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Thread: Left or Right

  1. #1

    Default Left or Right

    When framing an interview if you follow the rule of thirds etc.. would you place the interviewee to the left of screen or to the right. I know sometimes it would depend on the direction of ambient light but if that wasn't a consideration would you tend to frame them to the left or the right ? Do you look at a face and think they look better shot from this side or that. I remember seeing a interview with an old time Hollywood cinematographer who said a well known actress came on to the set and told him how to frame and light her and that she was right. BUT do we actually care about things like that in this era ?

  2. #2
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    My understanding from odd bits I've read is that In our culture we read left and therefore we naturally look at a screen from left to right and come to settle on the right. Because of this it is more common for a director to place the subject on which he wants the audience to focus on the right side of the screen. For the same reason, if the director wants to create a "surprise" of another character (perhaps a villain) moving into the shot (perhaps to attack the main subject) he will have the surprise character enter from the left as our attention has settled on the right.

    I don't know how much of this is true and how much is my misinterpretation, but I would always naturally place one interviewee on the screen right. However, if I know I will be interviewing more than one subject I will try to get a balance of left and right interviews. I feel this is particularly important if one is going to be cutting directly between interviewee shots.

    Of course nowadays the trend might be to put a track around the interviewee and circle them!
    Tim

  3. #3

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    I've heard a few times about the left to right way of viewing images so it must be true.

    I've tried to observe what others are doing and find the choice is usually down to the lighting situation. You make a good point about positioning for multiple interviews if you are cutting from one interview straight to the other. When I did the am-dram interviews I just did them all in the same position but I did know I wouldn't have the jump cut issue.

    I think your right about there being a more modern approach but what about peoples best sides has anyone ever really considered this ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    I think your right about there being a more modern approach but what about peoples best sides has anyone ever really considered this ?
    I'm sure we all would. If an interviewee particularly wants to be shot from the other side, I'm sure we'd all grant the request rather than have an unwilling interviewee.
    Tim

  5. #5

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    Sure that's true if the interviewee says it but what about the camera op looking and caring enough about doing it ? I'm not even sure I would be able to tell what somebody's good side is etc. I guess you have to look and see. I'll really try this this week to see if I can spot peoples good side.

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    I'd go for the shot that shows the most cleavage

    But it's an interesting thought. Would there be concesus about what is a person's better side?

    You may get some strange looks from people if you're out and about studying people's faces this week. I'll watch out for you on News at Ten - or Crimewatch.
    Tim

  7. #7

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    I know it sounds odd but I already do look at people in the street and think to myself they would look great on camera.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    I know it sounds odd but I already do look at people in the street and think to myself they would look great on camera.
    It doesn't sound odd at all. Once you get into this filming lark (and I guess it's the same with stills photography and quite probably painting) you start to see everything with a "viewfinder eye". In fact my wife frequently comments "All you're interested in is whether it would make a good/interesting shot". And she's right!
    Tim

  9. #9

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    "All you're interested in is whether it would make a good/interesting shot
    So true.

    Are we the only two nerdy enough to talk about this subject ?

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    No, there are three of us. And my wife has been known to say "stop mentally framing it and just enjoy the bloody view!".

    As for left/right, in my opinion there is no right or wrong answer. It all depends...

    In a documentary where two opposing opinions are voiced the producer will often want all the scientists to be looking screen left and all the opponents looking screen right (or vice versa). Or they will want alternatives, so that the first person we see looks left, the next interview looks right etc. This is especially true when cutting from one interview to another as cutting two similar shots after each other is particularly difficult.
    If you've got someone with a bad scar, birthmark, lazy eye or bent nose, then you would normally try to put that on the upstage side.
    Quite often the interview is "flipped" in post. This rarely works, strangely as you'd think that a composition is right even if it's reversed. I've seen it done to stuff I've shot and it just doesn't look "right".

    When it comes to a one off and the producer/director isn't concerned about direction, then I think that the cameraman should make the effort to chose the person's "best" side. I find that if I have a look at a person head-on and then get them to turn slightly left and right.I can see which side looks"best".
    Everyone has a best side and all actors know which it is. Some actors will almost insist on only being shown from one side. This is often just a bit of diva-playing but they can get quite funny about it.
    If you want to freak an actor out, when they say "my left is my beauty side" just answer skeptically "Really? Who told you that?" and walk off. They will then run to the nearest mirror in a panic.

    In drama then the preceding shot often dictates the direction. If the preceding shot hasn't been done yet then it can mean working out what that shot will be before worrying about the current crisis. This is often after lengthy discussions with the AD and continuity and the director pacing waiting for us to come to a decision. The decision often being made on a "Sod it. let's just shoot left to right and let the editor sort it out." basis.

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