Thursday, September 20, 2007

Holding Overs

While this title may seem a little strange it simply refers to holding an over the shoulder shot. As a dolly grip, it is your job to make sure the actor facing camera in an over the shoulder isn't blocked by the actor facing him. This is where you will develop and use your knowledge of composition. Every camera operator and DP has a different preference for this. The DP I am currently working with likes a little more space between the two actors than most, however, not allowing too little of the foreground actor to be seen. You don't want him right on the frameline. Generally, this results in my dividing the frame roughly into thirds, with the foreground actor on, say, the left third (or right, depending on which shoulder you're over), the space between them filling the middle third, and the actor facing camera taking up the remaining third. (Acually, the actor facing should take up a little more than a third because he/she is the focus of the shot, but this is a rough estimate). On the other hand, other dps I've worked with like tight overs, with very little space between the actors. You hold the overs by turning your wheels on a plane parallel to the actors and moving the dolly subtly during the shot if the foreground actor's movements cause him to block the other actor, or ruin the composition. Of course, you generally need a monitor to do this. I (and a lot of other guys) did this for years before onboard monitors were available by getting right behind the camera and doing the best we could. Also, look for signals from your operator during the shot. They may give you a signal for right, left, or up or down. Anamorphic lenses are a little more difficult if you aren't used to them. The frame is so wide, most dp's like to let the actors "play the frame" or have movement in the frame as long as they don't block. I did two anamorphic movies in the last year and it took some getting used to. Some people like the "over saver", a sliding plate that mounts on the dolly and allows the operator to adjust himself. While these have their place and I like to get a break, I generally dislike using them. They are a pain in the ass and I'm quite capable of doing it myself once I know what the dp likes. Watch the monitor as the operator lines up the shot. Learn and remember the relationship between the actors (or stand ins) that he likes and simply hold that composition wherever the actors go. Don't over do it though. Let them play the frame a little as long as they aren't blocked. Be ready for anything and adjust. If the shot goes on longer than you expected, and an actor leaves, or goes somewhere you didn't expect, go wherever you need to to get a good composition for the operator. This is where your creativity comes in and can be one of the most fun parts of pushing dolly. This is one of the times when it's on you and you can really prove yourself to a dp or operator. Also, and I've said this before, know your eyelines. Knowing where an actor should be looking in a scene is crucial to doing your job. Right-to-left, left-to-right, learn these terms and what they mean. Pay attention during the master and remember where each actor should be looking. This can get confusing so if you don't understand, ask the operator. It takes awhile but will become second nature in time. This seems like a lot of useless information but it will help IMMENSELY in your work. I could try to explain it here but would fail miserably and would only end up confusing both of us. Make it your business to know where each actor is moving, where the camera is, and when actors move during a certain part of the dialogue. Remember these relationships because it will help you know what is coming up.

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