Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lessons of a One Woman Crew #1 -- The Line

Several weeks ago, I shot this little video for NYPL with a few friends. The goal was to try and create a vague semblance of a story-- a hint of a story-- so that the conceit could honestly be that the whole minute and a half was about the kid at the end, as opposed to the chase in the beginning.

I wrote a script, I got it approved, I wrangled some friends... and I set off.
The one thing I did not do.... was finish my storyboard before the actors got to my apartment.

This, ladies and gentlemen, proved to be a problem. Because regardless of the fact that I've been shooting video since I was 16 years old... I still fall prey to ridiculous mistakes when I have not planned.

I thought I could definitely wing it. I knew what everything wanted to look like in my head. So I just set up the camera, made the colors look pretty-- attempted to get the exposure perfect with the clouds changing every 10 minutes... Should'a all been ok. But-- without that shot list...

Do you know what "the line" is? It's one of those silly thing things that people learn about in Film Production 101 and then make fun of people for screwing up. For all of you lay individuals here is a brief explanation, with LOVELY in-design mock ups by-- yours truely (so i'm not a designer. Sue me).

When two individuals are talking (here, seen from above) "the line" is drawn between the middle of their faces.  Across this line, the camera SHALL NOT cross, for continuity to be correct. Basically-- the reason you keep the camera on one side of the line, is so that the eyes of each person talking look in the correct direction. When you cut-- one person will look to the left and the other to the right- and they will appear spatially accurate in the frame. The audience will know that the characters are talking to each other because, as person two will appear on the right side of the screen looking left, and person 1 will appear on the left side of the screen looking right (see below).

And all is right with the world. 

However-- if you cross the line with the camera-- 

Then you get this:

  And people get confused, and pulled out of the picture... and etc. 

So-- why is this relevant? Because I crossed that line. I was all good and fine up until they turned the corner. But, after the running boy (Carl) turned the corner -- and the evil feet person (Gabe) followed-- the line that had been created between the two changed. And-- as I controlled the color and exposure,  people in the background and actors in the foreground all by my lonesome... without a diagram of where the relationships between the bodies were ... I shot Gabe's close ups on the wrong side, so he was look right, when Carl was on his left.

So- Gabe. I am sorry that we lost your great moment. Because it was really excellent. And Amy's great face-scar makeup.

The lesson learned here-- is that you should ALWAYS prepare. ... Even when you aren't by your lonesome (but especially, especially when you are). 

Since then, I have even diagrammed out the potential movements of the Food52 shoots, which-- actually, has helped editing significantly. 

And that, is my first Lesson from a One Woman Crew. I am SURE this will become a weekly, if not bi-weekly affair. 


  1. It's an illustration in gratuity... (and also for my mom... who reads this daily and didn't go to film school)