View Full Version : How do you approach coverage?

03-25-2005, 09:00 PM
When approaching a scene, sometimes I use a pretty std. method for coverage when I haven't prepared a storyboard/overhead diagram or shot list that exploits the angles...yes it happens: :undecided

While being pretty std. it works in a crunch.

Here it is.

Master Scene
OTS and reversal
Clean or dirty single/ reversal

What ways do you approach your typical scene, if any?

03-25-2005, 09:10 PM
I don't shoot a lot of coverage for my films. I do a very detailed job of designing my shots before shooting. Then when I get on the set I adjust as needed for how the actors play the scene. For the most part my final edit looks a lot like my storyboard.


03-26-2005, 05:54 AM
I too storyboard a lot, but if I come to a scene where my boards just don't work then I usually just do Master and OTS and reverse. Unfortunatly those end up being pretty bland scenes, which only makes me storyboard in more detail. :grin:


03-26-2005, 06:02 AM
I really stopped using a lot of my master covereage. The more I knew were I physically wanted to be in a scene, the less I would end up running a camera through a scene in a master shot.

03-26-2005, 10:29 AM
A lot of folks book end master scenes. I tend to just shoot it and use it for reference.

03-27-2005, 03:52 PM
I must say I am not fan of the master/coverage approach to shooting a scene.

It works perfect for some things, but I also think it is fairly stagnant way of filmmaking.

I like planning out all my shots, then I can adjust if I need to on set, or come up with new shots on set.

I work both ways, sometimes I will let a scene play out, other times just film it in pieces.

I guess it all depends how I want to shoot it

04-01-2005, 08:49 AM
Never under estimate the power of a master shot. It has been used since the conception of film, and will always play a valuable role. Not to say that everyone must shot a master shot but, I just can't imagine not having one, when I sit down to edit. Just watch alot of older movies, and you will see scenes consiting of master shots only. I guess it is just todays MTV generation of filmmaking. I shot a scene with Conrad Brooks from such ED WOOD films as(PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, GLEN OR GLENDA). We would do a scene once, and he would be like"OK champ we got the master shot, let's move on." That shows you the old school mentality of filmmaking, and how it has changed.

Chance White
04-02-2005, 02:36 PM
I always shoot masters and I always do them first.

I used to not adhere so strictly to it. Sometimes it was difficult to get the flow and timing to feel authentic.

The master does 2 things for me. One, it serves as a reference as far as the overall flow of the scene, the little pauses in conversations, moments that the actors have. Sometimes I won't even have the master in the final cut but I always lay it in and build the cuts around it for timing purposes.

Two, having a master gives me more options in editing. Sometimes I previsualize a scene, shot list, storyboard, etc, and then once I am shooting it the tension or feel of the scene, what the actors are doing with it, does not facilitate the same kind of tone that I had previsualized, and they take the scene to all new levels that I hadn't anticipated. Having the master still gives you the option to back off a bit and build the tension or slow it down or just give the emphasis over to the performances more then anything.

Plus the whole master-coverage technique is the most 'invisible' form of editing and is a principle that has been around for a very long time, as others have mentioned. It simply feels natural and works.

04-02-2005, 03:22 PM
Chance White, you got it. I agree, laying down a well acted master sets up all the timing points for the edit, to use or pace differently. Just drop the other shots on top and the NLE will ride the skyline of shots and return to the master. The Master audio track can also be helpful. Try editing w/o one and see how difficult everything becomes getting real & consistent sound.

It's funny how many here don't use the coverage system but many pro DPs and their editors strongly suggest it. Cutting in Camera type shooting (strict storyboard) is cool (and I love it) but it can trap one in the edit bay.

Try both!..it's only tape & time. :)

04-02-2005, 04:09 PM
Some scenes just don't need to have a master shot. And i think the more experienced you become the less you need to shoot.

People think they need to gather as much footage as possible because they "might" need it. In reality (myself included sometimes) they shoot far too much footage.

I think you need to strike balance between what you absolutely need to get vs. getting as much as possible "just becuase you can".

I have found in my own experience, the re-dundant footage I have the slower my editing goes, obvious from the extra footage I have to watch, but it also takes me a lot longer to get to that streamlined edit I was going for in the beginning.

It is possible to have too many possibilities then you just end up worrying which piece of footage is actually better instead of focusing your efforts on something more pressing.

Yes it's only tape, but time is another matter all together. Cutting in Camera is such a terrible thing to do... that is what really limits you, when you don't allow a scene to play and abruptly cut it short, then your screwed.

"Riding skyline of shots" can be good and bad.. can lead to some really boring editing..

but I have made my point... I am just babbling now.. Masters are good, and sometimes not..

ok I will shut up now :laugh:

Chance White
04-02-2005, 06:49 PM
Well it all depends on the story you are telling, and the choices you make for telling it. Many times before when I did not use a master for at least reference, many of my scenes would often times feel too 'edited', not authentic, too 'MTV', and it would take endless tweaking or artificial spacing and stuff to interject the right timing to make it feel natural. I recall many scenes that I just could not get to a point where I felt they really played.

Another thing to be mindful of is the precarious balance of getting every shot you think you could possibly need at the stake of the performances becoming stale. I agree that you have to stay focused to get what is the most essential to telling the story. I get the master first. Then I get OTS and CS, and then I do a couple 'freestyle' handheld takes where I get more creative shots and inserts. This way l I have options. I can use a ton of cuts to boost the energy, using the master for reference, or I can stick on the master more to slow things down a bit.

This is all 'in general', of course there are certain scenes that require a different approach.

Yes, the master can be stiff and boring, and doing a One Shot or using it at lengths to drive a scene, the only way this can be done is if you have a fairly interesting set/location AND the actors are giving you dynamite performances with a decent amount of movement within the frame.

Personally, I prefer to let the actors set the tone, I hate artificially adding cuts, though there are times when you have to I think.

I suggest to find whatever method you feel works best for you. It's all about finding your approach or style.