure out, the viewer has disengaged with the message to figure out if it's the cops or the bad guys doing the chasing, etc.

These guidelines have little to do with old filmmakers sitting in a room developing ways to limit the creative license of their successors, but has everything to do with the fact that we make our work product for consumption by human brains...and the vast majority of human brains work in well-known ways in the area of visual perception. Every time we work in a way that presents a counter-intuitive visual flow to our viewer, our insistence on being a maverick by breaking some rule may have just broken our viewer's concentration...and while it may be part of the plan to disorient or confuse the viewer to forward a story of some sort, most of the oddly executed "line crossing" that I see simply points to poor planning or an inexperienced editor.

I always tell my commercial clients that I have to tell a story in three seconds with any shot and I'll use any stereotype I can to move as much 'context' (where, when, etc.) of any shot to the realm of being intuitive, so I can keep 100% of the conscious perception of the viewer working on the 'content' or message.



TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

CPO, Digieffects


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