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Blog Home » Acting » Shooting With a Moving Camera (Part II)

Shooting With a Moving Camera (Part II)

Posted by Gil Bettman on Thursday, January 19th, 2012

 

 

When you are making your low-budget, no-budget breakout film and you decide to move the camera you want to design the shot so that it eliminates edits.   In the final cut, the shot should play for as long as possible without a cut.  It is easiest to do this at the beginning of the scene, but you can also do it in the middle, or at the end or throughout the entire scene.

Or you can design your entire movie so that by moving the camera you never have to cut.  Hitchcock did this in 1948 when he made the film Rope.  Why?  For the same reason that Orson Wells designed the opening shot of a Touch of Evil so it goes on for about five minutes and covers a mile of ground, and Scorsese did the amazing continuous shot of Ray Liotta and Lorraine Brocco walking into the Copacabana in Goodfellas and Spielberg did the shot of Tom Cruise and his family escaping an alien invasion in War of the Worlds which lasts for two and half minutes and covers five miles and which you can see in its entirety on seminars page of this website.   Why?  Because all these great directors love moving shots and one unique property of a moving shot is that it can go on, and on (for an entire movie) without a cut.  Whereas static shots run out of information and stop doing a good job of telling the story after four or five seconds.

Therefore, when you expend precious dollars doing a moving shot make sure you get the maximum bang for your buck and design the shot so it does – however briefly – the same thing that Hitchcock, Wells, Scorsese, and Spielberg did so brilliantly in the shots cited above: eliminate edits.  This is how you begin to put yourself in their league.

And this is why the side-by-side two shot is your go-to money shot when you want to shoot a dialogue scene with a moving camera.  As I explained in my last blog, this shot does the best possible job of telling the story because it shows you both eyes of both actors and in a dialogue scene the center of the drama is in the eyes of the person who is talking.

But the other great thing about the side-by-side two shot is that, theoretically, it never has to cut.  The shot can last as long as the actors can continue to walk forward backing the camera up in front of them.  This makes it the ideal shot when the space permits; which is why Cameron Crowe used it in Jerry Maguire in the scene cited in the last blog in which Jerry and Avery break up.  The scene takes place in the monstrous meeting hall of a convention center.   Crowe also used it later in Jerry Maguire when Jerry meets Rod outside the locker room after a game and they cross a wide open space on their way to the team bus while Rod complains to Jerry, “The only reason I am getting my brains blown loose is because you weren’t asshole enough to get me my 10 million three, f***ing months ago.”

The side by side two shot works in both these scenes from Jerry Maguire for two reasons.  First, location.  You have got the real estate to pull it of.  And second and more importantly, there is a good, dramatic reason for the actors to be walking and talking side-by-side.  In the Avery/Jerry scene, Avery turns her back in anger on Jerry while she distributes press kits throughout the convention center.  In the Rod/Jerry scene Rod bitches at Jerry while walking to the team bus.  Jerry, trying to be a good agent, has to tag along and absorb Rod’s abuse.  Once you can identify these kinds of dramatic moments which take place in these kinds of locations you are well on your way to learning how to shoot dialogue with a moving camera.

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