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Secret of the eyeline?

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  • Secret of the eyeline?

    Whats the dealio? How do you match eyeline and what are the rules of thumb? This topic is somewhat of a mystery to me and I know that it is a crucial skill.

  • #2
    The guy who really explains this gets a house by the sea that me and ryguy will purchase for you. Ryguy I know yer in? Pick yer ocean fellas.


    • #3
      All I know is getting the offcamera actor as close to the side of the camera as possible to deliver their off camera lines. Try to match camera height - are they both looking at camera height or above or below. And of course making sure yer both angles are shot from the same camera line.


      • #4
        Let me tell ya though - i'm not a dp - I went to film school and knew somethings from books but I was directing an indy feature last year over in Ireland that I was also shooting and playing the lead in. And the eye- thing had me unnerved at times - big time - and miraculously I only had a slight problem with eye lines when i got into the editing room. And the biggest thing I could do was place the other actors off where they would be in real life - again as close to the camera as possible. Shot sometimes I had the actors hit the record button and then stick their face close to the camera. Anyway.....


        • #5
          Are you saying you can't tell if your shots look good or bad to you in terms of eyelines? If that's the case I'd watch a lot of movies from your favorite filmmakers and take note of where they place eyelines in relationship to another. Another great place is -- I've discovered it's a HUGE resource that can be directly applied to cinematography. Composition, color, mood, eyelines, light etc.

          Rules of thumb: I'm not an expert, but we match the camera to the eye level of each subject and that works great for documentary interviews. Other times we take note of where the eyeline sits in the frame and try to match it in the other shots. Those were the "rules" I started with, but it always was and is [for me] a matter of what looks/feels right. I'd say you find yourself a visual benchmark and try to reach it. All the great painters started that way, I figure it's no different for film. I know that probably sounds rather esoteric, but I sincerely hope it helps.


          • #6
            ^^ I should add to just practice, practice, practice! I'm on a roll with these painting references, but there is something called a "study." Basically a test on a particular technique, subject, mood, lighting what have you before you go full blown with it for a finished piece. In video we call them animatics, story boards and other things, but it really helps. Try drawing out a story board and figure out where the characters eyelines are. You can draw them in anywhere so they look right. Or you can find someone to film one weekend and try it out that way.


            • #7
              One little tip... treat everything as an over the shoulder shot, even when you're not shooting over the shoulder - frame up as though you were. You will pretty much always get a pleasing eye line.

              And the whole thing about getting the camera level - well that really depends. I shot an interview this week between someone in a mobility scooter and someone standing on the street. If I had levelled the camera for each of them the eye line would have looked ridiculous. I instead opted for a slight OTS shot with a slight camera tilt upwards from the scooter user and downwards from the standing person (actually more Over The Elbow than over the shoulder). This was subtle (not exaggerated for comic effect) but gave a pleasing a natural eye line to both of them.


              • #8
                Yes, it's all relative to what you are shooting and the effect you are going for!


                • #9
                  Actually there is no rule.

                  Woody Allan is famous for using almost 90 degree angles, where others prefer an actor almost look into the lens and everything between that. It's a creative choice.

                  The only thing you MUST get right (or it will drive you nuts in editing) is the tilt.
                  If one person sits and the other stands you must tilt up and down, and also get the camera hight right.

                  One thing I often do, especially when I get the camera between actors is, I stick some red tape at the upper left or right corner of the mattebox, so they have something to look at. Here comes an other ting into play - besides angle,tilt and hight - convergence of the eyes. The closer the (for the camera) invisible counterpart of the actor is, the closer together are the pupils. The red tape works miracles here - try it, the difference in intensity is day and night.



                  • #10
                    Now you know why you see so many over the shoulder shots everywhere!
                    Filmmaker - Author



                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kevin baggott View Post
                      All I know is getting the offcamera actor as close to the side of the camera as possible to deliver their off camera lines. Try to match camera height - are they both looking at camera height or above or below. And of course making sure yer both angles are shot from the same camera line.
                      Yeah thats my basic understanding of it too but I see so many amateur films where the eyeline is just slightly off. Very distracting for me.
                      I was hoping someone could give a more technical explanation on how to achieve precise eyeline matches.


                      • #12
                        Just do not cross the screen line and play with the camera height and tilt, unless for deliberate artistic reason




                        • #13
                          I won't take this personal, perhaps my first post made me sound newbish, but I can assure tht I am not. I'm very aware of the 180 rule, above/below angles etc.

                          What I have noticed is that there are bad eyelines, acceptable eyelines, and then seamless eyelines. I'm at acceptable level right now. I want to get to seamless and I'm hoping for some techniques that can help me achieve this.


                          • #14
                            Eyelines are all about trying to set screen geography for the audience and have it look like the characters are actually looking at each other when you cut between shots.

                            As a DP, if there isn't a script supervisor on set, then it's YOUR job to make them match so the shots will cut together.

                            If there is a script supervisor on set, then it's job to have a friendly ARGUMENT with them about getting the eyelines to match. (it still amazes me how few understand the role of script supervisors, including script supervisors !). This is because, even with professionals who've been doing it for a long time, you just do it by feel.

                            Does this "look" right compared with what we just shot ?

                            Eyelines are one of those get them looking right the actors usually aren't actually looking in the TRUE right spot. We often cheat the eyelines, usually closer or as we say, finer, to camera. There's many things that will influence WHY it won't look right. But the end result is you're moving the offscreen actors around to try and get their eyeline of the onscreen actor in the right position.

                            If there was a general rule, the eyeline should get finer the closer your shot is. So in a big CU, they are almost looking at the camera. In these cases, as Frank suggested, a small piece of tape on the mattbox or even the edge of the lens is required. there are also always exceptions to this.

                            I've also found a lot of great actors seem to know instinctively where to put their eyelines. Or they will look at the camera-closest eye of their offscreen actor to open their face up a litle more and fine up their eyeline.

                            I'm surprised that people don't shoot shootouts for these kinds of just-as-important filmaking issues. We're always clamouring for 5Dmk3 Vs Red VS whatever examples. Imagine if we also started doing *which eyelines cut best* or which diffusion vs subject distance works best clips....



                            • #15
                              From what i've watched and studied, where you place an eyeline in terms of relationship to the camera works in a similar fashion to how different shot sizes of someone makes the audience 'feel' towards to the character. i.e

                              Generally the closer the eyeline of the character to the camera/lens, the more 'connected' the audience will feel to that character, and conversely the further away the less connected.

                              Generally a CU is used to connect with a character more or when dialog gets more intimate/personal/etc so it makes sense when John and Frank say to get the eyeline as close as possible in those situations to enhance that. I've also seen occasions where in typical reverses the eyeline of the character we should identify with and connect with more is closer to cam, and the other character we should be at odds with has an eyeline further away. It still looked like they were looking at each other due to tilt/angle, but it was another effective tool to get the audience to feel certain things about the characters.

                              I would love to see tests like John proposes above, which is another reason David Mullens threads are always great as he quite often goes over such issues as how he'll use much less diffusion for wides, and more for CU's and sometimes posts stills to accompany etc etc.

                              Another thing that's always interesting discussion is 'eye trace', which is kind of related but more about where the audience eye's are led and how we can frame for cuts (even to a new scene) to lead viewer focus. Something for editors too.
                              Last edited by CaptainHook; 01-17-2013, 02:27 PM.
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