May 9, 2018

One Cinematic Technique You Should Keep in Mind When Shooting Dialogue Scenes

Even though scenes with two-person dialogue seem pretty straightforward, there are some things that require a little finesse.

Okay, you've got your dialogue scene all set up and you're about to shoot an over-the-shoulder shot. Perfect! Classic! But damn it, if the actor whose shoulder you're shooting over even moves a couple inches forward, your other actor's face will be totally blocked from the camera. Perfect! Classic! Since asking your actors to sit completely still would result in some weirdly robotic performances, you can always shoot the scene handheld in order to adjust your camera placement with the movements of your actors, but if you're not keen on that, you can try a method Rubidium Wu of Crimson Engine describes in his latest video.

Sliders are great, versatile tools that can do way more than give you a nice, smooth lateral movement for b-roll shots. As Wu points out in the video, sliders give you a way to adjust your camera placement without 1.) being forced to go handheld, and 2.) having to shoulder the weight of your camera rig. 

It's not the most revolutionary technique for capturing over-the-shoulder shots, but it does work and it's not a very obvious choice for many new filmmakers. So, the next time you're shooting a scene with dialogue, consider busting out your slider. It'll not only free up your back and arms but it will free up your actors to give a more natural performance.     

Your Comment

10 Comments

Very nice. I always used sliders on OTS dialog scenes to dolly in but I never thought about this kind of application. Plus it added some nice subtle movement to the shots which wasnt jarring at all. It makes a lot of sense and I will definitely try it. Thanks for sharing.

May 10, 2018 at 8:31AM, Edited May 10, 8:31AM

0
Reply

I don't think I've ever seen a video on something so obvious. Really?! People need to be told that a slider is useful for this?

The reason he got them to do multiple takes is so he could be sure to have at least one good take of each move? Wow! Genius!

Damn, I wish I could get those 10 minutes back.

May 10, 2018 at 10:49AM

0
Reply
Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1557

Useful. Good video.
Besides, one realizes a good actor is the most important thing.

May 10, 2018 at 12:14PM

0
Reply

No, the thing one realizes from this video is that a good script is the most important thing. Even if those were good actors, this scene would be almost unwatchable due to that terrible writing.

May 11, 2018 at 10:36AM, Edited May 11, 10:36AM

0
Reply
avatar
Nick Brown
Filmmaker
237

Sliders were invented for this problem 15-20 years ago by a couple key grips in Los Angeles. Then they trickled down to the DSLR crowd.

The original nickname for sliders were “overkeeper”, as in “over the shoulder” keeper.

So I guess hooray for re-inventing the wheel?

May 10, 2018 at 1:13PM

3
Reply

Was this an advert for that slider...?

Not a big fan of unnecessary camera movements. Simplest solution, by far, is just to get the actor you're shooting over to keep their movements smaller/angled off slightly. You don't need to get them to be completely still, and you don't get weird performances. People have done this since the dawn of film... it's fine. And if people are paying more attention to the shoulder acting of your foreground actor than the face of the person you're looking at, you're in trouble for different reasons.

May 11, 2018 at 6:50AM, Edited May 11, 6:50AM

0
Reply
avatar
Alex Richardson
Director
3257

It's probably not an advert for sliders, it's just someone probably worked on a big production like many of us and decided to share the knowledge with the rest.

I worked on TV shows and huge movies and we would do this on almost every show (with the exception of the slider being mounted to a dolly and not a tripod).

The technique usually comes into play when the actor shifts their body weight in front of the frame and the camera just needs to be nudged over a bit so that the actor in focus is still in the shot completely.

At the end of the day using sliders during dialogue shots gives you more usable shots.

If you watch television and movies in the theatre, you'll notice the camera move in over the shoulder dialogue shots, but only if you're really trying to look for it. Its a really small movement at the end of the day, but saves your shot whenever an actor moves a little too far blocking the shot.

May 11, 2018 at 9:47AM, Edited May 11, 9:57AM

0
Reply
Forrest McBride
Producer, DP
15

To me, it looks like the slider actually hurt his shots. He cuts midway through a dolly to a static shot and it's pretty jarring. As an editor, I'd rather have good coverage on sticks.

May 14, 2018 at 9:12AM

1
Reply
Robbie Patton
Editor
89

Terrible acting. That's what I get from this: terrible acting.

As for the so-called "technique"; DUH! !! Is this "film making 101" ?

May 11, 2018 at 1:13PM

0
Reply