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Paul H Jackson

Help! Shooting a very tall person talking to a very short person!

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Hello everyone.

I was shooting a narrative piece yesterday and the two leads had very different heights. A 6ft 4 guy and a 5ft gal. The piece mostly consisted of them talking to each other (both standing)

i really struggled to find compositions that I liked the look of. Normally I am a fan of the OTS however the height difference was so great that it made our lady look super vulnerable, which was not what we were going for. When I brought the camera down, she had to look up so much that it wasn’t flattering either. 
 

What do people suggest in situations like this? I am open to any suggestions, both compositional and practical ones! 
 

Many thanks in advance. 
 

Paul
 

 

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Shane Hurlbut actually had a good piece on this when it came to shooting height differentials for The Greatest Game Ever Played (child and adult actors in one scene). Picking an aspect ratio of 16:9 as opposed to cinemascope can really save you when trying to keep all the characters in frame.

As for the close up stuff, have your shorter talent stand on an apple box or have your taller talent widen their stance to land a bit lower. People aren't going to thoroughly dissect little height difference cheats if your script is engaging. You'd be surprised how much stuff you can get away with that the lens isn't pointed at.

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Like this? We briefly thought about having Alex sit on a stool or putting her a small apple box but Alex reminded us that part of her dialogue was mocking how tall he was, so it was better to maintain the height difference. Plus we didn't shoot coverage between them so that wasn't an issue. 

Usually in this case rather than overs, you shoot raking shots past the taller person's body onto the other person, but then you don't get as tight an eyeline. If you want a tight eyeline, then you'd probably use singles.

MMM2_gaslight1.jpg

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Perhaps you should consider watching the making of "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit" and "Elf". you might get inspired by the tricks that they used to manipulate the height of the performers.

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27 minutes ago, Abdul Rahman Jamous said:

Perhaps you should consider watching the making of "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit" and "Elf". you might get inspired by the tricks that they used to manipulate the height of the performers.

Or any Tom Cruise film 🙂 

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If you have access to watch HBO's Carnivale, one of the leads of the show is Michael J. Anderson, who has tons of scenes with either one other person or multiple people.  Though it has been a while since I've watched it, I imagine it would give some great examples of how to cover the height difference both 'traditionally' and creatively.  

Also, I just think it was one of the most beautifully photographed shows ever.  A crime that it was cancelled after only 2 seasons!  

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We actually had a problem like this a couple of weeks ago when we were shooting a pilote episode.

There was a significant difference in height between the two lead actors which wasn't a huge problem most of the time since they were almost never standing in the shots. 

But we did have a couple of shots where they were standing and in one shot in particular the height difference stood out a lot so we changed the action a little bit from them holding hands and turning around to him holding her in his arms and it worked out great in this instance.

It would definitely help if we used a 16:9 aspect ratio but it was decided before hand that we would use a 21:9.

shoot_tall_short.jpg

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You could watch "Don't Look Now", there's a big height difference between Donald Sutherland (6ft 3in) and Julie Christie (5ft 2in).

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On 7/30/2020 at 6:50 AM, David Mullen ASC said:

Like this? We briefly thought about having Alex sit on a stool or putting her a small apple box but Alex reminded us that part of her dialogue was mocking how tall he was, so it was better to maintain the height difference. Plus we didn't shoot coverage between them so that wasn't an issue. 

Usually in this case rather than overs, you shoot raking shots past the taller person's body onto the other person, but then you don't get as tight an eyeline. If you want a tight eyeline, then you'd probably use singles.

MMM2_gaslight1.jpg

David, do you do much to exaggerate the height difference between Alex and Rachel? I know that Alex is tiny, but apparently Rachel is pretty tiny too, and yet she seems to tower over Alex in a lot of scenes (even when they're seated opposite each other in diners etc.

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We've never tried to increase the height difference but of course Rachel's outfits often have shoes with heels. And Rachel doesn't seem short to me, but then, I'm 5' 7"...

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Altered Carbon (2018) comes to mind. Joel Kinnaman is a foot taller than Martha and they spend loads of time together. I found pictures.

These stills are from the web and unfortunately didn't preserve the 2:1 aspect ratio. But essentially, Carbon's 2-shot looks to be at Martha's eye-level, thus slightly looking up at Joel. David's Maisel shot appears to be at Alex's height or a split between the two and is pleasant. Same with Dinklage in Game Of Thrones, a split between the two. That is, nothing sticks out as odd. I'd imagine looking down at everyone (2-shot set at tall person's height) would feel unpleasant.

And for individual coverage, I'd go with David about shooting singles or raking past bodies.

Of course being narrative, there's always the added factor of using height for power or weakness shots.

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