I often find myself on set trying to improve a shot, to make it more dynamic and interesting. Here are a few general tricks and techniques I use a lot.
1. Add some movement. I love my Dana Dolly, and I sometimes even keep a slider mounted on to a Fisher Dolly just to be able to add a small amount of movement quickly on a moment’s notice. This makes the shot feel like it’s going somewhere and also creates a 3-dimensional effect by revealing different parts of the background.
2. Add a foreground element. This works really well, especially when combined with camera movement. I’ve seen some really boring wide shots become much more interesting when we added a bit of foreground (or a lot of foreground) such as furniture or set dressing. Also, even Close Ups can be made more interesting by adding some out-of-focus foreground element, even if it’s the back of another actor’s head. This is why I often find over-the-shoulder shots much more interesting than clean-singles. Usually I like darker foreground objects, so we’re often setting flags to take the light off of them.
3. Add a highlight to the background. This could be a window or a practical lamp, or anything to break up a flat background.
4. Switch to a tighter lens. I can’t tell you how many times my AC has turned on the focus magnification on the camera to check focus between takes, and the director and I looked at it and thought — this looks so much better! Flipping to longer lenses are one thing I think to do when a shot just isn’t quite working for me.
There are a bunch of other things you can do to make a boring shot more interesting, but these are my more common approaches. Not every setup is a big sweeping crane shot, and we all have to shoot Wides, Cowboys, and Close-Ups, but they can always be improved upon.
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