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Setting Up a Shot: Video Production

Written by Chuck Jurich
February 17, 2011

Setting up a shot takes place during the “production” stage of video production (see related links below). The crew– actors, director, camera person, “marker”, art directors, etc.– goes out to capture the shots indicated on the script. Setup takes a while as locations are arranged, camera placement is negotiated, and actors are situated. 

In the example above, there is a small crew of four: actor, cameraperson, marker, and director (who also plays a small role and is offscreen during most of the clip). They are early into the filming of “Monkey Girl.” In fact, this is their first shot (though they are on “Shot 2”, crews often shoot out of sequence).

In this clip, we see two takes (6 and 7). While Take 7 is the one that is ultimately used in the movie, Takes 1-6 are very important steps towards the “perfect shot”. Each take is a refinement of the last where issues are discovered and solutions are created. Note how Take 6 is marred by a flubbed line but that is not what is discussed afterward. The cameraperson talks about a pole that is in the way while I (the “marker”– person who holds a slate in front of the camera and marks what shot and take it is) am concerned with being able to see the actor’s face. Both are important (as is the actor saying the correct line but that’s her concern). At the end of Take 7, I wondered if the pole divided the two characters and asked the camera person if that were the case. Metaphorically, it would work as these two characters are at odds with each other. The cameraperson instead decided to eliminate the pole through camera placement. My idea is a decent one but it was originally thought up to solve a problem. Now that the problem is gone, the solution is passed over. Take 7 corrects every issue that has been brought up.

Moving on to Shot 3, we see the director enter the shot near the end of the clip (she’s wearing a plaid shirt). She realizes that the crew needs to see the principal actor with her arms crossed but this action falls somewhere between Shot 2 and Shot 3. “Oh, we forgot this!” In one of many “decimal shots,” The crew will set up “Shot 2.1” to get this needed and important footage.

While out shooting, everyone is allowed to give suggestions but no one necessarily has to use them. The cameraperson solved her issue with her own solution (moving the camera). Only the director can truly override a decision and it is only done sparingly. I used to discourage this feedback in order to protect the power of the director and others from overbearing students but we’ve learned that small crews really benefit from everyone being engaged. The dialog between students can be very creative and even fun.

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