Category Archives: Film Directing

Film Directing- The Master Scene Method

Using The Master Scene Technique

The Master scene method is the first tool you’ll use when you approach a scene. No matter how much you’ve worked on your shooting script, there is always something that can go wrong on set and you’ll miss it . The master shot technique method comes to the rescue in such cases.

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The master scene method is one of the films directing fundamentals techniques that began during the silent movies in the 20’s. It was a time when video editing wasn’t as easy as it is now.

The Master shot method means to shoot the whole scene in one long take in a wide angle ( See types of shots article) with all its important elements and then you can move on to shoot the coverage shots like the over the shoulder, medium shots, close-ups etc.

Now,

In the editing room, if you find you missed a shot, you can go to this cover shot to the rescue.

Master shot method tip
When shooting a scene in a room, the master shot will usually be in the opposite corner. If you are shooting outside, just look for the farthest spot that will cover everything in the shot.

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A few tips about working with master scene method

Before I’ll tell you how to do this the right way, here are some tips you need to know:

  • Start the shooting with the master shot before the coverage shots to prevent problems in the continuity of the scene.

  • When a scene is too long or has a complex movement, it is recommended to break the Master shots into 2 masters.

  • Watch for the 180-degree rule (see rules of the camera) while you shoot the master and the coverage.

  • When you plan the shooting script breakdown, think about the time it will take to change the lightning from the master shot to the coverage shots.

  • Make sure you start the shot from the beginning of the scene until the ending of it.

  • Master shot method can also be used to add a certain atmosphere.

When this method is done properly, the audience will barely feel it was made to cover faults.

Shooting in one take is not as hard as it sounds

Don’t waste too much time on it. It’s not a big deal if the actors make mistakes. It all If an actor gets confused in the middle of the scene, you can take the second take from that point.

So this is a very basic but useful film technique that is used a lot in Film directing.

I recommend to read also about The Triple- Take Technique.

Recommended books on film directing

Types of Camera Angles and Shots Every Film Production Use

camera angles and shot types

If you read my first post-Basic camera angles & movements in film, you are ready to go on and learn the camera angles and shots we use in the film industry.


It’s very important to understand that the way you choose to shoot can really affect your audience emotions. For example, the camera is panning through a room and suddenly stops on an object. At that point, the audience understands that there is something important about that object. Panning can also be used on two men talking and by that it will emphasize the contrast between them.
Each time your camera will change angle in the scene, it will change your audience attention, so you must know how to use the camera right.

Why knowing the camera angles and shots is important?

I know I promised that on this blog, I want to focus more on the creative part of filmmaking than the technical part, but knowing the camera angles and shots is very basic and will help us to communicate better on the next articles. The camera angles and shots are the basic language of the film production. Everybody in the production set will communicate using these shots names, so you absolutely must know them. The cameras angles are the best tool to tell a story without explaining too much.

Building relationship with camera angles

The camera angles you’ll choose will be a great tool to describe the relationships of the characters without words.  POV shot (I will explain it later on) will tell the audience who is the important character in the scene (that will also be the character that get more screen time), If you’ll shoot one character closer and the other in a more open shot, the one that was shot closer will look and feel to the audience as the stronger one. Read the next shots angels I’m introducing here and you will understand what I’m saying.

so here it goes:

Long Shot(LS )

The shot shows all the  body of the photographed object and some of its background. Usually, we use it the beginning of a scene, so the audience will understand where the scene is taking place. Sometimes, when the scene is long,
we will use it to remind the audience where the scene is happening.
This angle has no emotional strength. It simply gives us information.

you can see good examples of long shot by clicking here

Medium Close Up (MCU )

A very intimate shot. What we see is only head and shoulders of photographed object. It provides a great sense of intimacy with the photographed object. This shot is used a lot in interviews and TV. In films we use it a lot on reaction shots or when we want to emphasize the drama.It is customary to put the photographed object in this shot just beyond the center of the frame, so the shot will not be too symmetrical. You should also leave some space on the side to which the character speaks or turns to.
There is also a shot called Close Up which is little closer.

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The advantages of this kind of shot are:
They are easy to lighten and it’s also easy to connect them with other shots in the scene.
This shot helps convey what the character feels with only very light expressions using mainly the eyes.

The disadvantages of this kind of shot are:
Sometimes the shot has nothing to do with the spirit of the scene and can serve as a kind of invasion of subject’s privacy (especially in documentary cinema). The viewer may find himself uncomfortable when it happens.

Click here to see examples of Medium close up shots

Extreme Close-Up(ECU)

The shot is very close to the object. For example, in a person shot, we might see only the face of the character or his hands. The feeling that the viewer gets is that what we see at the moment is very important, or with intense emotional weight. For example, a woman walking on the street at night. ECU on her eyes can convey to us a sense that she is scared.

Medium Shot(MS)

A very popular shot angle. Also called “Waist shot”. Usually, it’s an angle that contains the top of the photographed object. It creates a sense of distance from the person that is being shot, but to such an extent that we can still see him and his body language clearly, with some level of intimacy. When you are using this kind of shot (and you are going to use it a lot), you must pay attention to the background. Also pay attention to the actor’s body posture and movements.

you can see good examples of Medium shot by clicking here

Full shot(FS)

A shot that is being used a lot less today. Its primary use is when you want to connect the character to its location. It’s a hard shot when to edit with. especially because it reveals too much of the background. If for example we have a dialogue scene, we can see the second character in the shot of the other, and that can make it difficult for the continuity of the editing. The biggest advantage of the shot is that it allows the actor to use his body language.

See good examples of Full shot by clicking here

Two Shot

The same as Medium Shot with the difference that it includes two people.

See good examples of Two shots by clicking here

Over The Shoulder Shot (O/S)

The shot focuses on an object over the shoulder of another person whose face is directed to the same object. We will see the back of the shoulder and part of the head of the person who looks at the object. Directors use this shot a lot in dialogues since it is kind of a “shortcut” to see both characters at the same time.

See good examples of Over The Shoulder shots by clicking here

Ok, so I understand this post is getting too long, but please bear with me
and trust me, if you don’t know the jargon of the film industry, you will be in a lot of troubles. So just a few more to go and we’re done:

Point of view (POV)

The POV shot is a great film technique to make the viewer identify with your character. This is also a great way to create tense.  In the POV shot, the camera transmits the point of view of an object in the scene. It basically takes the place of character that looks at something. If we are filming two people talking and we want to pass the point of view of one over the other, the camera will be in front of the photographed object in the place of the one we want to emulate his eyes. Usually, the photographed object will not look directly into the camera, but 30 degrees to the side. If the object looks directly into the camera, it’s like he is looking directly at the audience and thus breaks the magic of cinema. Of course, there are quite a few films that do this on purpose, but this should be a conscious decision.

lower angle

On this shot the camera is positioned in a low angle, making the shot object look very big.

See good examples of lower angle shots by clicking here

higher angle

On this shot the camera is positioned on a high angle, making the object look small.

See good examples of higher angle shots by clicking here

A bird’s Eye Angle

When the camera just above the photographed object. Also good to show us where the characters are. The shot is aimed directly to the object, but from above.

See good examples of A bird’s Eye Angle shots by clicking here

So there are many more types of camera shots and angles, but I think I brought the important ones here. If you think I missed any important camera shots,
let me know

Recommended books on Cinematography

The Film Director’s Vision

Finding Your Director’s Vision

Online Writing Classes & Seminars at Writers Store

In this post, I’ll teach you how to understand and develop your director’s vision. You will  see that it’s not that hard to take any script you want and make it unique and original.

There is an old saying that if you can’t explain something to others, you probably don’t really understand it yourself. If you can’t you explain your vision in words, you don’t understand your director’s vision statement. Since The director is actually a form of a movie creative supervisor, the director’s vision statement is his leading tool of every production. The film director is in charge of all creative departments and they need to understand the way he has interpreted the script.

When the director knows his film director’s vision statement completely, he can translate the script into visual shots inside the shooting script. Off course, the director’s vision doesn’t stop here. The vision has to be in the director’s thoughts during the whole process.

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2 steps before working on your director vision statement

  1. The first time you read the script, you should notice what kind of images are appearing in your head while reading. Pay attention to sounds, locations, and emotions that are popping in your head.
  2. Watch different movies, paintings, read some books, listen to music, everything you think that will inspire you about this story. Do it with artists and arts you really connect to and not just the respected ones. Try to see what is it about them that connect you.

How to develop your director’s vision

The director’s vision will be expressed through the style of the film, the visual look, the editing and the sound design and music. The director is usually the one that is calling the shots for that kind of decisions. He does not have to be a specialist in all the filmmaking areas, but he needs to know the language of cinema to be able to express his point of view. Learn all the camera angles and movements  and all the types of camera shots and learn their emotional strength. Every aspect of filmmaking can be a tool you’ll use to express your vision.

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Find your film director’s vision through movie’s theme

The film director has to be an expert on portraying a message. The first step should be to understand your theme or the premise of the

The theme of the movie is, what this movie really all about in one or two sentences. It is the premise of the film.  For example the movie Back to the Future is dealing with changing your future, but it is not the main theme of the film. It is not the subtext of the film. The subtext theme is “true love is stronger than love out of mercy”. In Little Shop of horror, the story is the about a deranged and murderous plant, but the subtext of the story (The theme) is about capitalism in the modern world.

When you understand the film’s premise, you’ll understand the scenes. If you’ll know what’s the emotion behind the scene, you will know how to set the light for it. Even aspect ratio can deliver the director’s vision.

“The reason it’s important to have this (the theme) is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme always helps you. “
Francis Ford Coppola

 

So this is what you’re probably asking now:

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How to understand your theme and vision?

The director’s vision should not be a political argument or a philosophical idea that you can copy. It should be a personal point of view of the director. Your point of view is something no one can copy and you also cannot be copied from elsewhere.

So how do you find your vision?

I’m going to explain it now:

  1. When you read the script for the first time you should write the thoughts that pop into your head while reading. You can write them on the script. Write everything you feel about each scene.

  2. Your next job is to understand why you were drawn to the script.
    It is usually the main character that attracts directors. As a director, you must decide what is you want to focus on the plot or the characters.

  3. Think about the values in the script. Are their ant values you identify with? Go through the film’s script and check the values you most identify with. There are directors that write the biography of each character. It helps them to understand the character motive and its nature and basically what it represents in the film.

  4. Go through each scene and see what is the subtext of each one of them. Write them down next to the scene title
  5. Eventually, understand what you want to achieve from the viewer. Do you want his love (like comedies usually), or you rather impress the audience with a complex story.

Quick tip
The important things to pay attention to when you work on your theme throughout the film are the moral of the story, the smaller themes in the script and the subtext throughout the script

 

Sticking up to your vision

It is very important that once you find your vision, you’ll stick to it.
Sometimes you might find a lot of pressure to change things in a way that’s against your vision (usually from the production company),
you have to make the decision of how much you want to sell from yourself, in order to make that film.
Here is  to sum it up:

“Trust yourself so that the mistakes you make are the ones you’ve made and not something you’ve made because you were afraid to do what you wanted to do. Own your mistakes, then you can own your successes.
Try to be as good a listener as you are a speaker.
Don’t just put the emphasis on saying things. Listen!”
Jennifer Lynch

Learn more about director’s vision

To learn more about this subject. I really recommend reading the book The Director’s Vision: A Concise Guide to the Art of 250 Great Filmmakers. This book is about all the classic Holywood big directors and their visual styles. It is an excellent tool for insparatioin and to understand how to develop your uniqe director’s vision.