If you’ve ever looked up a tutorial on YouTube and left more confused than when you first started looking into it, you’re not alone. Chances are, the person filming the tutorial had no idea what they were doing, and were focused on performing the actions themselves instead of effectively showing you, the viewer, how to properly execute said actions. The filmmaker did not follow continuity guidelines.
In this quick week, I will be doing pre-production, shooting, and post-production on a “How-To” video of my own, following the basic sequencing and continuity guidelines that were emphasized in the readings I have summarized below. Towards the bottom of my post, you will see my finished “How-To” video.
Chapter’s three and four of Tom Schroeppel’s Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video teaches us about basic sequences and screen direction. In terms of sequences, it is best to break up a scene into multiple different shots instead of holding it on one static shot for thirty seconds. This way, your viewers won’t wander around the screen looking for new information to digest. You can vary the shots in your sequences by using some of the framing styles we discussed two weeks ago: wide shot, medium shot, and close-up. The wide shot is used to establish your characters and other important information, your close-up is usually filled by your subject’s face in order to highlight emotions, and the medium shot is framed somewhere between a close-up and wide shot and is mainly used for getting closer to an action.
Cutaways are very important shots, as they give the editor a lot of leeway for making his cuts. A cutaway can allow time to pass by rather quickly, and can allow the editor to cut out unnecessary phrases or segments without their exclusion being noticed. When you are focused on an action, and don’t want to cutaway to anything, you should still think about cutting to different camera angles and focal lengths, as this will allow your editor to once again take all of your footage and compile it in a way where ehe can either skip parts to speed things up or slow things down by emphasizing certain actions. You should even think about this in single camera productions, where you will have some overlapping action, or your subject performing the same action multiple times. Cutting to different camera angles allows your editor to eliminate any small changes in body position or movement so the viewers can keep focusing on the action. Lastly, a major shooting technique to learn is to always have a clean entrance/exit. This means having your subject move into frame soon after the recording starts, and move completely out of frame a little bit before ending the recording. This once again gives the editor a lot of flexibility to not have to worry about matching cuts and can even help time pass by quickly.
Schroeppel discusses screen direction in chapter 4, or the direction your subjects face when viewed through the camera. The golden rule in filmmaking is that there is always the imaginary line called the 180˚ line, and it sits right on top of your subjects and the direction they are facing.
You should, as much as possible, avoid “jumping” this line with your camera during your scene.
If you do jump the line (while filming a conversation scene, for example), then both of your characters will be looking the same direction and it will confuse the viewers. It just does not look pretty and it is best if you stay on one side of the 180˚ line. There are a few ways you can cheat it, however. You can pivot your camera and your actors so you can get the background you desire, while still being within your 180˚ line.
If you need to jump the 180˚ line (and sometimes you have to), there are a few ways to go about it:
- Have your subject change direction inside the frame. This allows you to position the camera over his shoulder for the next shot and the audience will not be confused by the shift in direction.
- Just do a continuous movement over the line. If you don’t cut at all, then you can cross over the line just fine.
- Use a shot directly on the line to cut in between shots on each side of the line. A POV shot works best for this as the focus on the object can help you cross the line cleanly.
- Cut via a point of reference. If you have characters walking on or around a sidewalk, road, table, etc., you can cut over the line as long as that point of reference is still in the shot.
- Cut on action. This is already a filming technique on its own, but it can also be an excuse to cross over the 180˚ line. You should only use this one if you have no other option, though.
These next few clips are great examples of continuity success that inspire me to create videos with better continuity throughout.
Here we have our typical fight scene. To be completely honest, I looked at this one because I could’ve sworn I thought I found some bad continuity in this movie when I first watched it (that was done on accident), but I could not find any, so instead I am going to use this fight scene as an example of good continuity, despite the movie not being one of my favorites. The camera usually keeps a consistent 180˚ line, with Diana being on the left of the frame and Barbara being on the right side. The camera either cuts or follows on action, and stays true through the progression of the fight, such as Diana losing her wings and the electrical wiring falling closer to the water.
This is an interesting example of continuity from a movie that just recently came out, called Cherry. At first glance, you may think that the 180˚ rule gets broken several times here because of how Cherry and Emily keep switching spots when exchanging dialogue, but in reality, there are multiple subjects that allow the camera to switch over the line. Benji, the character Emily brought with her to the restaurant, acts as a point of reference to cross over, as well as the shot of him and Cherry shaking hands, which acts as a cutaway between crossing the line. Then in the next discussion, there’s the wide shot featuring both Cherry and Emily, followed by individual close-ups of each character, with the camera switching over the line once Cherry asks Emily to leave.
This is a truly powerful scene from a movie I really enjoyed. It’s called Unbroken. This scene also has some very smooth continuity. The prisoner is holding a plank, and the Japanese soldier looks at him, telling his fellow soldier that if the prisoner drops the plank, to shoot him. The camera jumps the 180˚ line here because in the first instance of staring, the prisoner is on the left while the soldier is on the right, but un the wide shot, they have switched positions. It works here because the camera had to jump over in order for the audience to see the other soldier lift up his gun and point it towards the prisoner. This scene also has a few cutaway shots and even stops directly on the line as we look directly at the prisoner for one shot, followed by some cutaway shots of fellow prisoners looking onward, followed then by the prisoner with the plank being seen from the other side of the 180. A lot of line jumps, but it works well for this scene.
This is a music video for a song called “These Are The Times” by Martin Garrix. It is about two people tied together by a really long pair of earbuds who eventually go on a crazy journey to meet each other, all while interacting with each other through the rope without even knowing who is on the other side yet. This has some good continuity in the beginning, with some good use of cutaways and framing for the boy’s segments as he’s walking out of the house, dancing, and skateboarding. The camera circles around him but it is not too distracting because of all of the dancing. You will notice though that there is a big blue line attached to the boy and the girl, essentially showing that they are connected through this song. The string stays tied to both of their waists with they exception of the boy from about 1:19-2:39. You’ll see him walk on the string and slide down a water tube and if you look closely, the string is not connected to him where it usually is. Again, it doesn’t hurt the video, but it is something I noticed while rewatching this.
Below is the “How-To” video I made. Give it a watch and feel free to let me know what you think down below! Underneath this video is the process of how I went about making this video and what I think of it.
This is a quick How-To video I whipped together about how to make a paper airplane. To be completely honest, simply coming up with an idea to film was the most challenging part. I needed to find something that was relatively easy to show, as well as find someone who can do the activity, and I found it to be a lot more complicated to figure out than I thought. Nonetheless, when I was on my run of all things, that’s when I came up with the idea to do the least original concept and film a tutorial on how to make a paper airplane.
I knew which three camera angles I wanted: I filmed overhead, directly level with the table, and looking slightly downward, all with their own unique angle. I believe the editing really brought the piece together. I found a nice royalty free track to use, I used text to match to the beat of the song, and I changed cuts each time a significant movement was made. This ensured there was enough variety to capture all angles of the process, while at the meantime not confusing viewers about what to do during each step.
Once I finished editing, I brought the project into After Effects to add in the stroke effect. I think this effect helped really nicely with the tutorial because I wanted to show people what part of the paper they should be focusing on in each step, just in case the text was a little too confusing. My first two stroke movements went way too fast in my opinion, but as I did more I think they started looking better and better. Either way, let me know what you think of the How-To video I made!