June 16, 2015 at 1:27PM, Edited June 16, 1:30PM

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How to shoot a conversation with 6 characters.

So I have this scene in a short-film in wich 6 people speak on a round table. I haven't been able to find any information on how to do this properly, without breaking 180 degree rules, and eye-lines... perhaps someone here could help me... Thanks a lot!

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Check out the Zacuto web series "Film Fellas" where they shoot four people all sitting at a round table for ideas on how you might cover six people...

Zacuto Film Fellas Web Series
http://www.zacuto.com/filmfellas

June 16, 2015 at 1:53PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32266

Circular dolly tracks around the table and do the entire thing in a single moving take.

Boom.

It's helpful to be as symmetrical as possible. Put the person directly at the center, or if there are a couple of people, keep the camera equidistant from them. That way, it's always clear to the audience where the person is looking. The 180 degree rule effectively won't apply.

June 20, 2015 at 11:19AM

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Alec Kubas-Meyer
Writer/Director/DP
303

Storyboard it. Try to cut it ahead of time with the boards. Simplify the amount of shots while maintaining what you need for dramatic structure.

Shoot a wide master for sure. You can always go to the master to clear the slate when you need to. Then dive back in to the eye lines.

Give yourself as much time as possible to execute this too.

June 23, 2015 at 4:21PM

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Brooks Reynolds
Director/DOP
348

The opening scene of Reservoir Dogs is an interesting moving establishing shot like Alec Kubas-Meyer mentioned in this post. It sets up the actor's positions relative to one another then goes into over the shoulder shots in the following 'tipping' part of the scene.
Intro: https://youtu.be/J782jBp_pW0
tipping: https://youtu.be/ZKKxfeNl4uk

June 24, 2015 at 5:32PM

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When I was at uni this very same question came up and this is the example our lecturer gave us.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hwKjE8dVJ0
I think the gist would be to make sure that there is an shot establishing the space (not shown in the link is the scene where everyone sits down) establish the space, then once in there break the scene down into miniature conversations/scenes. I forget character names, but e.g. when Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear have a little interchange the shots are standard over shoulder, shot-reverse-shot and they set up a little individual 180 line between them.
Then when Steve Carell and Abigail Breslin resume their conversation it goes back to their 180 line.
I think that's the basics, just stage a bunch of 180 lines in between characters that are directly interacting, have some covering reaction shots (Toni Collete's main shot is from between Carell and Kinnear as that's who she is mostly interacting with (and metaphorically stuck between) but she also has a shot with Breslin's 180 line when interacting with her).
Long story short, establish the space then get shit loads of coverage.

June 25, 2015 at 5:50AM

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Graham Hughes
Writer/Director
171

I wouldn't use this an amazing example. Right away the shot between the Olive and Steve Carrel is slightly confusing because of how they occupy the same screen space.

Brooks Reynolds

June 27, 2015 at 5:23PM

Typically you will have a wide master shot, or two. Get some groupings. And then shoot your singles from somewhere in the middle of the table or group of characters and/or get some over-the-shoulder shots.

Because of the script, you'll know ahead of time who is speaking to whom and when, so you can plan out your pivot shots, or just shoot for coverage. It's up to you. Planning could cut down on setups.

To plan this: draw an overhead diagram of the scene with every line of action possible between all of the speaking characters. Then note who talks to who and when. Then 'activate' each line for the dialogue and make decisions on setups. Use groupings to keep the audience oriented spatially and cut to a wide if it get's too confusing.

In the end, the 180 "rule" is only there to prevent you from accidentally spatially disorienting the audience. Line crossing isn't wrong, you just want to be aware of the consequences of doing so. If your audience won't be disoriented or you WANT them to be (more or less) disoriented then please for heaven's sake feel free to break the 180 "rule". Sometimes, such as in the "Little Miss Sunshine" example someone else mentioned, it can make a simple conversation more visually/mentally interesting to frame characters with their 'space' cut off, or by jumping the line, especially if the conversation is tense, you can create tension with it.

I hope this helps! :-)

January 9, 2017 at 2:34PM, Edited January 9, 2:44PM

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Chris Williamson
Director
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