Guerrilla Filmmaking 101: Depth Staging

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Depth staging,

is a camera composition technique placing characters at a distance from one another.  It expands attention into the Z-direction, to or from the camera may subtly changes the composition of the frame without a cut.

As seen in: The Two Riddles Project  (2007)
Leading June into the room, Tim Dorbeshe drops her suitcase.  Both characters are in a Wide Shot. Using depth staging, June approaches the camera into a mid shot. With this technique the focus of the scene moves from Tim leading other into the room to June are her next line of dialog.

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As seen in: Clever Girl and the Cuckoo Caper (2013)
At an unusual angle,the camera rests at near the floor.  We see three characters.  The victim is silent in a closeup.  The dialog is delivered by the talent next closest in a mid-shot.  Finally, our heroine is seen in a wide shot.  This is important to continuity as it reminds the audience she is still in the room and aware.

Depth staging can require somewhat elaborate decision making  The key is deciding who or what grabs attention.  What is the purpose of those who stand quietly in the fore or background?  In The Two Riddles Project, it served two purposes.   First, I wanted to use a wide shot to introduce the characters to the room.  This follows, noticed even in the still frame, with Tim Dorbeshe standing at a suspicious distance looking over June’s shoulders.  June delivers dialog at a more intimate distance than Tim.    You may also take advantage of a set’s deep space.  Separating the frame into different layers; near, mid, far you can tell different stories and it is up to you to decide what relevancy they have to each other.

Guerrilla filmmaking 101 is a series a posts covering the basics in a quick-footed production.  Every director carries his or her own filmmaking philosophy.

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