Jasmine's pond of dreams

Jasmine's pond of dreams

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Director's Notebook: Master shot v.s. montage

In my very first Director's Notebook post, I'm going to show you some real film magic. I used the children's game- Mousetrap, originally designed by Hank Kramer of the Ideal Toy Company to demonstrate a film trick using his Rube Goldberg-like mouse trap. Later the game was sold by Milton Bradley.

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who drew these elaborate contraptions which are deliberately over-engineered machines that involve many chain reacting steps to complete a very simple task. Search the web and you can find wonderful examples where people have actually created these machines.

I wanted to compare the differences between shooting a scene in one master shot and shooting the exact same scene using a series of continuity edits. Here's the film. Watch and see how you feel watching it. Then I'll explain the magic.

Below is the full master shot. In this version we can see everything as if we're a bird looking down on the scene. Nothing is hidden from our view. Our eye is directed by the movement on the screen.

I find that with the continuity edited version you are much more engaged emotionally. The master shot version feels distant and, because you can see everything in front of you, there's really no surprises. In the continuity edit you get right in there with the action, with the camera guiding you where to look and providing you the most clear view of each step of the action. Because of your limited sight, you don't know what will happen next making this version much more suspenseful. Music also helps create this illusion.

The master shot version is 13 seconds long. The continuity edit version is 24 seconds long, some of the actions are overlapped thus repeating them. Now, here's the real MAGIC, the continuity edit feels shorter even though it's twice as long! That's because you're more involved with the plight of the mouse thus time goes faster. The lesson here is to keep your audience fully engaged by all of the filmmaking tricks you can.

Special thanks to my son, Ryan for being the cameraman on this shoot. 

Here are storyboards comparing both versions. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Thanks for reading my first Director's Notebook post. Feel free to leave a comment if this was helpful or other topics that might be of interest. It will help me make the blog better. Thanks.

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