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Andy Zou

Who actually likes framing singles on the "opposite" side?

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It's something that bugs me every time I see it: simple shot, two people are facing each other.  However, during the singles, the one previously on the left side of frame is framed on the right, cutting out their scene partner and leaving negative space behind their head.

In general, it always looks more natural to me to put someone who is looking frame right on the left, especially in a dialogue.  If they are being pensive by themselves, it can work, as it seems to imply they are deep in thought, or maybe the scenery is just that good, but otherwise it strokes me as bad framing.

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In common with most stylistic framing choices, there are occasions when ‘short-siding’ works, either for practical or artistic reasons, and there are times when it is just a crutch for people who don’t have anything original to say, and who just copy whatever the ‘in’ thing is this week.

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sometimes it works for the scene but often it is pretty pointless and just gives a "student movie" impression (overly artsy with not enough to say and too stylistic and concept centered instead of wanting to tell a good story in the best way possible)

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Yeah but getting your attention because its annoying is usually not the best reason to get people into a scene 🙂 .. Im with the OP.. its really something I find very annoying .. like any framing if there is a reason .. sure of course .. but currently its just "trendy ".. and used as a crutch as Stuart says .. when hipsters cant think of anything new but want to be dope,bitching and awesome ..  yawn .. 

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Gordon Willis would sometimes short-side his coverage, like in "Manhattan".  Sometimes when you have a restaurant scene and behind the actors' backs are windows but next to them is a wall, it's a choice between seeing depth and light beside their heads versus a blank wall.  Or in this case in "Manhattan" below, short-siding allows the dramatic contrast of other diners in the restaurant versus the unhappy couple... as opposed to framing conventionally but getting more sidewalk traffic in the shot:

manhattan7.jpg

manhattan6.jpg

The other time short-siding is common is when two people are sitting side-by-side with their backs against a wall and are shot in raking profile shots with the extra space in front of their faces... but when they turn to look at each other, they are looking at the short side of the frame.

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Yeah, now realizing "short-siding" or any of the other terms has an actual name...good to know.  The Manhattan shots work well.  Can't say it doesn't have its moments, it's just something I'd only choose very deliberately.

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I think there are a number of choices in camera operating that are "unconventional" and call attention to themselves.  Short siding close ups is one of them.

Others that come to mind are framing in dead center of the frame (often accompanied by symmetry), and framing a wide shot with people very low in the frame and lots of headroom. Even shooting an actor from behind their head can be an interesting technique in the proper circumstance.

In general, as there are always exceptions, is that I try to reserve these framing techniques to moments when I'm trying to put the audience off balance and call attention to the framing.  And this means not over doing these compositions so that when they do show up in the film they have maximum impact.

Of course, as David so nicely illustrated above, there are times when the background or environment become paramount, and short siding, or other unconventional framing becomes most effective.

David also mentioned the situation of two actors sitting against a wall and this is an interesting case.  Here, the background will always show the same information: A blank wall.  But how you frame this will say something about where the character's mind set is.  If the actors are spaced far enough apart, one could cover this conventionally and let the performances speak for themselves in single close ups. 

If the close ups are shot straight against the wall, this will show and emphasize the distance between the characters.  If the singles are shot center frame, this would emphasize, perhaps, that the characters are really in "their own space", even though they are together.

And if the actors are framed short sided, this might suggest that the characters are drifting apart emotionally, as if they are longing for the empty space in the frame, even when looking the other direction.

I think the power of cinema, and cinematography, lies in directing where the viewer will be looking in a way that reveals just the "right" information in a way that makes the viewer want to see what comes next.  And part of this power is achieved by making the viewer think that they themselves chose where to look!  But they didn't really.  We directed them 🙂

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