View Full Version : Coverage, Blocking, Cuts and JAWS

J.R. Hudson
04-04-2005, 11:21 PM
I have seen some threads regarding coverage and blocking and started thinking deep thoughts about it; I wanted to grab a scene from a movie we all know and love and I wanted something somewhat contemporary and driven by dialog; I wanted to see how the master spielberg blocked the following scene at the ripe old age of 26; the bastard.

Yes, this is part of John's learning; I am the junkie. I figure someone might bene from this besides me and feel free to comment or add your own insight.

First a segment from the script followed by a detailed shot for shot board. Read this scene and think in your head how you would block and cut this:


The Amity Morgue is also the Amity Funeral Home, a Victorian
house that normally serves as the community's mortuary. The
Coroner, a professional small-town GP, is standing by as
Hooper is speaking into a sophisticated cassette recorder
with a headpiece that leaves his hands free for measurement
with a calibrator or calipers.


Let's show Mr. Hooper our accident.

With a shrug, the Coroner slides open the drawer.


He is looking down as the drawer slides past him, still
matter-of-fact, turning on his recorder.


Victim One, identified as Christine

Watkins, female caucasian....

The sheet has just been lifted, and Hooper stares down at the
lump on the slab. He stops, turns off his recorder as
emotions wage war with his senses. Rationality wins, and
he turns on the recorder again.


...height and weight may only be

estimated from partial remains.

Torso severed in mid-thorax,

eviscerated with no major organs

remaining. May I have a drink of

water? Right arm severed above

the elbow with massive tissue loss

from upper musculature. Portions

of denuded bone remaining.

(tense, to Brody)

-- did you notify the coast guard?


No, it was local jurisdiction.


Left arm, head, shoulders, sternum

and portions of ribcage intact.

(to Brody)

Please don't smoke. With minor

post-mortem lacerations and abrasions.

Bite marks indicate typical non-

frenzy feeding pattern of large

squali, possibly carchaninus lonimanus,

or isurus glaucas. Gross tissue

loss and post-mortem erosion of bite

surfaces prevent detailed analysis;

however, teeth and jaws of the

attacking squali must be considered

above average for these waters.

(to Brody again)

-- Did you go out in a boat and

look around?


No, we just checked the beach....


(turns off the recorder)

It wasn't an 'accident,' it wasn't

a boat propeller, or a coral reef,

or Jack the Ripper. It was a shark.

Groups of shots bordered by RED indicate each shot is an individual cut. Note the Set ups used.


I count EIGHT setups. A setup is everytime a camera is moved, a lens is changed and I think even a change in framing and comp (someone correct me on that one?).

Look at the MED and C.U. of Brody and the Coroner as the scene plays out; they come from the same identical angle as previous set-ups except the framing has changed; ZOOMING IN. Notice the Tighter framing adds tension and drama as Dreyfuss leads up to "It's a Shark!"

I only counted one DOLLY shot and it is of the SEVERED HAND. A sleight move to the right and a subtle push.

I count 12 CUTS; and the Spielberg cleverly changes compositons without cutting by having Dreyfuss cross the line, not once, but two times.

Notice when the Cornoer moves behind Dreyfuss in the second frame? This makes for a much more interesting composition as they cut to a reverse.

Notice how the BRODY cuts bring him closer to the resolution while the Coroner starts far and then comes closer but by the end he is farther away? Almost dejected?

Okay; hopefully we all learned something; I'm junkying.

Jarred Land
04-04-2005, 11:49 PM
wow cool John.. good work!

04-05-2005, 08:52 AM
The Hudson School for Directors. :thumbsup: Excellent work, laying out that scene for us. You should do one of these every month for discussion. I think the positioning of the lamp is interesting (the surrogate for the body?). At the end of the scene, the Dreyfus character is bent over with his head under the lamp--pointing to the fact he's firmly placed himself in the scenario from this point on.

04-05-2005, 09:22 AM
Good stuff.

Larry Rutledge
04-05-2005, 09:51 AM
So, John, where should I send my scripts to get you to do full breakdown/blocking for me? :laugh:

J/K This is great stuff...I like things like this that make you think. I have often thought of printing out a major motion picture script and then making these kinds of notes on it while watching the film. What better way to learn then to study what makes existing films work.


Jim Brennan
04-05-2005, 09:52 AM
Every month? Hudson is no slacker! I think he should do one every day! :)

Great work John. There are so many things about this craft to learn, and the more you break it down, the more it can make sense.

04-05-2005, 11:14 AM
I find the shadows interesting, indicating where they lit from, ie, not from above or "motivated" by the window...

Great work John. I think we should all do one of these.

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 11:38 AM
Thanks guys; this is how I study sometimes; by breaking down scenes and examining them. I'm considering shooting this scene shot for shot; the one frame of the 2 shot that I make mention of being an odd choice? I'm thinking of reshooting it shot for shot but alos doing an alternate shot selection on that; perhaps having Brody step around Dreyfuss and then cut to a Reverse..... Just thinkning out loud.

Barry - What I noticed for the very first time, and I have watched this so many times; is that when they bring the girl out of the 'fridge' it's just a plastic tupperware tray style bucket; the look on Dreyfuss face is priceless.

The lamp does seem to serve for more than just depth in frame; now that you mention it, it does appear to be the 'stand in' and 'symbolic' reminder of Chrissie.

My favorite part is the blocking of the Coroner moving around Dreyfuss to fetch some water; it makes the reverse shot more interesting in terms of compostion and balance; imagine it without this blocking if the Coroner just stayed put?


Doesn't seem to have the sense of balance the other one has. If this little excericise sparks enough interest I'll consider doing this monthly.

Larry Rutledge
04-05-2005, 11:49 AM
If this little excericise sparks enough interest I'll consider doing this monthly.

Consider me "sparked"

04-05-2005, 11:56 AM
To me it looks like Row 1, frames:1,2, row 3, frames 1,2,3 are the master scene takes. Where Dreyfuss crosses the line are nice extended type OTS. Set up 6 is where the camera really moves to what seems to be another intra-scene master.

Look at row 2, frame 3 and the cut to 3rd set up shot. See how the eye line hieght matches. this helps with the seemless nature of the cut. The look from Dreyfuss motivates a cut and is responded by Brody, and because of the composition it flows well.

What I like best, and Spielberg excels at this, is laying out the geography so the audience knows where everyone is at and doesn't become confused. That way the audience stays tuned in on the story and doesn't ruin their experience by spending time figuring out where characters are located. Steve helps us stay focused on the story.

Nice work John. Can't wait to hear from others & see more.

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 12:11 PM
I thought you might dig this 10s I remember that Se7en thread you started; I might have to recruit you for future assigments. You're always digging the DIRECTING stuff!

You're absolutely correct when Dreyfuss looks at Brody - Cut to Reverse - it motivates the cut. This is why I'm diggin this; we can break it down and try and see what we read into it and what works and what might not be working for us; again that 2 shot is just off to me; too similar as the previous

04-05-2005, 12:35 PM

I'm reading a book called "The Eye Is Quicker", it's about editing, but it's very applicable to what we are talking about here. If you haven't read it, you should.


04-05-2005, 01:30 PM
MattC , that's an interesting book. I have yet to finsih it but i fish through it and his observations on blur for cuttiing are really interesting. I'll have to pick it up again now that you mention it and really read it! :undecided

John Hudson, what you have going here is the most interesting thing here on the board for me because it's about the craft rather than just a tool focus. Tools are great but knowing how to use them is even better. This is where the real difference is made.

Spielberg is pretty good...he started full time directing television at age 19!!!! and when he grew up his parents didn't want him to watch TV, so he was the deprived kid on the block with the wierd parents!

This is the direction the board needs to head to make it even better. It's also much more difficult to talk about in an asychronous environment...but you've done a nice job. :thumbsup:

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 01:46 PM
You nailed it right there;

the techincal babble of Sd, HD, SDI and blah blah blah is numbing to the skull; not very interesting to me personally and can take the fun out of this art form. I wonder if Painters sit around discusiing the endless meritsof sable haired brushes or the ratio of terentine to the oil.

I agree; The board of late has really turned towrds a sort of techno babble whereas I'd rather take it into the art and craft of filmmaking.

I'm with you. Maybe we can start concentrating on this element?

04-05-2005, 01:54 PM
Well considering I don't own the main technology that this board is dedicated to, the more threads like this the better, as far as I'm concerned!

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 02:05 PM
Totally man! What good is all of this techno if we dont understand the basics? Speilberg could take a VHS camcorder and blow us out of the water even if we used an Arri535

Erik Olson
04-05-2005, 02:37 PM
Nice work John! I love seeing breakdowns like this. I'd guess it took at least a senior, maybe a tener, to get that shadow behind Brody when he is next to that window, which is blown out. Odd color balance too - seemingly no practical fixtures to justify the green hue on one side of the room. The MEDICAL EXAMINER, on the other hand, is subdued in dim indirect "daylight". Definitely infers that he knows he's botched the exam. Interesting.

Somehow missing from this early Spielberg effort was the ubiquitous haze that became a visual mainstay in his later projects.

In E.T., I always wonder how they could allow the crew to smoke on the set all the time. Those kitchen scenes look like something out of an R.J. Reynolds convention. For a long time, Spielberg and his man-pal Allen Daviau used smoke, smoke and more smoke in his pictures. Must've had some stock in the fogger business somewhere.


The weight of the humid, steaming rainforest weighs down on the travelers as their machetes work through the choking undergrowth.


The hotdog machine CHURNS and SMOKES in the corner of Marty's Convenience Shop, a cramped clearinghouse for snacks and cheap beer. MARTY, an old-timer with days of stubble on his face, watches his customers over the top of his newspaper through thick black-rimmed glasses.

You can't smoke in here!

I ain't smoking old timer, your
machine is on fire.

Damn pothead hippies...


One SOLDIER sits on his footlocker in the empty hall. Fog rolls in through the open bayou shutters, but the chill air doesn't seem to bother this man...

Daviau was once quoted as saying, "Steven told me he didnít want the audience to see ET too clearly..." Well, no danger of that with that inversion layer in Dee Wallace's kitchen - I mean, what the hell was she burning in there?

I think he finally "quit" around the time he started working with Kaminski, though he is on a very strong patch to help curb the addiction.

Back on edits, I have always liked deciphering Michael Kahn's work in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Has anyone else found the jump cut in that otherwise perfect film?

Good work again John, I'd like to see more of this if you can indulge us with your efforts.


J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 03:01 PM
Thanks for participating Overland.

Jump cut in Raiders? Tell me! And, perhaps I'll do a RAIDERS scene study next?

Erik Olson
04-05-2005, 05:06 PM
Thanks John, always glad to contribute something of substance. Usually, I bring it in a very small bag.

Here are some clues to find the bad edit:

- this location is cold
- someone in this scene, who shall remain nameless, Spielberg once referred to as a terrible actress
- the set, as usual, is full of smoke (before a full-on fire breaks out)
- there is no monkey in this scene
- an actress (who Spielberg once referred to as "terrible") has just hit an actor who lives in Montana and flies around saving hapless tree-huggers all the time (well, once anyway)

Now, go get the DVD out and find it!

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 07:11 PM
Ill be looking at this tonight; I thought she (nameless) was great in this role!

04-05-2005, 07:52 PM
Dreyfuss doesn't cross the line...... It is a neutral shot. I like the fact that you are "junkying" and it is very educational. But whenever you want to change screen direction you go "neutral".

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 08:02 PM
I have never heard it put that way (which doesnt mean anything of course); Thanks for the terminology!

I do like how it would allow an entire new reverse shot of Dreyfuss; check ROW 4 when he is pointing at BRODY "Dont smoke in here!"

Thanks for the termininology.

If the camera moves (as oppossed to the actor, over the line) is that called nuetral as well?

04-05-2005, 09:42 PM
We do this in car chases or foot chases all the time. If you want to change direction from right to left to left to right you must go "neutral". That means that either the camera must move, or the objects
(bodies, cars, etc) must come to the camera or go away from the camera on a true 90 or perpendicular. The next cut can be anything, but most likely is a "neutral" that changes the screen direction, by moving the camera on a pan, or the object leaves or changes direction in the middle of the shot.

04-05-2005, 11:23 PM
Good stuff Maverickprods. Also you can "cut to the stove" as the old time cutters "editors" would jokingly use this term for that neutral coverage they needed to get them out of a mess. I guess they thought since most all of us are hungry, it's alright to grab a shot of the of the stove to see what's cooking. Even the audience wants to know whats cooking....Talk about a motivated shot!

For those of you not familiar, there are a bunch of interesting articles on the Motion Picture Editors Guild WEB site. It's a real treat to read some of these articles. I'm a firm believer that much of learning to make a movie is learned in the edit bay. This is where we learn what worked and what didn't. Seems like most of the really good directors have a firm hand in editing.

Speilberg's smoke period....wasn't everyone doing it in the 80s? It must have been a left over from disco and flashdance....or they were taking some awfully strong stuff back then.

A few years from now everyone will look at our television shows like Law & Order and wonder why they didn't turn the lights on in any of the rooms:laugh: it looks pretty strange to see all these scenes in noir type dark shadows....how can these poor legal people read & work?....oh well another adventure in "THE LOOK".

J.R. Hudson
04-05-2005, 11:43 PM
Thanks for that tip to the website 10s. I found and bookmarked it.

I agree. In this early stage of my filmmaking endeavors, it is in post where I see what worked, what did not, what I missed and what I should have done. This is where I find myself really enjoying the process; where it all starts coming together; scenes that work exactly as you hoped (hasn't happened yet for me) and scenes you feel you are literally saving or atleast applying a bandaid to stop the bleeding.

I love the many layers of post; the slicing, pacing, continuity and especially layering of audio tracks; wow! Sound Design is fun, a real treat. I got such a kick out of my LUPER short when the dog and wind and the crow were in action in the opening shot; couple that wiht some spooky music and suddenly you have this world. Speilbergs smoke period is interesting to think about in retrospect (and Im sure it will come back);

speaking of spileberg; you know I was really let down by THE TERMNINAL but can still appreciate the master doing his thing; I thought the movie failed in the end and the ZETA JONES sublot was horrible as was her acting in it, but visually and through pacing, I enjoyed the spielberg stamp.

Back on topic; yeah, we need to turn this site back into the direction of the art of filmmaking.

Love the sig BTW!

04-06-2005, 12:06 AM
John you'll appreciate this also if you don't already have it.


Terminal, at first i thought Oh, a dud!... it's not flashy...but then I bought the DVD and watched it about 4 times. I now love it because it has Soul, and really that's Our Job, to help our Audience, experience an emotional journey, and for a moment live in another pair of shoes. It's really interesting to try and grasp the job of a story teller and think about what we're volunteering to do.

What are we really trying to do? And why do humans love stories so much? for me, it has to do with an inner need for us to really experience life, to connect with Life. People flocked to the theatre in ancient Greece as much as we do today because they too enjoyed the comedies, tragedies and dramas of the day.

I believe Story Tellers bring to life special moments where the audience can experince the thrill of a killer shark, the low life gun battles of "da whores and the cops "in Old Town or hiding on an Asteroid from the Empire.

We inherit a great wealth of proven ways to take people on a 2 hour journey where at some point they loose themsleves in our tale and walk away with a sense of renewal or some inner change that profoundly alters their beliefs and behavior in some small way. What an honor to study and master such a craft.

Sorry for sounding like I'm teaching...can't help it, but I love the craft. We are fortunate.

Aaron Koolen
04-10-2005, 05:17 PM
Well guys, I'm glad I looked at this thread, rather than all the techy ones I usually go to. I think I'm getting to that point where I really want to focus on improving myself, moreso than just "going out and having some fun". I've made a couple of shorts (one shot in 5 hours just this last Saturday for a small, informal competition) and now I'm in editing, I really see where my failings are - OK, there are lots of them but the biggests is blocking and staging - often my scenes are very boring to watch.

I find blocking and staging a damned nightmare! It's really hard work, probably due to my lack of experience, but I know I need to upskill in this area considerably. In the last couple of days I've said to myself that I have to go on a mission - to learn how this is done, and shoot, shoot and shoot some more so It starts to make sense so thanks for starting this thread. I want to see more!


Rich Lee
04-10-2005, 07:11 PM
dude, nice thread john! like the break down alot.

now imagine how that scene would be shot by different directors.

imagine the same scene shot by..

michael bay:
every shot would be a big dramatic pushin. a few cameras actualy spining around the actors as they talked. but because this scene isnt a big effects scene he would skip over as quickly as possible so that he could shoot the stuff when the 60' shark tears apart the giant oil rig.

it would be kinda cool to take a a piece of a script as you have done, and actualy shot it the best way you thought. then once you shoot it go backand see how they did it for real.

anyway, cool stuff john.

04-11-2005, 11:21 AM
Wow John, that's a great way to analyze the directing. I've been printing the scripts and then watching the DVDs. Capturing clips, like you have done, and laying out the images helps to nail them down.


04-11-2005, 03:40 PM
Fantastic analysis. Really enjoyed it. Thanks! I'd definitely like to read/see more! Thanks again.

04-11-2005, 04:06 PM
Thanks John!

Mark Harris
04-16-2005, 07:38 PM
This is awesome, John. I did something similar with Raiders on my BLOG. I broke down a couple of scenes to show Speilberg's use of montage. The scene breakdowns are on page 2.


04-17-2005, 07:39 PM
About hooper crossing the line: The way I see it, the line is somewhere behind Brody's back.

04-18-2005, 08:55 AM
One subtlety i had noticed that does add the drama, is the slightly wider shot on the coroner between the 5th and 7th setup. Instead of a typically adding drama/emotion/whatere-you-want-to-call-it by going tighter on a characters face, he has pulled the camera out just a bit. This shows the enormous level of "un-comfort" the coroner is in, his fidgeting and not making any sort of eye contact is what adds to the tension.

Just a little something that i had never thought of when trying to enforce the drama in a scene: pulling out instead of pushing in (don't take sexually). Very interesting Spielberg.

J.R. Hudson
04-18-2005, 11:14 AM
Thanks everyone; I'm thinking of doing another one tonight. It is interesting to breakdown the shots and see what we read into it.


I totally would love to shoot this scene. Shot for Shot Gus Van Zant style.


I loved your RAIDERS breakdown!


Me too. From my perception; the line is established when the actors hit their final marks and the camera stays on one side; sans the nuetrality of Hooper crossing back and forth.


Totally how I saw this. Total isolation; he know's he botched the exam as overland stated.

04-18-2005, 04:48 PM
This is awesome, John. I did something similar with Raiders on my BLOG. I broke down a couple of scenes to show Speilberg's use of montage. The scene breakdowns are on page 2.


Nice job on this!:thumbsup: and you're a Mamet fan also....good choice.

04-19-2005, 10:49 AM
. If this little excericise sparks enough interest I'll consider doing this monthly.

I am on fire!..good stuff


04-19-2005, 10:41 PM
Back on topic; yeah, we need to turn this site back into the direction of the art of filmmaking.

Fuckin eh! I am totally into all the new shit going on, but for the life of me most of it is greek, then you add everyone asking greek questions and explaining greek answers, and i'm freakin lost. So much info injected into my brain Lebroz is starting to make sense.

This is a breath of fresh air, and I hope everyone checks this out, maybe we'll all go shoot something instead of debate.

Thanks, and well done.

One thing to add, just incase for newbies... the set up order shown is to clearly identify shot by shot how many setups were involved and how it was cut, not necessarily the set up order. Most probably they shot the one direction first, re lit then shot the reverses. I know that goes without being said, but ya never know how literally something may be taken.

I look forward to more of these!

04-26-2005, 09:06 AM
this is great - the kind of thing i've talked about doing for a long time, but never have. I would love to see a 'filmmaker series' of dvd's that go into plotting lights, shot selection, etc.

i agree, most of the filmmaking sites out there are so focused on the technology, which is important for us to know, but I would love to improve my craft, the artistic and technical side of making a movie work.

how did you pull the frame grabs? Did you import analog from an external dvd player?

04-29-2005, 12:56 AM
JH you rock! thanks for this. please do more.

05-02-2005, 08:24 AM
Wow, John, thanks. This is really good. I would love to see more.

And speaking of Speilberg and smoke, Catch Me If You Can looks like it was shot in a forest fire. But I like it, though. Not to mention it was a fun flick.

05-25-2005, 05:03 AM
John this thread has been inspiring. I pulled out my copy of "Jaws" and went thru the scenes with an eye for the "montage". You have focused attention on an important part of what makes the words come to life. I have books and dvds that get into blocking and editing but your breakdown of the scene is a very effective learning tool. Thanks for the inspiration.

J.R. Hudson
05-25-2005, 10:32 AM
Tks Big

I'm going to be doing another one and would love if others did some as well. It's interesting to see how its broken down and how we all interpet the scene and how it affect us.

06-03-2005, 09:26 PM
I just bought Jaws (25th anniversary edition) a few days ago because of this interesting thread....now I hear that the 30th Edition is coming out in about two weeks!?!


Jay Rodriguez
01-05-2006, 04:18 AM
great piece of work John, bumping this out of excitement.

01-07-2006, 10:36 AM
It is truly outstanding work. I learned a LOT from this. It's interesting that Steven Spielberg's later films he uses a lot less setups then you see in that jaws sequence. I have noticed that he tends to try to maximise the use of any given setup instead of doing so many like you see in this jaws sequence.

01-07-2006, 04:20 PM
thanks for taking hte time to do this john, very helpful

vagfxg...i agree...spielberg tries to minimize the number of shots as much as he can...using camera movements, complex blocking, panning...to capture as much as the screen geography in one take as possible...i think this is a fantastic filmmaking strategy as it minimizes the chance that audiences will get confused in the screen space and get lost on what the heck is going on...

whereas directors like michael bay...

J.R. Hudson
01-09-2006, 11:06 AM
Thanks guys! What a blast! Anyone remember the Pyscho one I did ?

01-10-2006, 02:51 PM
I have that one printed out and posted on my wall at work, John :)

Again, top drawer!

Cryogenic Filmworks
01-13-2006, 01:28 AM
Back on edits, I have always liked deciphering Michael Kahn's work in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Has anyone else found the jump cut in that otherwise perfect film?

By "jump cut" do you mean where they take two take and try to splice them together to look like it was one take? If so there is one in Apocalypse Now (Redux) when Willard is looking through Kurtz's book or diary. When he is flipping the pages the book moves ever so slightly.

01-13-2006, 03:28 AM
I enjoyed the "Physcho" one as well John but this one because of the montage and the "crossing the line" is more interesting. I have watched a number of Hitchcock films over the last few months so maybe I'm a little worn out on him. I still like his movies(I watched "The 39 steps" today) but I enjoyed your Jaws breakdown the most. Still the #1 all time dvxuser breakdown in my opinion.(Thanks for the fiver you slipped me for typing that John). Just kidding I love it.

01-13-2006, 11:57 AM
Thanks guys! What a blast! Anyone remember the Pyscho one I did ?

I missed that one. Is it still posted here online? If not, would you mind posting again?

Cryogenic Filmworks
01-13-2006, 06:41 PM
I missed that one. Is it still posted here online? If not, would you mind posting again?


JJ Alexander
03-23-2006, 09:25 AM
This is brillant John. Thanks for doing this. Very interesting.

Chris Messineo
03-23-2006, 10:32 AM

Great work! I don't know how I missed this thread the first time around. Jaws is one of my all-time favorite films!


03-23-2006, 12:25 PM
Wow wonderful! Seeing it is great especially from jaws =) I always try and do some exercises recently preparing for a summer shoot. Pick a scene from a movie I love, look at script, and do exactly what you did. Although I use a pile of bent 4x6 index cards =) Coverage and blocking is something you inevitably must learn by doing I believe. And no matter how much experience you might have, it's always a challenge and get better each time I believe. And my experience is nothing to clap at =)

03-23-2006, 12:30 PM
i just watched jaws again last night. just amazing, still holds up after all this time.

Ian Slessor
05-26-2006, 02:29 PM
I don't mean to "resurrect" this thread but the very first film I remember seeing in a theatre was "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" somewhere in Saskatchewan and I guess I must have been about four years old.

However, my first real cinema experience was JAWS at ten in Kingston, Ontario.

Yeah. Ten.

I'm glad my parents didn't think it was too strong for me although nowadays I won't let my kids watch it until they're a touch older than I was. Say...twenty. :Drogar-BigGrin(DBG)

The movie had a real impact on me and when my wife and I rented a big-screen HDTV for Christmas 2004 we picked up JAWS to watch.

Damn, what a great movie.

Such superb scenes and acting. It was great to see all the non-actors that Spielberg appeared to use as well. Sitting in our living room I really was transported to Summer 1975 and it was like I was watching it again at ten years old.

John. Thanks again for the insight into "El Spielbergo's" technique.

Loved the Psycho one too but not as much as JAWS.

Keep 'em coming.



Brandon Rice
06-13-2006, 03:15 PM
Very interesting breakdown... very helpful.

06-29-2006, 03:28 PM
Thanks for sharing, John. I'm new to posting to DVX and was relieved to find this thread because I thought I was a lone, frame-by-frame, capturing junkie.

For those who've used the Hollywood Camera Work DVD's, there's an additional way to reverse engineer Spielberg's scene. By taking the same scene edits, and blocking overhead, we see how Spielberg answers some questions regarding the craft of camera placement:


From this one scene, we can see a style that Spielberg frequently uses.

For example, he favours using a Pivot Object. The overhead shows two light yellow paths for a series of cameras that move progressively closer. The lamp acts as a pivot point at the intersection for the two paths. He does this in Raiders with the globe on Indy's classroom desk.

Additionally, Spielberg likes to use a panning-external shot to open a scene and establish geography. This is marked by the camera with the black arrow. What's interesting is how economical he is. He uses this spot as a starting point for the progressively closer shots of Brody.

Thirdly, I love how the Close Up camera, facing the arm, is out on its own. It's that Spielberg 'payoff' shot. I notice that Spielberg will move from the panning-external shot, to an internal shot, cut to a payoff shot, then return to the internal shot, before going external again. This shows why he had Hooper establish a new LOA: to setup an internal shot. Although not technically an internal shot, he has a new angle established so he can cut to the arm-payoff, then return to the setup for a reaction, before returning to the external by having Hooper walk back.

I can count dozens of times that Spielberg does this: Raiders when Indy is panned to the mouth of the cave, goes to a close of him talking to Satipo, then payoff CU filling a sandbag before returning to the internal and eventual external reverse in the cave; Close encounters's opening scene with the zig zagging jeep, followed by approaching UN inspectors, going to internal POV of the local police, before returning to the internal and eventual dolly back to external of the entire group.

It's pretty handy looking at Spielberg's rules of thumb. Here's almost the same Autopsy Room blocking for another single room scene: Raiders, in the Map Room.


Thank you John for sparking a conversation that's more on directing and less on technical operations. (maybe start a thread on Spielberg's blocking templates?)

07-07-2006, 10:11 AM
This is an awesome breakdown of a scene! Nice dissecting, I should be studying all my favorite scenes this way.

12-17-2007, 12:01 AM
These breakdowns are great!

The jpg of the breakdown wasn't showing up for me, but by comparing to John's post containing the Psycho shower scene breakdown, I tracked it down to here:


(In the original post in this thread the bad link is http://img213.exs.cx/img213/923/jaws0ur.jpg.)

jordan Bergren
12-22-2007, 11:05 PM
those arent sposd to be puns are they california guys, haha. sorry any ways please post more this is exactly what i need to understand more of. Great stuff my friend!

04-09-2012, 02:51 AM
I hope to revive this thread. I found something I think John missed. Between the master shot and shot #2, there's a clever transition to change the line of action. Otherwise, shot #2 would cross the line.

Take a look how Spielberg did it:


It's pretty clever. At the moment of the cut from the master, the doctor hasn't crossed behind Hooper yet, so he's still Camera Right. Cutting to setup #2, Hooper is still Camera Left of the doctor. While the doctor crosses behind him, the camera pans to follow the doctor, much like an observer would glance at someone crossing the room. The pan moves Hooper to the Right side of the screen, and we have a new line.

This is a carefully considered transition, and it's the only place where the master cuts into setup #2 without crossing the line.

(BTW, Spielberg's real goal here is to move to the setup that puts Hooper opposite the lamp which is over Chrissie's remains. The pan brings the lamp into frame like another character sharing the scene. He didn't have to frame it that way. He wanted that two-shot with the remains, but it crossed the line, so he built this bit of business to transition the line and get the shot he wanted.)

I hope this gets the Spielberg discussion going again...

Amr Rahmy
04-09-2012, 03:48 AM
i did not read all the posts(just first and last page), but no. b footage/reaction between shots does not count as 3 setups, or medium to reaction or close up back to medium does not count as multiple setups. that's over over analyzing. setups would mean they stopped shooting for more than 15 minutes to change the camera position or at least drastically change lighting for the close ups. adjusting the focal length or focusing would not count. they did not shoot as edited, they just did a couple of continuous takes and some b footage. and Spielberg was not the cinematographer or the entire crew.

04-09-2012, 07:19 PM
Spielberg likes long masters. Here's the breakdown for this scene:

He starts with a long master that covers the whole scene, with a little pan and a lot of character blocking to change the compositions.


He has two other long setups to cover the scene from the reverse of the master, and a two-shot of Hooper and Brody at the climax of the scene:


He also has four reactions shots (two of the coroner, and two of Brody) that he uses as cutaways:


And finally, two "money shots" that are staged as dramatic punctuation for the scene. A dolly shot revealing the severed arm in the tub, and a close-up of Hooper for the "big finish" when he says
"It's a shark."