50 50 shots (11 replies and 9 comments)
I'm a film student. My cinematography professor often talks about how he hates about the 50/50 shots( meaning two people equally face to face profile shot from the side). Part of the reason is that the more frontal the face is shown, the easier we can get into that character's perspective view and thus emotionally more connected. And he believes that films(especially short films) are better if it's a single character's perspective.
However, I sometimes see you(and many other great filmmakers) use the 50/50 shots. So I wonder what your thoughts are on this topic.
Here's a silhouette profile shot that from a character's perspective...
Your professor is talking in particular about subjective filmmaking in the mode of Hitchcock, Polanski, etc. -- which is great but not all movies have to be subjective, emotional experiences where the camera takes the point of view of the main character... because even though that approach is very effective in drawing a viewer into the narrative, it does have the disadvantage of making it harder to step back and see the story from a "colder" more objective perspective, which is useful when dealing with, let's say, political or social issues on a larger scale, or when telling stories about a particular group rather than an individual.
"The Godfather" for example is more a story about a family than it is just Michael's story and the camera tends to take a more objective, proscenium style approach rather than the subjective "character looks, we see what he sees, we cut back to his reaction" sort of style. Or look at the movies of Ozu or Tarkovsky. Or Buster Keaton... Sometimes you want that sort of tableau composition to create a sense of space around the characters, or in being formal and austere, to suggest an environment that has entrapped the characters.
From "The Godfather Part II":
I'd also add that when doing a romantic scene, a 50/50 gives equal visual weight to both partners, setting up a sort of visual "collision" of two faces pointing at each other, often leading up to a kiss, which is why this sort of shot is so common in romantic scenes, like this one from "Dick Tracy":
Here's a 50/50 shot from "2001" which is making a story point visually because in the center of the frame is the eye of HAL 9000 eavesdropping on the conversation. Conventional over-the-shoulders and close-ups might have given the emotional plight of the individual astronauts more weight, but that's not really the point of the scene because in a sense, the humans are coldly discussing how to "kill" HAL, and the scene will cut to his actual POV of reading their lips, which oddly puts the emotional weight of the scene on HAL the computer.
Thank you, Mr. Mullen. This is so informative!
In your opinion, are there times that you definitely won't use the 50/50 then?
It's not always the right way to shoot a scene, especially if you are listed for time and have to only shoot what you really need -- if a scene is intensely within the perspective of a single character, it may not be a good idea to jump out into a more objective angle like a 50/50. But there are no "rules" about that, it's a question of what feels right for the scene.
"limited" not "listed" for time.
Thank you, sir!
I dont understand why your Professor would assume there is only one way to show your characters and thats from the front, even if it does make the audience more intimate with the characters, theres nothing wrong with cutting between the two. Tarantino does this all of the time to show the change in severity of the dialogue.
PS. it creates a contrast between what is being said or conveyed and can also show where the characters are. it can also help switch the audiences minds to these changes in dialogue and mood
Don't get me wrong. He didn't say the only way is the front. What he says is that when shooting at similar angles, it's better to have an angle favoring one of the characters. And he actually especially emphasis on how we should get establishing shots to "show where the characters are" and to "creates the contrast"
And he didn't say anything about "cutting between the two" either...
I think, it all depends on, how is your standpoint towards the scene/story.
It's always about finding a point of view. Practically everything is allowed, if it feels right.
The odds are 50 to 50 that that will be appreciated.
Sounds like a truism and I think it is one:).
Of course, sometimes it´s the hardest thing to find a simple, honest attitude - like in real life:).
Sorry for the epic form of the sentences above:)
I seem to be unable to formulate a text without spaces...
...Film making is a creativ process. If there would be only on right way to go, we were just robots, who do the same thing over and over again. In that case, I would quit my job immediately
You are right, man. But it's like the 180 rule- when you break it, you better know the reason well. Maybe over the years of teaching, he has seen too many meaningless 50/50 shots that are just for the convenience instead of thinking about it carefully. Lots of the students here still use the shot(including me) but we always think about it carefully when planning, which I don't think is a terrible thing.
I'm pretty sure your professor was also my professor. He is simply referring to the tendency in student films to shy away from choosing a character's perspective in a dialogue scene, resorting to the laziest option available--just filming one person flatly facing another--instead of blocking the actors and composing the scene in an interesting way that tells the story more dramatically.
As with all of his advice, he is just trying to get us to think about how best to tell the story. And in many if not most scenes, one character's point of view will and should supersede another's. But that is not always the case, such as the examples you and others provided. It may be that a 50/50 *is* an appropriate and dramatic way to capture a moment between two characters.
He would never say that one way or another is the right or wrong way to shoot a scene. The point is that we as filmmakers are aware of what we are doing, and choosing to do it consciously as a creative decision, and not out of laziness or ambivalence.