Use Cross Shooting to Prevent Bad Framing & Jump Cuts

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So you're a new camera operator fresh out of film school, and because the field of work is oversaturated, you get a job on a local reality-television project, and you're off guard with how to translate those well-refined and blocked camera movements to the hectic reality-television environment.

Director calls "action", you shoot the scene and the next day, you're in a meeting with Post-Production and some smug editor who has donut glaze dried in his beard complains that you had the exact framing as the other camera operator on set, therefore creating a jump-cut when switching back and forth between talent.

Shit. That sucks. But it makes sense. You didn't know where people were going to move. The talent has zero regards for you and what obstacles you'll need to overcome to keep them framed. And on top of that, you and the other poor camera operator now have to maintain the 180-degree rule somehow? It may seem impossible.

What's the easy solution? Cross-Shooting.

Two camera operators, shooting opposite to each other, maintain the 180-degree rule.

What is this? Well, pretend that you're tied to the hip of the other camera operator with a 5-foot rope.

The rules? Keep the rope tight and film the talent closest to the other camera operator and prioritize that talent to either screen-left or right depending on which side of the line you are. For example, if you are on the right side of one end of the imaginary rope, you'd put your talent on screen-left and screen-right if you're on the left side of the line.

The rope acts to maintain the 180-degree rule, and by keeping a five-foot distance between you and the other operator and filming the talent opposite of yourself while prioritizing screen-right/left, it will not matter if you and the other operator are framing a wide, close, or medium shot simultaneously. You’ll still have enough difference to prevent jump cuts.

And it helps to take a minute before the director or producer calls "action" to clear the area of hazards in case you need to reposition yourself quickly. Find out where the talent will be, who they will be talking too, and make sure you and the other camera operator are well acquainted.

There will be times you will need to get closer to your other camera operator, and in these cases, developing well-known hand-signals to communicate framing to one and another is key. I'll go over these in a later blog.

Finally, if your talent is pointing to things that make you instinctively pan down to get - don't do it unless you're skilled and comfortable enough to zoom, reframe and refocus on the fly. Instead, make sure your framing is wide enough to catch the finger pointing somewhere and get a pickup close up when it's done.

While there are exceptions or modifications to this rule for unique situations, learning this as a foundation will allow you to make sure your talent is always well-framed.