December 20, 2014 at 11:39PM

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The Dead Centre, Dead Front Shot

I've been directing for almost a decade now and I have always enjoyed watching films/works with the dead centre/dead frontal shot whether it's a wide shot or a MCU or CU, it seems that when a backdrop is really nice, this kind of shot can work for really emotionally intimate scenes.

However, on set, many times I've asked my DOPs to give me this shot because I felt that shot would work but many prefer to do it at an angle which really removes a lot of the visual/emotional impact of the shot.

Sometimes it's understandable. Usually it's a space constraint but a lot of the time, they say there's no depth. But how can that be? Depth can be created by just moving the subject closer to the camera in the foreground and defocusing the background or using lights to create a highlighted subject right?

Has anyone else experienced this problem on set and how do you negotiate getting the shots you want with your DOP & crew?

7 Comments

Both in still-photos and in film, the dead-center front-on shot is considered to be the kind of mistake most amateurs would make, as it produces a completely symmetrical shot that leaves the viewers "eye" with nowhere to go.

I've seen this type of shot used very successfully by Speilberg in some of his films, but I would be very careful not to over-do it...

http://www.highdefdiscnews.com/screenshots/jaws_12.png

December 21, 2014 at 6:15PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30610

Spike Lee uses the dead center shot alooooottttt in his movies.

December 21, 2014 at 7:11PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
2575

Spike Lee uses the dead center shot alooooottttt in his movies.

December 21, 2014 at 7:11PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
2575

Wes Anderson makes great use of these type of shots

A way of dealing with your DP would be to show him/her a similar shot in a movie where you can see what type of effect the shot has for that particular scene. That way it's easier to explain why you want it like that. If you don't have an example, storyboard it. As long as you have a solid reason for your vision, I'm sure you can make him/her understand

If he/she still refuses to do the shot you just have to find another DP that does understand your vision.

December 22, 2014 at 5:57AM

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Filmdudezero
Director
221

Hmmm... There should always be a creative relationship with your DOP, but I don't think you should be negotiating to get the shot you want - if you're clear that you want it (and have a reason for that particular shot) they should get it for you. When everything's finished, it's a collaborative artform - but the buck (and the praise/blame) stops with you as the director, so you have to take responsibility for it.

If all else fails, try 'Kubrick did it - and he seemed to do alright.'

December 22, 2014 at 7:45AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3441

The king's Speech has some great examples of flat frames that are visually interesting. Although not many are dead center. I do agree that the DP's job is to help you achieve your vision as a Director. If you want the shot try it. Otherwise who knows of it works. Mistakes helps us too, as long as we learn from them.

December 22, 2014 at 2:38PM

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Kyle Acker
Cinematographer/ Video Editor
469

That dead centre shot is a very emotive shot, but symmetry is also important. So having a shot with the subject in the mid third of the screen means the background elements must provide some sort aesthetics to make the shot interesting. Depth is also critical. Sometimes you may see something as a director but technically it may not be sound for the same reasons listen above and so your DOP may ask you to opt for something different. With that said, a DOP should seek to always as best as possible grant the director's wish. I learnt the hard way because i work with my wife (She Directs) and she will say she wants a certain shot and i'm like i don't see it then i do something else, in editing i see exactly what she wanted to achieve and i robbed her of that so i'd say to all DOP, advise your director as best as you can but give your Director the benefit of the doubt and do as they ask.

December 24, 2014 at 10:34PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2325

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