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Shooting dialogue between two people - Coverage?

Hello. I'm aware that when you shoot a conversation between two people with one camera, you shoot one actor and then the next, but does the actor who is not being filmed speak his (her) lines or do they just react to the other person?(I know, dumb question) If somebody could describe the procedure I'd appreciate it. Thanks - Craig

My film professor says for two-person dialogue scenes, you should actually shoot the entire scene (with both people saying all their lines) from three different angles: one showing both people, one showing Person A, and one showing Person B. I think it helps the actors to go through all the dialogue (more to play off of), and it gives you more options in the cutting room.

soxfan wrote:
My film professor says for two-person dialogue scenes, you should actually shoot the entire scene (with both people saying all their lines) from three different angles: one showing both people, one showing Person A, and one showing Person B. I think it helps the actors to go through all the dialogue (more to play off of), and it gives you more options in the cutting room.
That's how I do it. From what I understand, it's the safest way. Sure it takes up more tape than necessary, but it looks better in the end.

Soxfan is right - and this is the typical way low-budget film and episodic TV is done: it's your garden-variety Master/Shot/Reverse Shot. Using the 2 SHOT (or WIDE SHOT) of both actors as your "Master" you can cut into either performance for action or reaction (that's the SHOT and REVERSE SHOT). Watch the axis (do a search on "Crossing the axis" - but the easiest way to remember what the axis is: if one character is left looking right, the other character needs to be right looking left for it to "match") This Master/Shot/Reverse covers the scene the best way in that you have as much leverage in editing as you can with the least expended energy, time and film count (unless you're doing 1 master shot takes. Which sucks). The down side is it's just "talking heads" - and it becomes redundant and boring. One thing I would stress is to shoot a clear OPENING to the scene and ENDING to the scene - whether it be an ESTABLISHING SHOT or MACRO CLOSE UP of something in the room or area to start the scene or end it (I have covered this topic in previous posts). Anyway. To answer your specific question: your actors should ALWAYS act in the scene together if they CAN and if they're willing (some bigger-name actors won't stay for the reverse shot because they're technically not in it - unless you shoot it "dirty" - which means it's an over-the-shoulder shot with a bit of the actor in frame). MAKE SURE YOU GET THE LINES CLEAN! That means that the characters should not "bleed" their lines over each others (if you don't know what this means, you will once you start editing!) Actor A says his line, Actor B says her line. Don't let them overlap unless it's absolutely necessary for the context of the scene. You can always "overlap" in post - and it's much easier to edit that than to split lines that bleed. There you go! WPS

Hey! Thanks for answering my question in such detail, especially about the axis, something I wouldn't have thought of. I'm doing this basically by reading and trial and error, so talking to people who know really helps. Thanks again - Craig

I like to use the decoupage actually... Plus I'm really into French New Wave and all forms of avant-garde film so might show a conversation from one point view first completely then replay it almost in reverse from the other perspective... Also I don't necessarily believe that the view has to have a continous sense of the dialogue at one moment. As long as continuity can be formed from the pieces when the film ends is fine for me.

CraigT wrote:
Hey! Thanks for answering my question in such detail, especially about the axis, something I wouldn't have thought of. I'm doing this basically by reading and trial and error, so talking to people who know really helps. Thanks again - Craig
The 180 rule... I don't agree at times it's okay but why let it rule your style?

xchaos86x wrote:
[quote:87987741c7="soxfan"]My film professor says for two-person dialogue scenes, you should actually shoot the entire scene (with both people saying all their lines) from three different angles: one showing both people, one showing Person A, and one showing Person B. I think it helps the actors to go through all the dialogue (more to play off of), and it gives you more options in the cutting room.
That's how I do it. From what I understand, it's the safest way. Sure it takes up more tape than necessary, but it looks better in the end.
I think it looks very stiff and ridged if you ask me. I like the idea of the camera moving around the subjects not just around the 180degree axis line with fixed angles. That's what a Dolly Is For TO MOVE THAT DAMN CAMERA AROUND! Or Hand Held! If anything I want to break away from all conventions! You know what you should watch the movie Weekend by Jean-Luc Goddard

It looked like he was fairly new to the field. Better to stick with the basics before breaking out of the box, since you need to know the rules before you break them. Yes, it looks stiff and rigid, but it's the mainstream and the safest way. And the style of the movie dictates the camera too, you know; if it's a drama that moves slowly or just a mellow moment you don't want to be whipping the camera around.