Sunday, May 19, 2013

Better Early Than Late

  We are doing a lot of blind* Technocrane moves on this show with a very exacting director (and DP). As a result, I've recently become reacquainted with one of my old rules that I had almost forgotten: generally, it's better to be a little early, and fudge it in the feather-down, than late, because you can never catch up. This is a principle that usually comes in handy when you are trying to match to a certain passage of dialogue or land on a specific word in a piece of dialogue. As long as you don't get too far ahead, you can always stretch out the move in the feather to make it almost unnoticeable. If you're behind, there is almost no way to catch up and you end up just stopping short when the dialogue ends, running the risk of ending on too loose a frame. Usually, this is a function of actors getting faster in their dialogue as they get more comfortable with a piece of dialogue. Especially off camera dialogue. This happened earlier this week when the writer/producer (whom I've known for years)was reading off camera to an actor supposedly watching him on an iPad. Another actor was cued to walk in on a specific word in the off-camera dialogue and I had to be in a certain spot to see him walk in in the background. He read faster and faster until the camera was flying around to reach the specific point in the dialogue. At this point, the only way to not be late was to get there early, and slow it down into a creep to the number two spot before wrapping around the actor who walked in. It worked (although we still took around ten takes to get it right. So remember this: better to be ahead and slow down, trhan behind and rush to catch up.

* A blind move is one in which you can't see all the actors or set pieces because of your position on the bucket. Also called "flying blind." It often involves a little on the fly calculating combined with desperation and luck.

3 comments:

The Grip Works said...

I agree .. when its one of those dialog driven moves, I try and put down gaffer tape strips along the move and write key phrases from the dialog on the tape. That way I am pretty close, regardless of actors pace, but I would still try and be a little early and draw out the landing.
One of the places this would not work is with Wes Anderson. He needs the dolly stops and starts (and camera pans and stops) to be VERY hard.
Some times he asks me to stop so hard, I can see the Operator struggling to hold on. For those kind of moves, timing is everything, and you need to get it spot on. That sometimes means a lot of takes.

The Grip Works said...

I agree .. when its one of those dialog driven moves, I try and put down gaffer tape strips along the move and write key phrases from the dialog on the tape. That way I am pretty close, regardless of actors pace, but I would still try and be a little early and draw out the landing.
One of the places this would not work is with Wes Anderson. He needs the dolly stops and starts (and camera pans and stops) to be VERY hard.
Some times he asks me to stop so hard, I can see the Operator struggling to hold on. For those kind of moves, timing is everything, and you need to get it spot on. That sometimes means a lot of takes.

D said...

Good idea, Sanjay. I do something similar, but not quite as involved. I find a key word or phrase in the center of the dialogue, make a mark in the center of the track, and try to align the two. I find that I'm usually pretty close if I can do that.