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Tips for shooting longer dialogue scene - Outside

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Alex Olinger
Tips for shooting longer dialogue scene - Outside
on Oct 8, 2011 at 1:23:41 am

Hi Everyone,

I have spent the past few weeks directing a 12 page web series pilot, and we are on hiatus for a few weeks as a lot of the cast and crew are busy finishing up college semester work. I`ve already shot the first 8 and 4/8 pages of the script so far over the past few Saturdays. Shooting at around 3 - 5 pages a day, depending on the scene`s complexity.

I wanted to ask you guys to see if you could share some of your experiences shooting scenes outside, and what approach you found worked best, and how many shooting hours it took you.

The last scene I am looking to shoot for the pilot is an outside dialogue scene between two characters, no complicated blocking at all, very talky scene, running 3 and 3/8 pages. With the winter growing closer, limiting the amount of hours of daylight, I`ve been trying to go at this scene with the right approach, and trying to figure out if I can fit this scene into one day, or if I`ll have split the shoot into two days, due to limited daylight.

I have been looking into shooting on an overcast day to minimize the change of light throughout the day, which I know has its own set of issues that can crop up (white balance, changing color temperature, etc)

It would really help a lot to have some first hand accounts to work off of.

Thank you

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Mark Suszko
Re: Tips for shooting longer dialogue scene - Outside
on Oct 9, 2011 at 1:28:40 am

If the talent isn't very good, in terms of being consistent, invest in a second camera, shoot with 2 cameras, either iso's on each actor, or one on the 2-shot master and one alternating iso's as appropriate. You cut down the number of takes you need to get something that cuts togetehr and works. This also doubles your available audio channels while recording, making it more likely that you'll have at least one solid track of audio everywhere.

Do one take with the camera a ridiculous distance away on a long shot, as a backup. You can throw wild sound and edited dialog over this in post.

Realize that though the daylight is constantly changing, you can replace it or match it on the tight shots and inserts with artificial lighting or even just reflectors.

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Angelo Lorenzo
Re: Tips for shooting longer dialogue scene - Outside
on Oct 10, 2011 at 4:27:56 am

Mark basically wrapped up most of my suggestions as well. If you can afford a second camera, it's always a better option than shooting a scene over two days (if it's a heavy scene, its easier for the actors that way emotionallu).

The extreme wide shot is great to rubberlip ADR'ed dialog if your actors just aren't hitting it.

It really comes down to two things:
1. How on-point your actors are. If this is an ongoing series and they're comfortable with their characters or they're just really good you'll be blessed with less takes per setup. If your director (or you?) is picky or your actors need constant adjustment, I'd worry a little.

2. The amount of setups. I would go, minimally with an extra wide, a medium wide, and then clean or dirty coverage. What you might fall into is choosing superfluous camera angles to keep a scene "fresh" in the editing room but it rarely makes a difference and can be kind of disorienting; and by superfluous I mean ecu's, high and low angles, and so on that aren't visually motivated by the blocking, action, or dialog.


In terms of the sun changing, I would assume you're not in a position to throw up a 20x20 and use HMI's to keep the closeups consistent, so you'll be at the mercy of daylight.

Because this probably isn't a scene with a lot of physical action or swooping camera moves, you won't be able to hide extreme daylight changes.

3 pages of strict dialog shoot pretty fast in daylight because there isn't a ton of changeovers... Depending on how good you are, unless the light motivates the look, like sunset, I'd plan on a 3 hour block for the scene.


I recently shot a three page script indoors with three angles of coverage for the main scene and three additional setups for inserts in a little over two hours (time from first shot to last, not including prep before). It was a narration heavy commercial, so the cuts were quick and resulted in a minute and a half final product. We used good actors, one location, with minimal change time for lighting (similar to your situation) so I don't think my estimate of 3 or so hours is much of a stretch.

- Angelo Lorenzo
- http://FilmsFor.Us Sell your film and connect with your audience

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Richard Herd
Re: Tips for shooting longer dialogue scene - Outside
on Oct 11, 2011 at 8:29:53 pm

-- "walk and talk" in such a way that you can use turning corners as cuts, and a way to plan for new setups. It also will hide the changing daylight a bit. In this example, the actors will create the rhythm and pacing of the scene.

-- pick a cool location and angle, then use a white bed sheet (because its cheap) to soften the direct sun. This will be more traditional coverage: Master, 2-shot, OTS, Singles. In this example, the editor will create the rhythm and pacing of the scene.

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