Clean Shots Versus Dirty Shots

In everyday conversation, people often interrupt each other when talking or talk over each other entirely. Although this may feel natural in life, once again we find that what is natural does not always make sense for shooting purposes. Different types of shots require a different approach for the delivery of the actors’ dialogue. Figure 31.1 shows an example of a “clean shot,” and Figure 31.2 shows a “dirty shot.”


Figure 31.1 Clean shot. (Original artwork by Manuel Morgado)


Figure 31.2 Dirty shot. (Original artwork by Manuel Morgado)

A “clean shot” means that the only actor in the frame is the one that the shot is designed to feature. In contrast, a “dirty shot” includes at least part of another actor in the scene. Often in a dirty shot, we see the back of the character being spoken to, as is the case in Figure 31.2.

With clean shots, individual shots featuring the different actors will be edited together. So your editor will create any interruptions during a conversation by overlapping the sound from the differentshots of each character. However, the editor can create these interruptions only if the dialogue is recorded cleanly, meaning without any real interruptions. Thus, it is preferable that dialogue between actors does not overlap when filming clean shots. This allows the editor to pick which takes she would like to use for each character separately and how much of an interruption to create.

Furthermore, even in moments without any interruption, the editor will have the dialogue recorded cleanly if there are no overlaps. This allows the editor to give as much or as little pause as she chooses between lines.

In a dirty shot, in addition to the main actor the shot is featuring, we also see another actor’s mannerisms and perhaps even part of his mouth. Thus, it is not necessary for multiple shots to be edited together to get both actors on-screen. Furthermore, it will likely be difficult during overlaps for their performances to be edited apart later. Thus, dialogue and pauses should be delivered naturally as you’d like them to appear in the final edit. A scene involving interruptions should be acted in just that manner—with actors speaking over each other so it all looks natural.


Excerpted from First-Time Filmmaker F*&^ Ups by Daryl Bob Goldberg © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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