Thread: Secret of the eyeline?

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  1. #1 Secret of the eyeline? 
    Senior Member RyGuy's Avatar
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    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.
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  2. #2  
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    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.
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  3. #3  
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    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.
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  4. #4  
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    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.....
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Charlie Doom's Avatar
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    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 WikiPaintings.org -- 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.
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Charlie Doom's Avatar
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    ^^ 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.
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  7. #7  
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    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.
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Charlie Doom's Avatar
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    Yes, it's all relative to what you are shooting and the effect you are going for!
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Frank Glencairn's Avatar
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    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.

    Frank
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  10. #10  
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    Now you know why you see so many over the shoulder shots everywhere!
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