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  • Over the shoulder continuity

    Posted by Todd Beabout on May 10, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    I’m currently working on a short indie film (my 2nd) and was just looking for some advice regarding something that bothers me, but doesn’t seem to bother the director.
    We have some dialouge scenes where I cut to a person’s reaction to lines over the shoulder of the actor who is speaking. Pretty standard stuff. It was a 1 camera shoot with a lot of takes and I’m noticing that the back of the speaking actor’s head doesn’t seem to match with the lines he’s reading in a few shots. It’s pretty close, and his head is framed close, out of focus, and halfway out of frame. You just see some of the motion of his head and can tell he is speaking by the movement of the side of his jaw. The viewer’s attention is (should be) drawn to the subject in focus, and the cut was decided because of a better reaction take from the subject.
    I’ve noticed this a lot in films/TV and I understand that it would take 2nd place to telling the story in the best way possible. But when you are cutting a scene like this, is it one of those things that we just have to “let go”? Just trying to get some discussion going in this forum…

    -Todd Beabout
    Vazda Studios

    John Fishback replied 18 years, 11 months ago 6 Members · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • Grinner Hester

    May 10, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    The biggest thing that makes post-production different that live TV is we really never have to let anything go. I do realize we have what we have as far as elements but there are infinate combos of those and one of them is perfect. If you feel your letting something go, you may not have found that one perfect combo.
    Now, there are many many great combos…
    but only one perfect one, imo.
    Duplicate your sequance, chill after hours and dink with it. It’ll come to ya and the director will ove ya for it, man.

  • Brian Mulligan

    May 11, 2005 at 12:56 am

    I have noticed this alot in motion pics and Network /Cable TV. Almost never does the over the shoulder match well… I think the shots are really chosen for the face/reaction you are supposed to be looking at. I’d say “Let it go”. Go for best story telling. If the reversal continuity is really glaring then fix it, but if it just bothers you… step back, get a running start and see how it all feels in context.


  • Del Holford

    May 11, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    Most often that over the shoulder is a cover for a mistake in shooting and is the best cover possible. I find that in low budget shoots (and even higher budget ones) someone forgets to check continuity on a pickup and the resulting edit would be a jump cut from TS to TS or something similar. So they go find the looser over the shoulder and do the best they can. Sometimes time warping the shot makes the mouth closer to the actual audio. I get away with this about every 3rd time. Like the responders have said, do the best you can and let the rest go if the producer (or whoever is paying you) is happy. Editors, as a rule, try to give a project more than the producers ask for because we want it to be right. Sometimes you run out of sow’s ears to work with in making those silk purses.


  • Charley King

    May 11, 2005 at 9:31 pm

    Many times I find you can hide the lack of continuity with the cut, jsut a frame or two adjustment one way or the other will make some of the movements come close enough to matching you can live with it. The whole thing is step back and look at it with different eyes, see if you can imagine a slight change to make it work.


  • John Fishback

    May 18, 2005 at 1:57 am

    It’s funny, but sometimes even when everything’s in sync, lipsync looks wrong even looking at the subject. If I have a OS take where the dialogue is the same as the CU, or at least similar, I try to line up both audio tracks as a guide to help get the best match. Then I mess with the visual cut. When I’m happy, I dump the audio track I’m not using.


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