On this week's Reel Rebel, Stephen talks about the importance "shooting for the edit" and gives some advice on how to ensure that when you're shooting video, you capture enough footage of a scene to provide the editors with full coverage and plenty of shots to work with.  Obtaining proper coverage will definitely improve the end video product and can save loads of time and headaches from having to go back to re-shoot something which is usually not an option, or have the editor try to fix it in post to and attempt to rescue poor footage.

Shooting for the Edit

Shooting for the edit involves understanding the production plan such that the videographer is cognizant of what scene elements may be needed in post-production and is able to capture the right shots.  IE - it's about NOT going out shooting and hoping for the best. If you’ve done proper pre-production on your script and storyboard, you should have a pretty good idea of how it’s going to edit together.

In a way, you can also think of it as "shooting with a safety net."  It not only will please your editor, but it also offers advantages to the production crew.  One advantage of shooting this way is that you can more efficiently shoot scenes out of order.  The Hollywood crews produce motion pictures this way and while a scene might begin and end in New York, if the middle takes place in LA, the camera crew will often shoot all of the LA scenes at the same time.

Tips for Camera Coverage

The post-production editor will often want as much footage as he/she can get.  So, shooting for the edit will mean shooting each scene multiple times from various angles and distances so as to obtain proper coverage.   The more footage that you have, the more options you're editor will have.  You'd be amazed at how a few seconds of seemingly useless footage can be used to fill a hole in the program.

The Master Shoot

Generally, you start with what would be called a Master Shot (or establishing shot), or a wide-angle long shot that covers everything in the scene from start to finish.  That doesn’t mean you need to have your amateur actors memorize the entire script word for word and be able to do it in one amazing take.  Just make sure you get decent sized chunks of the script covered in each take that can be used in conjunction with your other shots to complete the edit.

The OTS Shot

One of the most common shots you’ll see during dialog scenes in film is the OTS, or over the shoulder.  If OTS shots will be essential for the edit, don’t film just each of their sets of lines. Just let the film roll even while the person off camera is talking.  This is a huge factor in shooting for the edit, because it gives the editor the opportunity to cut away to a reaction shot of the off-camera listener, giving him the opportunity to stitch two different takes of the speaker’s lines together allowing for the best edit possible. Be honest, you’re not going to get Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise to act for you, so your actors will probably need all the help they can get.

You’ve got a master shot, and two complete OTS shots of your actors, but shooting for the edit doesn’t stop there. Ask yourself what else is important in the scene. Do the actors reference something that can be seen in the shots? Remember eyeline-matching and match cuts. Utilize all the time you have on set.  Sure, you may over shoot but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

More Shooting Tips:

It’s best to roll tape a few seconds before and after the action.  This way, you can adjust your in and out points in the edit bay.

You’ll want to proportion your time.  For example, if you shot fifty minutes of tape to produce a five-minute video, your shooting ratio would be 50:5, or 10:1.  That means that you shot 10 minutes of raw footage for each minute of edited tape.  For efficiency, try to achieve shooting ratios closer to 2:1 or even 3:1.

Even a small shooting ratio will give you a lot of tape to edit.  Make sure you’re organized.  You should keep a log as you shoot.  This requires that you keep a written record of which shots are on which tape and where the best shots are located.  This way, when you edit you will be able to find shots more quickly.  This can be as simple as identifying the shots on a tape by their order and approximate length, or, for the ultimate in precision, by noting time code numbers.

If you slate your shots, logging is even more effective.  The slate is that little clapboard that filmmakers use—the one they clap down and shout "Take 10." It is used to quickly identify the start of a shot.  A make-shift slate, such as a dry erase board, can be used to flag each scene you shoot.  You can also try using a digital clapboard like the Movie slate iPad app that we reviewed here.

What tips do you have to capture proper coverage when "shooting for the edit?"

  • Charles Mackenzie-Hill

    Good advise. I should have learned by now that one cant always necessarily re shoot ,as you mentioned above.