Join Christine Steele for an in-depth discussion in this video Evaluating performance in a take, part of Narrative Scene Editing with Premiere Pro.
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In a dialogue scene, we are crafting a conversation. Our choices as storytellers are based mainly on the actors' performances, but also on the theme of the story and the overall vision for the film. First and foremost, I encourage you to adopt a philosophy regarding shot selection and that is, emotion rules. Let's watch several takes and compare the actors' performances between the takes. Look for shots that inspire feelings in the viewer. Look for shots that inspire feelings in you.
If you have several takes of an actor delivering a line, rule number one is choose the take that hits you in the gut, even if it's not technically perfect. Here we go. (Mr. Dalton: Simple deadline, meet it.) (Joseph: That's it, 6 p.m.? And if I'm a risky choice, then don't use me.) (We all know what risky decisions lead to.) (Look, the company's in free-fall, and you want to take risk again? It's a creative approach.) And another take.
(Mr. Dalton: Simple deadline, meet it.) (Joseph: That's it, 6 p.m. huh? And if I'm a risk, don't use me.) (We all know what risk gets us.) (The company's in free-fall, and you want to take risk again? It's a creative choice.) (Mr. Dalton: Simple deadline, meet it.) (Joseph: That's it, 6 p.m. huh? And if I'm a risky choice, then don't use me.) (We all know what risky decisions lead to.) (The company's in free-fall, and you want to take risk again? It's a creative approach.) All three of these takes are solid.
In the first take, I really like that Joseph is coming across as really sarcastic, really snarky. In the last scene, we learned that he is struggling with failure. He has had a big design that has not been well accepted and now he is being asked to come up with a new idea. He is being insubordinate with his boss and he really shows that in that first take. In the second take, he is more halting. The actor's performance is a little more tentative, not quite as strong in terms of conveying sarcasm, but it feels a little more natural in terms of him seeming to be struggling with that sense of failure, even though he is coming back at his boss with this intense accusations--you know, hey, this is a creative approach.
He is also expressing a little bit of insecurity in that take. My favorite take is the third take. Again, he is strong, he is really sarcastic, and he is really challenging his boss in this particular take. I felt the emotion most strongly in that shot. I will mark that as my favorite take, but all three of these have elements that I would consider using. It is all about going with your gut and choosing the take that moves you the most. Let's look at Mr. Dalton's response. (Mr. Dalton: Oh, and this design better not resemble the last few of your strip-) (mall-inspired projects. Get out of the safety zone, Joseph.) Okay. In that take, Mr.
Dalton at the beginning, he almost throws away the line. It is too casual for a boss that's just been talked to like that by his employee. I just felt like it wasn't strong enough. Let's look at the second take. (Mr. Dalton: Oh, and this design better not resemble the last few of your strip-mall-inspired creations.) (Get out of the safety zone, Joseph.) That was a much better performance, but it didn't really move me.
I am going to watch the third and see if I like that any better. (Mr. Dalton: Oh, and this design better not resemble the last few of your strip-mall-inspired creations.) (Get out of the safety zone, Joseph.) Much better. The third take is my favorite. Let me tell you why. At the beginning, he turns around, and check out that eagle eye. He is staring right at Joseph. He is coming right at him. His shoulders come forward. His gaze is directed at who he is speaking to.
He has almost got that Clint Eastwood look going on there. In the earlier takes, he turns around and umm, notice--there is less expression around his brows and in his face; he is not coming across quite as intensely. So, I like that third take. Now, let's take a look at Joseph responding to this situation with frustration. (Joseph: This is nuts! I can't believe this! Ugh!) And the second.
(Joseph: Ugh!) Hmm, in the first take, I really felt that the actor's performance was natural. There is a little technical problem here where the camera loses focus, but after that point, he has got a really natural stance. He is moving his arms. His body language feels really real to me. In the second take, I felt the performance was a little forced.
It did not feel natural. It did not feel real. However, after he sits down in the second take, I thought it was really natural, the way he pulls his hands up to his head, just as a sign of frustration, and this little smile like he can't believe this is going on. Right here. There it is. What I like is that sense of he is alone, but he is shaking his head. This is a horrible situation. This is a case where I may choose to begin the take using this shot and then complete it after he sits down with the second take, so that I have eliminated the part of that second take that I felt was a little forced.
Let's take a look at that third take and see if we have something else to work with. You can see this is shot from behind his office window. (Joseph: Nuts! I can't believe this! Ugh!) --looking through the glass. Well, and that's nice too. He has definitely got some emotion going on there, but the distance--I am liking the earlier takes. I think I am going to use those two together. I want to point out one more time that emotion rules. It's not about a technical problem like that lack of focus, or in the first three takes, you may not have even noticed there was a technical problem in all three of these takes.
The boom operator's shadow is on the wall behind Joseph in each one of these three takes, but really, if the performance of the actor is strong and it's moving your audience, they will be focused on this actor, not on a small technical problem like the shadow of a boom mic behind him. So, go with your gut and choose the take that moves you the most.
- Preparing your workflow
- Adding and editing clip markers
- Evaluating performances, shot framing, and supporting elements in takes
- Adding reaction shots
- Cutting on action
- Building montages
- Compressing time with jump cuts
- Working with audio
- Supporting theme with color effects
- Altering playback speed