single camera shooting



Hey everyone,

Im 16 years old and i have a a basic 500$ cannon camera and i really love filming and ive really started to get the idea of how to make a quailty short film. But since school is out and my friends and I are really into to this I wrote a screenplay for a movie we all want to go this summer, its about 30 pages so i think it will be around 30 minutes long, but my main question(s) is what is the best way to shoot dialog using one camera. If you could go into detail it would be great. Becuase right now in the films ive done its been "line" Cut, Switch angle for next line "line" cut and so on, it seems to ruin the flow of the actors and gets tedious and ruins the actors concentration...Other tips for anything to do with making this film would be awsome, also whats the best way to makea homemade steadycam? Thanks in advance- Nick
That intercutting is done in editing later.

The most pendantic description of typical coverage for a scene would be to shoot a wide shot of all the action and dialogue of the scene, called the "master", following the actors around. If that's not possible, you break it up into a couple of partial masters.

Then you would cover big chunks of the scene again in medium shots, over the shoulders, and close-ups. So the same action and dialogue would be covered in lengthy shots of different sizes.

The intercutting between close-ups would happen in editing later. It's complicated because you are editing the sound also but the point of picture cut often isn't the same point as the audio cut. You may have a close-up of someone talking and in the middle, insert a cutaway to the face of the person listening without cutting the audio track, and then cutting the picture back to the person talking.

I've been discussing the most academic and cliched method of covering dialogue often employed on TV shows more than features. But it's a good starting point because it gives you a lot of options in the editing room.

Personally, I first made several short SILENT films with no dialogue because I wanted to learn to tell stories in images without falling back on dialogue to explain what was going on. Beginners often overly rely on dialogue to propel the story. Action and images should do more of the heavy lifting of storytelling.


thanks a ton, ill take that all in for this next film, ill have to show it to you when its done - nkr
Since cutting dialogue is so tricky, it would behoove you to shoot a one or two minute dialogue scene and cut it before you tackle a 30 minute short film. For a first-timer, a 30 minute sound short is too ambitious -- even IF you cover the scene properly, you'll be buried in the editing room and may never finish the project. Try a MUCH shorter film first.


how much footage should a typical 15-30 minute ideally have after filming? like an hour or 8 hours?
All depends on your coverage, but a 10:1 ratio is not unusual for dialogue, so a 30 minute movie may shoot 300 minutes of footage, maybe twice as much if you're shooting video and don't worry about how much you are rolling. 300 minutes is 5 hours.


New member
I'd definitely agree with David that you're far more likely to finish a five-minute movie than a thirty-minute movie as a first-timer, and most first-time shorts are way too dialog-driven. Even editing for people who've made numerous shorts and the odd feature, I'm often cutting out up to half the dialog that they shot, which took them a lot of time and a sizable amount of money.

Before you shoot I'd suggest going through the entire script and seeing if there's any line of dialog which repeats things you already told us, any word of dialog which can be removed, and any line which can be replaced by having the actor _do_ something rather than say something. The latter in particular is very helpful if you're working with amateur actors: I'm one of the world's worst actors, but even I can manage to, say, open a door or pick up a photograph convincingly, when I'd have a real hard time delivering a tear-jerking monologue in a convincing manner.

Also, if you're really set on this script, I'd suggest picking one scene that's a few minutes long and shooting and editing that first. That way it won't take you much time and money and you can get some practice before you set out to do the entire movie: and if it doesn't work out, you have time to rewrite the script before you spend the time and money on the full production.

Lastly, if this is your first movie, there's one important thing to remember: when you see the rushes in the edit room, you'll probably want to shoot yourself (or at least, shoot the actors and DoP :)). The good news is that although 90% of what you shoot will probably be junk, you just have to find the 10% of good footage to cut together to make a good movie... no-one but you, the editor and DoP will ever see the junk.

Far too many first-time directors give up when they see how bad the rushes are (and probably never shoot another movie again), rather than work through the process and complete the movie. Every movie can be edited together somehow, no matter how bad it may look, and even if you have to spend a day or two reshooting a few parts or shoot a few new shots to tie it all up: I've even known people call in an actor and shoot new dialog cutaways against a wall in the edit room which happened to be the same color as the location, in order to cover up plot holes!