Revanche (Masters Shots vs Standerd Coverage)
Last night I watched the Oscar nominated Austrian film “Revanche”, directed by Götz Spielmann. Wonderful film. One of the things that I noticed was how most of the film was shot in masters, without the usual standard coverage. Entire scenes would play out, absent of the typical medium-shots and close-ups you would normally expect.
This is not unheard of (many filmmakers have filmed this way), but it got me thinking about the benefits and challenges this style presents. In some ways, it seems like it would be easier. Less coverage means fewer setups. You could spend less time moving lights and cameras around, and more time filming.
However, filming only in masters would have it’s own set of challenges. The most obvious being that you would have to insure the shot was perfect from start to finish. If an actor forgets their line, or if a loud plane flies over, the shot is ruined. Performances are also an issue. An editor knows they can take the best moments of an actor’s performance to make them look their best. Without coverage, the performances have to be what the director wanted through the whole scene.
But perhaps the most important variable element is the film’s pacing. When editing standard coverage, you can manipulate the rhythm of your film. You can make scenes shorter, longer, faster or slower. Entire lines of dialogue can be removed, or rearranged. And these decisions can be dictated by the scenes that came before or after. If you’re only shooting in a master, you have to know the pacing of each scene on set by heart. Of course a director should know that anyway, but consider that one can’t change their mind about it later.
I first ran into this myself when editing our film “Jeune Fille”. We had decided we would have a long take near the beginning of the film. When I started editing the film, I realized that I couldn’t control that shot at all. Of course I knew that going in, and it was deliberate, but it didn’t become real for me until I had the instinct to blend two different versions of the shot. I liked the one that we used, but there was still a part of me that preferred moments from one of the earlier takes. But alas, we had to choose one and stick with it.
It probably goes without saying that not every film should be shot in this manner. It’s a particular style only suited for certain films or filmmakers. But I think it’s fairly impressive when it’s pulled off well. It was used excellently in “Revanche”. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend the film. It’s very well made.
- Joshua McQuilkin