Blocking Out A Scene
When we talk about blocking a scene, it means that we’re basically rehearsing what we are going to do with the camera and the placement of the principals within the scene. It is a way of getting the rhythm and timing of a shot down so that you aren’t wasting footage while you stumble and bumble through it with your actors not knowing where to stand, how fast to walk, or what to say at specific points in the camera’s motion.
It may not be necessary to go through the steps of blocking out a scene if you’re using mostly still or single-motion camera shots, but for complicated shots that use several sequences of motion without cutting, blocking a scene is imperative if you want to get things looking really smooth and professional in your visuals.
You may have seen a movie at one time or another where there is a big party happening. Sometimes the director will use a very long shot, and hence one that has to be painstakingly blocked in great detail.
The camera comes in the door as music is loudly pumped throughout the house; crowds of people stand around talking to each other with red plastic cups in hand as the camera moves into the living room. A kid runs past the camera, being chased by someone else. The shot moves over to the stairs where a guy is carrying a girl or guiding her by the small of her back. We go down the hallway into the kitchen, and so on and so forth.
During each moment of a shot like the one described above, we may or may not hear snippets of conversation and noise happening as we move through the throngs of people. These might also be important parts of blocking if the voices and/or sounds are recorded live on the set, rather than added later in post-production.
The process of blocking a scene comes from the term used in theatrical productions to position the players on stage during a scene. In filmmaking it also encompasses their position within the frame of the camera, and thus the camera’s movement and position are affected by it as well. Its derivation comes from a director in the 19th century who used actual blocks to work out the positions of his actors on a miniature stage before the live rehearsals took place.
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